Depression of health workers in the face of the COVID-19 crisis

The worst part of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic has already happened, but we are still in a situation of social, economic and, for many people, emotional crisis.

As for the latter, one of the groups most punished by the spread of viruses are healthcare professionals who, in addition to being highly exposed to VOCID-19, have to deal with physically and emotionally exhausting situations. If among doctors and nurses it is relatively common to develop mental disorders due to the pressure exerted at work, now the context is even more conducive to the appearance of these problems.

In this article we will examine the phenomenon of depression among health workers working under the COVID-19 crisis, And what can be done about it.

    Depression among healthcare professionals during the coronavirus pandemic

    Why are COVID-19 times health care providers exposed to mood disorders such as major depression? First, it should be noted that depression, like any other psychological disorder, rarely stems from a single, very clear cause. It is usually caused by a combination of biological, psychological and social factors.

    But among all the factors known to play an important role in the development of depression, in the coronavirus crisis, there are several that are raging with nurses and doctors.

    On the one hand, the stress and anxiety produced by the overload of work weaken the nervous system by bringing it too long at a time to the limit of its possibilities; in fact, cases of patients suffering from anxiety-depressive problems are very common and would be anxiety and depression reinforce each other.

    In addition, the emotionally difficult situations in the treatment of very ill patients and their relatives, who are usually in distress, can leave a significant psychological imprint on hospital professionals and health centers in general.

    In such cases, post-traumatic stress disorder can arise in the face of catastrophic situations, or secondary traumatic stress by almost constantly witnessing the suffering of others.

    On the other hand, simple physical wear and tear due to fatigue, problems with healthy and calm eating and lack of sleep, are elements that facilitate the onset of inflammatory processes that affect the nervous system, which is known to happen. is one of the causes of major depression.

    Symptoms in personal life and at work

    These are some of the symptoms that occur with depression that become particularly pernicious in healthcare professionals, due to the responsibilities they take on.

    1. Weeping and melancholy thoughts

    Sadness and almost uncontrollable crying are very common symptoms in people with depression, And one of the reasons you go into psychotherapy more. However, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to have depression and not exactly feel sadness, or to cry a lot; for example, there are those who experience a feeling closer to emotional emptiness and hopelessness.

    2. Concentration problems

    Discomfort and bad mood make the depressed person less able to concentrate on a particular task. Distractions are common, as are difficulty understanding what is going on when there are complex problems to be solved.

    3. Low predisposition to communication

    In people with major depression, it is much more common to have it a tendency to avoid social interactions, Or not devote time or effort to them. This has very negative consequences given the importance of communication with patients and their loved ones, and the weight of this responsibility generates even more discomfort for people already emotionally upset by their disorder.

    4. Tendency to neglect more

    With depression motivation wanes for most activities, and one area of ​​life in which this is particularly noticeable is usually personal care and personal hygiene. In addition, they increase the chances of developing addictions.

    5. Anedonia

    Anhedonia is the inability to fully experience pleasure or joy. This leads many people with depression to say that they don’t feel any urge to do anything, that they have no reason to stand up.


      The treatment of psychological disorders of the depressive type takes different forms depending on the characteristics of the patient and the circumstances in which he lives, but it generally pursues two basic objectives.

      On the one hand, it helps the patient to letting go of beliefs and thought styles you’ve held onto even if they are contributing to the discomfort and in a bad mood. In this way, he stops feeding this logic of self-confirmation of pessimistic ideas which, for example, make the person believe that his loneliness is a consequence of his way of being (a common belief among depressed patients), and not from fatigue. produced by depression. To achieve this, a form of intervention called cognitive restructuring is applied, which is usually combined with self-registers of thoughts (similar to what is commonly understood as a “diary”).

      On the other hand also patients are trained to create habits that ‘break’ depression, On all those who have to do with a more active lifestyle, with more ability to provide motivating, stimulating and meaningful experiences for the person, which helps them to stay on the right track and to come out of their condition emotional altered.

      Behavioral activation techniques, scheduling and reminders, and applying certain specific routines on a daily basis are examples of steps taken in therapy to achieve this goal. This is done in combination with the cognitive type strategies that we have seen before.

      Do you think you need professional psychological support?

      If you are going through difficult times due to issues related to the pandemic or any other aspect of your daily life and feel that you need psychological assistance, I invite you to contact me. I am a psychologist specializing in the clinical field and have over 25 years of experience in helping patients; In addition, ten years ago, I combined face-to-face therapy with online video call therapy, a format that has been shown to be effective and very versatile according to the latest scientific research. To see my contact details, you can access this page.

      Bibliographical references:

      • American Psychiatric Association (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
      • Mata, DA; Ramos, MA; Bansal, N .; Khan, R .; Guille, C., and. at. (2015). Prevalence of depression and depressive symptoms among medical residents: systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA, 314 (22): pages 2373-2383.
      • Moreno-Jiménez, B .; Morante-Benadero, ME; Losada-Novoa, MM; Rodriguez-Carvajal, R .; Garrosa Hernández, I. (2004) Secondary traumatic stress. Assessment, prevention and intervention. Psychological therapy, 22 (1): p. 69-76.
      • National Collaborating Center for Mental Health. Depression. (2009). The treatment and management of depression in adults (updated edition). National Clinical Practice Guideline Number 90. London: British Psychological Society and Royal College of Psychiatrists.

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