PSYCHOLOGICAL IMPACT OF COVID-19

PSYCHOLOGICAL IMPACT OF COVID-19

PSYCHOLOGICAL IMPACT OF COVID-19

 

Abstract: The following essay dwells on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the psyche of all those affected, focusing mainly on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Keywords: COVID-19, Psychological impact, needs

We are currently living through an unanticipated phase, a turning point in the history of humanity and when we are through, I am sure the world would never be the same, or at least our perception of it would not be. Agreed, that change is the only constant, and the world around us in constant flux – it is always a little different from what it was the moment ago, but what we are experiencing right now – the COVID-19 outbreak – and the force with which it has hit us, has had us overwhelmed.

The impact of this global pandemic is manifold and profound; it has managed to cripple life as we knew it throughout the globe and has brought it to a near-complete standstill. There is not a sphere of an individual’s life that has been untouched by it. No aspect of an individual’s life exists in isolation - the social, economic, political, and psychological elements, all interact with and influence each other. Through this essay, I would like to bring to the fore the psychological impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and COVID-19Abraham Maslow, one of the main proponents of the Humanistic school of thought, put his weight behind the view that all humans are capable of and are engaged in realizing their potential. The hierarchy of needs, that according to Maslow, an individual climbs up in the process to reach their full potential, is well known in the field of Psychology and beyond. So, how does this journey of self-actualization gets affected under the current circumstances?

  1. Physiological needs: In trying times like these, all an individual can wish for would be to be safe at home with their family with enough food that would see them through the lockdown period. While many of us have the privilege to take these things for granted, for a significant chunk of the population, these necessities remain a distant dream.

The disadvantaged groups – individuals, especially children living below the poverty line, migrant laborers, to list a few - are the worst hit because of the pandemic. Loss of livelihood has led them to return to their hometowns – some of them undertaking this journey on foot and with empty bellies, hence, deprived of the basic physiological needs.

 

  1. Security needs: Moving up the hierarchy, an individual would want to feel physically, emotionally, and financially secureGiven that an invisible killer – the Coronavirus, is lurking outside, it would be but normal to feel concerned, even anxious, and stressed about one’s wellbeing. As mental and physical wellbeing work in tandem – the stress and anxiety could take a toll on physical wellbeing as well. The uncertainty causing anxiety is not just limited to the physical wellbeing; there are other pressing concerns as well. The current scenario has students second-guessing the course of their future – their concerns include examinations, promotion to the next class, and future career prospects. Those looking for employment are also bound to bear a similar brunt of anxiety.

A home, assuming that an individual has one, is supposed to be their safe place, their refuge and a contributor to the sense of security. The period of lockdown due to the pandemic and movement restrictions might pose a problem for those who are not as fortunate and might be stuck in abusive households, which has potentially harmful consequences for the individual’s physical and emotional sense of security.

 

The health workers, who are at the forefront of the fight against the disease, also find their security needs compromised – as they serve and treat the patients with COVID-19, they are also at risk of contracting the disease. With the demand of longer working hours and lesser opportunity for rest and recover, the physical and mental health of the healthcare workers is bound to get adversely affected. Same goes for all the people engaged in providing essential services, as their jobs would require them to step out and put themselves in a situation which makes them more vulnerable to the disease.

 

The financial security of individuals across sectors is has also been compromised during the COVID-19 outbreak as employers have engaged in layoffs, salary cuts and leave deductions. As true for any other calamity, people at the lowest rung of the socio-economic hierarchy are the worst hit.

 

Love and belongingness needs: Due to the directive of social distancing and self-isolation accompanied with closure of international and state borders, people might have found themselves stuck and stranded away from their families and loved ones. This was in fact preceded by the shut-down of all public places of interaction – like academic institutions, offices, malls, places of worship etc. Humans, being the social creatures they are, cannot thrive in isolation. Quality social interactions with other human beings are essential for the happiness and wellbeing of individuals. This is where internet and social media have come to the rescue. People have found ways to connect and reconnect during these desperate times through internet, fulfilling their need for love and belongingness.

But the picture is not all rosy – while it might be easy to maintain and improve some relationships, for others the time of lockdown and quarantine could also prove to be the final straw in the relationship – case in point being the reported increased divorce rate in China post quarantine. 

 

Esteem needs: Esteem needs of an individual are also bound to take a hit under the current circumstances. Esteem needs depend on the practice and mastery of certain skills and also on its recognition. The most important venue where an individual learns skills are schools and other academic institutions. Now restricted to the confines of their homes, it might be difficult for students to find and engage in intellectually stimulating activities or to work on other skills. Though academic institutions did try to put their best feet forward to facilitate learning in these times through the use of e-learning resources - awareness regarding the resources and the infrastructure (like internet connectivity) remain a challenge, which results in unequal access of means to satisfy esteem needs.

The challenge regarding esteem needs, also holds for individuals now forced to work from home due to the COVID-19 outbreak. A workplace, in my humble opinion, is not just a performance arena but also a learning ground – where an employee learns more about their trade with the help of superiors and colleagues and working remotely does create an impediment in this sphere. Esteem needs might suffer further keeping in view that appreciation and recognition might not be conveyed or accepted as overtly and frequently in remote working conditions.

 

Self-actualisation needs: This might actually be one class of needs which might not be as adversely affected as the rest of the needs. In fact, now that people have more time on their hands, it is possible that people are delving deeper into their own selves – introspecting, finding new hobbies, discovering new talents and working towards becoming all that they could be – realising their full potential. If the social media feeds are anything to go by, people are channelising their creative energies in creation of things that are helping them get through the uncertain and difficult times a little better. 

