How Social Distancing Impacts Mental Health
MIA: Social distancing is the right thing to do in order to limit exposure to the coronavirus, stop community spread and flatten the curve. However, not being around others for such a long period of time can dramatically impact anyone’s mental health. Humans are social creatures by nature and need to spend time around one another frequently.
I am finding the quarantine to be incredibly difficult and stressful, even as an introverted person. Having to spend months “trapped” at home with no one but the people in your house can put a severe strain on anyone, adults and minors alike.
As someone with no pre-existing mental disorders, even I am finding that social distancing puts a strain on my mental health, specifically the fact that I can’t see my friends. I have found myself feeling more anxious than I ever have before from the lack of social interaction. I have known my two closest friends, Amy Ayala-Gallardo and Brooke Day, sophomores, since kindergarten and first grade, respectively, and I hang out with them all day at school and nearly every day on the weekend. Even being gone for as many as two weeks on a vacation left me teary-eyed when we finally reunited. To put it simply, not being able to be around them for two months is heartbreaking, as dramatic and corny as that sounds.
For many people, friends are what get them through the day, always there to lend a hand and support them. Friends choose to be around one another, whereas family might not always be so pleasant, and, in this case, there is not much of a choice.
Even though mental disorders are not always acknowledged, they are common in teens around the globe. They are becoming more prevalent in teens who had no pre-existing disorders, but how are people who have had long-term and more severe disorders being impacted?
The most common disorders, like anxiety and depression, and less common ones, like autism and bipolar disorder are found in people throughout the world. For people with these disorders, social interaction is a common struggle and can sometimes exacerbate their symptoms. While this may be true for some people, it is not always the case.
My personal experience with high functioning autism, anxiety and depression is that being around close friends helps to improve my mood, which helps me to manage my mental state. Physical contact, friendly words and even just being around them helps me in life. They help me when I am dealing with panic attacks or sensory overload.
Since most of my time is spent around these people in school or during practice, most of the episodes occur during these times. The people around me know how to help me through them, so the shift to home has caused difficulty in how I can manage them.
The support network I had at school is no longer available to me, and the people who knew how to help me are out of reach. Being stuck at home is a curse, since my family does not have the same amount of experience in dealing with them as my friends do.