'Coronavirus Blues' Keeps Psychiatrists Busy

  • By Bae Jun-yong

    August 15, 2020 08:35

    An increasing number of people are suffering from anxiety or depression due to social distancing that has now been going on for over six months.

    According to the Health Ministry last week, 374,221 people visited public health centers across the country with "coronavirus blues" from February to Aug. 3. That is more than the number of patients who complained of anxiety or depression over the whole of last year.

    The picture is much the same at private clinics. Roh Jeong-kyun, a psychiatrist, said the number of patients with these symptoms has jumped about 20 to 30 percent.

    A shopping mall in Seoul is bustling with people on Sunday. /Yonhap

    "Many elderly patients complain of depression," he added. "They seem to be more vulnerable than others to the blues because it's even harder for them to get around freely as they're a high-risk group."

    One recent study suggests that the lockdown is having serious effects on mental health.

    According to a study released by Prof. Kim Bung-nyun of Seoul National University Hospital on Aug. 4, two-thirds of 136 patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, or anxiety disorder who visited the hospital from February to June got worse because they had less contact with friends or teachers and engaged in less physical activity amid the lockdown.

    Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo said, "Fears are also mounting about the possibility of suicide." The ministry is offering a self-diagnosis app to help patients get timely help.

    Doctors advise people to get plenty of exercise in a quiet place and talk with friends on the phone.

    The warning signs are lethargy, frustration or depression, or headaches, indigestion or insomnia that persist for more than two weeks. Depression can deteriorate if it is not treated properly.

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