How Social Distancing Affects Mental Health

Ryan Fredrick, Reporter

Easter, Passover and Ramadan are approaching, occasions that typically bring families together to pray, reflect and celebrate. These celebrations will look different this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The loss of those traditions is added to a growing list of losses that Americans are facing as they endure at least another month of social distancing and with it an extended departure from routines, habits, social circles and normalcy.

The protracted disruption to life as it was, mental health experts say, could bring feelings of anger, depression, anxiety and even grief.

“There is literal grief like losing loved ones, but there is a grief of experiences that we are losing right now. There can feel like there is a lot of loss right now, a loss of freedom, a lot of things we took for granted,” American Psychology Association’s director of clinical research Dr. Vaile Wright said. 

The next few months may take a toll on the nation’s mental health, experts say, but it is possible to mitigate the stress.

Extended isolation and stress from the pandemic can affect everyone differently, health psychologist Dr. Dana Garfin said.

It could put strain on families, send children home to abusive situations, make those living alone feel isolated and threaten people’s sense of purpose by keeping them from work, Garfin said. And those experiencing financial insecurity in the midst of the pandemic have an added stress that is difficult to resolve, Despite those differences, the experience of staying home together through a pandemic can be considered a collective trauma, said Garfin, who studies collective traumas such as hurricanes, terrorist attacks and earthquakes, according to CNN.

“We are not in our houses alone, we are doing something for each other for our community. It is a shared effort, something that we are all a part of and something we are all contributing to… It is going to be difficult, but it is not permanent,” Garfin said.