Going into the second national lockdown to try to contain the spread of COVID-19 as confirmed cases surged into triple digits, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis during his recent national address alluded to “pandemic fatigue” and how it may be affecting people – and while “pandemic fatigue” might not be a specific diagnosis, it is understood as a term indicating that a person has experienced a prolonged and demanding stressful situation which has overwhelmed the person’s capacity to cope, according to a psychiatrist.
The result, according to Dr. Nelson Clarke, is that some people may exhibit and experience physical and psychological effects of chronic stress. And that the fight, flight or freeze response that occurs when they face potentially harmful situations, is now happening over a prolonged period.
“‘Pandemic fatigue’ refers to the stress reaction resulting from the many aspects of the pandemic that individuals have had to cope with,” said Clarke.
“There are many aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic that have been associated with enormous stress being experienced at this time. Managing the changes that the pandemic has forced upon us – dealing with the restrictions, becoming adjusted to the new ways of interacting with others at home, at work and throughout the usual day, has been stressful. Sometimes changes needed to be incorporated into people’s lives with short notice. Many of these situations have brought with them a feeling of uncertainty and the subjective reaction of feeling overwhelmed and perplexed. At the heart of some of what we feel is the notion that no one knows what will happen next or when will it all end. Even more to the point, we are all concerned about our health and that of family members, the risk of becoming infected with the COVID-19 virus, becoming severely ill and possibly dying. With these issues going on, no wonder anxiety has become an issue for everyone.”
The psychiatrist said some people experience irritability or feelings of frustration, are overly tense, have poor concentration and have difficulty dealing with everyday matters and making decisions. He said relatives and other people close to the individual, and those who have prolonged contact because of workplace relationships, may be the first to notice the changes indicating that the individual is experiencing what can be termed “pandemic fatigue”.
“Interestingly, many people may feel overly stressed but some cope better than others. People with adequate support tend to fare better than those without. People who have prioritized self-care and taken responsibility for their well-being do better than those who do not set aside time to look after themselves,” said Clarke.
“Social distancing may mean that we cannot see and spend time with others like we did before, but we can still interact with others using the electronic media, telephones, internet, etc.”
The psychiatrist said when it becomes overwhelming and people find themselves unable to cope, that getting help may be the option that needs to be carefully considered. And that talking with someone who can provide an objective perspective and indicate some strategies to help may be very beneficial.
While “pandemic fatigue” is not a specific diagnosis, the psychiatrist said language evolutions helps people to help us communicate with others about the new experiences being encountered.
Clarke said language evolves to help people communicate with others about the new experiences that they encounter.
“Most people immediately have an idea about what we are trying to convey once the new phrase, words or expressions have been accepted. Sometimes it happens quickly… Sometimes not so quickly. The media helps us to become familiar with new phrases/rarely-used phrases and unfamiliar scientific words (jargon).
“Recently, we have had a number of these new words, phrases and seldom-encountered scientific phrases that are now part of the language that are in use in everyday communication. Examples are pandemic, herd immunity, flattening of the curve, viral spread and, more recently, ‘pandemic fatigue’.”
The Bahamas confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on March 15.
There were 104 cases reported in The Bahamas between March 15 and June 30.
Between July 1 and yesterday, August 6, there were 647 cases.
The Bahamas has 761 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
New Providence leads the way in confirmed cases with 349, and Grand Bahama has recorded 336 cases.
Double digit numbers have been recorded on Bimini with 34, and Moore’s Island with 10.
Cat Cay has recorded six confirmed cases; Cat Island, three; Berry Islands and Great Guana Cay, nine each; Exuma, three; and Abaco, two.
The Bahamas has recorded 14 deaths; two non-COVID related deaths, 91 recovered cases, 19 hospitalized cases; has 654 active cases; and completed 4,814 tests.
The lockdown began on Tuesday, August 4, for a minimum of two weeks. Nearing the end of the period, Minnis said health data will be assessed and he will advise whether a further lockdown period is necessary.