LN – Therapy and coronaviruses: how to combat the traps of our minds during quarantine

More than a month after the start of the

quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19

, the unprecedented situation makes people experience all kinds of mood swings and sensations. For some, it involves diving in a sea of


for him

break your routines

, with more


and some


. For others, it causes them to reappear or


old conflicts and sufferings

. In search of relief, virtual psychological therapy became a refuge for many. What is emerging in the Argentine psyche in times of pandemic? What comes up on the online couch?

According to the psychiatrists and psychoanalysts contacted by LA NACION, there are

an increase in consultations for stress, sleep disorders and insomnia, difficulty in coping with confinement and intra-family conflicts, among other problems

. And, among the underlying causes behind these manifestations, they observe a

increased anxiety and restlessness about

absolute ignorance of what is going to happen in the short and medium term, and feelings of despondency due to the daily and economic situation. Gloria Gitaroff, psychoanalyst, writer and member of the

Argentine Psychoanalytic Association (APA)

He highlights: “There is a general concern that has to do with uncertainty: you don’t know when it ends.”

The latest survey carried out by the Observatory of Applied Social Psychology (OPSA) of the Faculty of Psychology of the UBA about Argentines and the coronavirus, puts in numbers what specialists have been observing in recent weeks. According to the study, the pandemic and compulsory social isolation had a significant impact on the emotional-cognitive “cocktail” made up of: uncertainty, worry and anxiety. 3,543 people from the main urban centers were consulted and 37% answered that their concern “increased” quite a bit, while 21% indicated that “too much”. Regarding uncertainty, the percentages are similar (34% and 22% respectively).

On the other hand, mental health professionals warn that


with many Argentines and Argentines

who are manifesting in their virtual therapies a

in crescendo

symptoms of different problems: from depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) to panic attacks -even in patients who have never experienced them-, and a stabbing fear of death of oneself or loved ones.

The demand for listening grows and the therapists had to adapt to the rules of this time and create remote meetings. Ana María Plumari, psychologist and member of the

Association of Psychologists of Buenos Aires

(APBA) explains that having a virtual therapy space is, for many, essential. “It reassures, since it accompanies them to transit this new reality for all,” he maintains. To provide a quick response to the increase in crisis situations – and in the face of the inability of many people to pay for private sessions -, several professional associations have set up free hotlines:

in a few days, calls for help exploded.

For Santiago Levín, president of the

Association of Argentine Psychiatrists (APSA),

it is important to differentiate the impact of the pandemic between

who have different mental disorders

, more or less complex and that are the most vulnerable to the situation,

and the rest of the population

, which does not have them, but

who is undergoing a sudden change in their living conditions

. “The confinement, on the one hand, protects us from contagion, something in which we totally agree. But, on the other hand, it exposes us to undesired consequences on very different levels: pathological and non-pathological,” he stresses.

For Mali,

quarantine brought a setback

. “I think of my loved ones and attract positive thoughts, if not, I think that something bad is going to happen to them: that I am infecting them with coronaviruses,” he says. The ritual is repeated traced every time you smoke, in the first five puffs. This 26-year-old girl had made great strides in the treatment of OCD that she has carried with her since she was a child, but within the framework of

the pandemic feels it took several steps back

. He washed his hands again about 50 times a day and his rituals sharpened.

Something similar happened to Marcos. He is 40 years old and, three weeks ago, he saw old panic attacks rebound, when an uncle died after getting coronavirus. Unable to say goodbye and in mourning, the overwhelming feeling that he would have a heart attack took over him again. “I couldn’t hug my relatives. We couldn’t cry together.” Thus, in two sentences, Marcos tries to summarize a pain for which words cannot reach.

Multiple symptoms

Therapists agree that one of the recurring themes is

the fear of death, which in many cases manifests itself in the panic of infecting loved ones, especially older adults.

“In some patients who have big parents, many concerns arise: not only that something happens to them, but how they are going to sustain this time without being able to see their children or grandchildren, if they are going to be more anxious or what other effects it may have on they quarantined “, details Plumari.

Another common denominator during these days is, according to specialists, that

people are dreaming more

. The nightmares also increased: “We are going through a highly traumatic situation and the dream is like a mental digestion, as if it were our stomach of thoughts, which evacuates everything bad. Sometimes, that does not reach and the nightmare appears as a form of

manifest trauma

“says Claudia Borensztejn, doctor and president of the

Argentine Psychoanalytic Association (APA).

In the younger ones,

the difficulty of coping with the confinement or reconciling the work and family world is another of the great challenges

, especially in homes with young sons and daughters. Psychologist Miguel Espeche says that, in the case of his patients, most of the conversations are related to how to adapt daily logistics to current circumstances. “The challenges of routine, chores, shopping, how to connect with loved ones who cannot see, in some cases caused many patients who had a very ‘ruminant’ tendency in relation to themselves to turn the energy towards that territory, “Espeche explains. And another of the central questions in this group, according to Plumari, is “economic distress”, that is, “many wonder if they will be able to continue supporting their work”.

According to the survey “Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and isolation on mental health”, recently carried out by the Center for Assistance and Prevention of Sexual Abuse in Children and Adolescents (Cepasi),

more than 50% of those consulted presented symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression.

On the other hand, three out of four people

they claimed to feel “loss of interest” and “negative thoughts about the future.”

