We all know psychiatry, and the health care field at large, have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but John J. Miller, MD, Editor in Chief of Psychiatric TimesTM, shared a little bit more about how psychiatry will be impacted in a postpandemic world during his presentation at the 2021 Annual Psychiatric TimesTM World CME Conference.
“This virus has impacted virtually everybody,” said Miller wistfully. “The health effects of the individual who’s infected. The effects on family and friends of the infected individual. Individuals who modify their life in many ways because of a fear of getting infected. The stress, the unknown, the guilt, the anxiety of first responders. Health care providers often with overwhelming situations and not enough staff and too many patients.”
Miller shared a range of psychiatric symptoms that can occur directly due to COVID-19, as published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in early 2021. The list includes anxiety, depression, insomnia, fear, grief, phobias, posttraumatic stress disorder, social avoidance, increased substance abuse, suicidality, psychosis, and obsessive compulsive disorder.1
Substance abuse is another of Miller’s concerns with COVID-19. The stress, trauma, and grief, compounded by a reduced access to substance use disorder treatments, caused a rise in drug overdose deaths with more than 92,000 deaths according to the National Center for Health Statistics.3
Furthermore, the antivaccine movement poses a significant threat to the safety of the general populous, Miller fears, as compounded by the editorial written by Joseph Goldberg, MD, featured in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.4 Miller called it “mass hysteria.”
“When these mass groups with mass hysteria mistrust, or frankly develop pure paranoia and the secondary behaviors intrude into the realm of public safety, society needs to engage in a serious ethical debate as to what actions should be taken to protect the harm or risk to the many from the distortions, actions, or lack thereof, of from the few,” said Miller.
Miller called COVID a “modern medical challenge of the first order,” as described by authors in a Lancet editorial,5 one we anticipate will continue affecting psychiatry and the health care field as a whole for many years to come.