 

There are yet other ways in which the COVID-19 might have a psychological impact on individuals:

 

With the lockdown in force, people are locked up in their own homes. The lack of physical movement and being confined in a limited space for a long period of time might also have negative consequences for both physical and mental health. People in lockdown would have a greater risk of development of symptoms of mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. 

There is a lot of information and misinformation floating around regarding the origin, cause and treatment of the COVID-19. To sift through all the information could be exhausting and can cause mental fatigue. Following the state issued health directives and making sure that the people around are also safe from the highly infectious disease can also be really burdensome.

Even in times like these, prejudice might not escape people. A certain group could be made the scapegoats – the cause of all evil including the pandemic – and might face discrimination and abuse.

 

The number of infected people and the death toll is increasing with every passing day – and no human is left unaffected. The outbreak did catch us all unaware and hence the impact is felt even more deeply. One of the ways in which we, as individuals, can deal with the psychological impact is to recognise the issue that is affecting us and look for healthy ways to cope with the situation. It is always wise to seek help when needed. It would also be advisable to surround oneself with a strong network of social relationships, so that one does not have to walk alone on what seems to be a really long journey, a really long upcoming battle against the disease.

A home, assuming that an individual has one, is supposed to be their safe place, their refuge, and a contributor to the sense of security. The period of lockdown due to the pandemic and movement restrictions might pose a problem for those who are not as fortunate and might be stuck in abusive households, which has potentially harmful consequences for the individual’s physical and emotional sense of security.

 The health workers, who are at the forefront of the fight against the disease, also find their security needs compromised – as they serve and treat the patients with COVID-19, they are also at risk of contracting the disease. With the demand for longer working hours and lesser opportunity for rest and recovery, the physical and mental health of the healthcare workers is bound to get adversely affected. The same goes for all the people engaged in providing essential services, as their jobs would require them to step out and put themselves in a situation that makes them more vulnerable to the disease.

 The financial security of individuals across sectors has also been compromised during the COVID-19 outbreak as employers have engaged in layoffs, salary cuts, and leave deductions. As true for any other calamity, people at the lowest rung of the socioeconomic hierarchy are the worst hit.

  1. Love and belongingness needs: Due to the directive of social distancing and self-isolation accompanied by the closure of international and state borders, people might have found themselves stuck and stranded away from their families and loved ones. This was preceded by the shutdown of all public places of interaction – like academic institutions, offices, malls, places of worship, etc. Humans, being the social creatures they are, cannot thrive in isolation. Quality social interactions with other human beings are essential for the happiness and wellbeing of individuals. This is where the internet and social media have come to the rescue. People have found ways to connect and reconnect during these desperate times through the internet, fulfilling their need for love and belongingness.

However, the picture is not all rosy – while it might be easy to maintain and improve some relationships, for others the time of lockdown and quarantine could also prove to be the final straw in the relationship – case in point being the reported increased divorce rate in China post quarantine. 

 

  1. Esteem needs: The esteem needs of an individual are also bound to take a hit under the current circumstances. Esteem needs depend on the practice and mastery of certain skills and on its recognition. The most important venue where an individual learns skills are schools and other academic institutions. Now restricted to the confines of their homes, it might be difficult for students to find and engage in intellectually stimulating activities or to work on other skills. Though academic institutions did try to put their best feet forward to facilitate learning in these times through the use of e-learning resources - awareness regarding the resources and the infrastructure (like internet connectivity) remains a challenge, which results in unequal access of means to satisfy esteem needs.

The challenge regarding esteem needs also holds for individuals now forced to work from home due to the COVID-19 outbreak. A workplace, in my humble opinion, is not just a performance arena but also a learning ground – where an employee learns more about their trade with the help of superiors and colleagues, and working remotely does create an impediment in this sphere. Esteem needs might suffer further keeping in view that appreciation and recognition might not be conveyed or accepted as overtly and frequently in remote working conditions.

 

  1. Self-actualization needs: This might be one class of needs that might not be as adversely affected as the rest of the needs. Now that people have more time on their hands, people may be delving deeper into their selves – introspecting, finding new hobbies, discovering new talents, and working towards becoming all that they could be – realizing their full potential. If the social media feeds are anything to go by, people are channelizing their creative energies in the creation of things that are helping them get through the uncertain and difficult times a little better. 

 

 

There are yet other ways in which the COVID-19 might have a psychological impact on individuals:

 

  • With the lockdown in force, people are locked up in their own homes. The lack of physical movement and being confined in a limited space for a long period might also have negative consequences for both physical and mental health. People in lockdown would have a greater risk of developing symptoms of mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. 
  • There is a lot of information and misinformation floating around regarding the origin, cause, and treatment of the COVID-19. To sift through all the information could be exhausting and can cause mental fatigue. Following the state-issued health directives and making sure that the people around are also safe from the highly infectious disease can also be burdensome.
  • Even in times like these, prejudice might not escape people. A certain group could be made the scapegoats – the cause of all-evil including the pandemic – and might face discrimination and abuse.

 

The number of infected people and the death toll is increasing with every passing day – and no human is left unaffected. The outbreak did catch us all unaware and hence the impact is felt even more deeply. One of how we, as individuals, can deal with the psychological impact is to recognize the issue that is affecting us and look for healthy ways to cope with the situation. It is always wise to seek help when needed. It would also be advisable to surround oneself with a strong network of social relationships so that one does not have to walk alone on what seems to be a long journey, a long upcoming battle against the disease.

 

About the Author

Moureena -
Unemployed.

Learner and (formerly) teacher of Psychology -Trying to make sense of the world - within and without. Loves to find connections between theory, pra

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