The survey -which was done through WhatsApp and in 48 hours revealed 1100 responses from the general population- showed that

symptoms such as “feeling groggy” were mainly manifested in the age group of 15 to 30 years, as well as “lack of motivation”,

It had a 66% representation in younger people, a figure that dropped to 15% in the group of 75 to 90 years.

“In the face of a stressful and traumatic situation, such as a pandemic, it is expected that many emotions will awaken in us with which perhaps we were not familiar,” says psychiatrist Silvia Ongini, who brought together psychologists Victoria Gandara and Dolores Steverlynck, designed the survey. Ongini explains that “coping ability” refers to the way in which people try to resolve or overcome the stress situation. “If that ability is effective, the stress level will be lower. On the contrary, when it is not, it is where traumatic-related symptoms begin to emerge,” says the doctor.

Another fact that the survey yielded was that the

14% perceived that violence increased at home

. In addition, among people who reported having suffered sexual abuse or abuse in childhood, 50% registered physical symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression during quarantine, a significantly lower figure (17%) in the case of those who had no such history. ”

From these data we could infer that sexual abuse and violence are traumatic not only in the short term, but also throughout the lives of the victims.

They affect the ability to cope with traumatic situations even when they are not related to the issue of abuse or violence, “says Ongini.

Mali was 16 years old when, after the unexpected death of her best friend, her OCD skyrocketed. At 18, when starting the therapy that continues to this day, other traumas appeared: “I revealed, I remembered, I resignified that I had been abused for several years, when I was a girl, by a relative,” says Mali. Today, there are days that

he cannot do anything: he cannot draw, read, bathe or watch a series.

“I’m like when I started and I’m in quarantine: I can’t even go out for coffee with a friend to clear myself,” he says.

In my mind, for example, if I don’t do a ritual well, I think I can infect my grandmother with coronavirus

Mali, 26 years old

The young woman explains that her OCD “is sustained by fears” and that these have grown “catastrophically” in recent weeks, to the point that she did not want to know anything about COVID-19. “I live in a bubble where the coronavirus is, but is not. I have new tics. In my mind, for example, if I don’t do a ritual well, I can infect my grandmother with coronavirus,” she describes. The economic situation also worries her. Since the business where he works is closed, his fear is accumulating debt. In addition, there is insomnia: the torture of not being able to rest and deal with the mental exhaustion caused by their rituals. ”

I get more depressed and many times I don’t feel real.

It is as if everything were a film and I saw it from the outside, “summarizes Mali.

A growing demand

During the pandemic, the


launched a free hotline with more than 120 professional volunteers. In recent weeks, they attended 400 queries from all over the country. Borensztejn, details: “In general, during the quarantine some problems increased. For example,

if someone was in distress, depression or hypochondriac, that was exacerbated. ”

The most serious cases they receive on the line are referred to a psychiatrist, who in turn can direct the patient to approach a guard. “Many people call because they think they are sick. We help people realize if they have a panic attack or if they may be symptoms of COVID-19,” says Borensztejn.

The UBA Faculty of Psychology also created a project with similar characteristics: the

Psychological Attention Service against the pandemic

. Paula Quattrocchi is a psychologist and one of those responsible for this initiative, which has already exceeded 780 consultations. “It is not a psychological treatment,

is a completely free crisis service, designed as a response to the discomfort caused by the pandemic and quarantine

“, Explain.

The consultations that come to them are varied. “The fear of the economic consequences is increasing. You see symptoms such as increased anxiety, irritability, sleep disorders, problems with family life, feelings of depression and depression,” says Quattrocchi. And he adds: ”

The threat of both economic resources and life are very important ‘stressors’.

It is necessary to appeal to the psychological resources that each carries to be able to face those fears without it becoming somewhat symptomatic in the long term. ”

Paradoxically, fear of death does not appear so much in older children as in the younger population

Fernanda Cavero, coordinator of Progesa

With regard to older adults, one of the groups most vulnerable to the pandemic, Fernanda Cavero, coordinator of the Gerontological Health Program (Progesa) of CABA for the Vélez Sarsfield hospital, says: “Paradoxically, in the largest, the fear of death as in the younger population.

What they do need is affection, contacts, being supported by the family and being present

“Therefore, Cavero believes that it is important that all health professionals arrive at the homes of people who are alone and do not have a containment network.” We ask older adults, “he continues,” to maintain everything they can. affective contact with family and friends. And since healthy aging is all about being active, it’s important for them to find activities to do inside their homes. ”

Gitaroff says there are people who feel that, with the quarantine, their life “was put on hold.” “As if it had been interrupted and this were something else. It is very important to be able to talk to our patients that this is our life and we cannot interrupt it: each day is ours,” reflects the psychologist. “We must find continuity, unity , transform contact with affections.

Nostalgia for what you do not have sometimes does not allow you to appreciate what you can have and it is wasted

Not submitting to the information blitz is a general recommendation from specialists. “This is not the end of the world, it is transitory, it is going to end. It is important to educate people so that they do not consume toxic sources of information all the time and the media have a great responsibility not to terrorize,” says Levín.

For Mali, thinking about the future makes her more anxious. Try not to. It is said over and over that “everything will be fine”. His wish is the same as everyone’s and the one he repeats to his psychiatrist every time he connects for his virtual therapy:

“I want things to return to normal, that we can go back out on the street without being afraid of getting it.”



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