The Psychological Impacts of Self Isolation

The rapid spread of the Coronavirus has caused the entire world to go into quarantine. Call it what you will, our need to stay home has become the new normal. And, unfortunately, this self-isolation may end up taking a negative toll on all of our mental health.

“Humans are social creatures,” says Emma Grey Ellis from WIRED. Regardless if you are an introvert or extrovert this self-isolation could really impact your mental and physical health. “People start getting lethargic when they don’t have positive inputs into their small worlds,” says John Vincent, a clinical psychologist at the University of Houston.  Anxiety and Depression are also likely to kick in when you are trapped in a house without a release date. Alexander Chouker, a physician-researcher at the University of Munch studies immunology. He studied isolation in astronauts specifically to see how confinement would affect them. He noticed changes in sleep, metabolic function, and neurocognitive systems the longer his subjects maintained a solitary existence. While there may be negative effects of social isolation, specialist still insist that “practicing social distancing is a good idea.” 

illustration by Julia Fallows

Julianne Holt-Lunstad, who is a professor of psychology and neuroscience explained that a lack of social connection increases health risks such as smoking and drinking, which are used to mellow out the pain created by loneliness. In addition to this, the study found that in certain cases, social isolation is more harmful to mental and physical health than obesity. Furthermore, it was determined that loneliness and isolation can cause premature mortality. Studies also found more health consequences associated with loneliness which include cognitive decline, impaired immunity, poor cardiovascular function and more physical and emotional effects. The effects of loneliness can be compared with the effects of lack of exercise, and obesity.

“Many, especially those taking major examinations, are facing extreme stress and anxiety, particularly due to the uncertainty they are constantly facing.”

Dr Jessie Chua, senior clinical psychologist at Resilienz Clinic

Isolation is affecting many different age groups on many different levels. Older generations are facing more physiological distress whereas younger generations are more mentally distressed. “Dr Jessie Chua, senior clinical psychologist at Resilienz Clinic, told The New Paper her clinic has seen a rise in the number of students with stress and anxiety concerns. She said: “Many, especially those taking major examinations, are facing extreme stress and anxiety, particularly due to the uncertainty they are constantly facing.” Students are starting to lose motivation and hope for the rest of the year and are starting to give up. Due to home-based learning students are forced to sit at a desk for hours at a time without social interaction or exercise. This lack of exercise and human interaction could be fatal depending on the person. Some people who are more extroverted are going to have a tough time in quarantine because they thrive off of the company of others, whereas introverted people are more likely to remain more “normal” and stable. 

“Wait, you guys are getting sleep?”

Cassandra Lundsgaard, An sas student who who get an average of 4 hours of sleep per night
illustration by Julia Fallows

I decided to get a more personal perspective on how people are doing during this crisis so I sent out a survey to some friends and family members. When I asked if anyone had felt noticeably more sad in the last couple weeks, 80% said yes. This is due to the lack of human connection. Friendship is very important, the oxytocin that is released when you laugh or talk with your friends is crucial to maintaining good mental health. My next question to them was “how many hours do you spend on your phone now that you are not seeing your friends?” the average answer was 10 hours. People are starting to rely on technology for entertainment and relationships which is not a healthy habit to get into because this could potentially become the norm to teenagers around the world which will have a terrible impact on social interaction in the future. Another question I asked was “how much sleep have you been getting every day?” Most people said between 10-13 hours, however in a provided text box, they said they had been taking a significant amount of naps throughout the day so their nightly sleep was around 4-6 hours. Being in a quarantine with very little to do has made some people become very lethargic and unmotivated. The last question I asked was “how much time have you spent worrying about the virus, or school, or X” A lot of people said that they worry that “the virus will not calm down and this will be a more permanent situation than I once thought.” Adults that took this survey mentioned that they were worried that “Someone in my family will get ill” or “I would lose my job due to this pandemic and not be able to support my family”

illustration by Julia Fallows
  1. Working out: working out is proven to release endorphins which will enhance your mood and increase positivity! It is also good to keep in shape, working out is effective even if it is just a short one in the living room.
  2. Reading and challenging the mind: Doing sudokus and puzzles will challenge the mind and keep you entertained for hours. When you finally finish the puzzle or book you are working on, your brain will increase in gray matter which is a major component of the central nervous system. Gray matter helps with sensory perception, decision making, memory, emotions, and much more.
  3. Take up a new hobby: Try learning to paint, or learn a new instrument. This will help take up a good portion of your time and will make your quarantine more enjoyable! Painting and playing music is also therapeutic, you could release a lot of anxiety and emotion into the art you create which will have positive effects on your mental health
  4. Build relationships: While we are all in quarantine, most likely with our family, try getting to know everyone better. Building relationships will give you more company and love which is exactly what we need at this time.

Quarantine has been very hard for a lot of people, however, it is absolutely necessary at this time to help stop the spread of the virus, practice the self-care initiatives that keep you both healthy and sane, and ultimately know that we will get through this.

Author: Julia Fallows

Julia Fallows is currently a senior in high school, She is going into her third year at SAS. This is her first year as a reporter and she is very excited to explore the world of journalism. She was born in Russia but raised all over the world including Japan, Canada, China, and Singapore. Julia has many hobbies but one that specifically stands out is her love for watching The Office, She can be found on her couch every day at 5:00 rewatching episode after episode. She can be reached at fallows772728@sas.edu.sg

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