Why COVID-19 Has Contributed To A Rise In Depression

The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the world. As a result of the coronavirus, people around the world have experienced illness, grief, loss, uncertainty, isolation, unemployment, and an insurmountable amount of fear. Entire cities have gone into lockdown. Schools have been shut down. Grocery stores have run out of food and essential everyday supplies. Plans, big and small, have been canceled. Venturing outside was considered “unsafe.” Financial woes spread like wildfire. The world as people knew it seemed to change in an instant and stress levels reached an all-time high. The virus, which initially affected people’s physical health, has begun to affect their mental health. Over the course of the pandemic, anxiety has increased, substance abuse and depression have skyrocketed. In the United States alone, the number of adults grappling with depression has tripled since the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s why.

Understanding Depression

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. In addition to affecting how people feel, depression can also determine how individuals think, live, and handle daily activities. Even though symptoms of depression can vary from person to person, many people living with the mood disorder experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Oversleeping
  • An “empty” mood
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Feeling restless or have trouble sitting still
  • Guilt and feelings of worthlessness or helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Unexplained aches or pains such as headaches, migraines, cramps, back pain, or digestive problems

Even though experts believe that depression is mostly caused by genetic and biological factors, dealing with physical illness, taking certain medications, and experiencing major life changes, trauma, or stress can also cause depression.

Although many people experience persistent sadness in their lifetime, symptoms of depression must be present for at least 2 weeks before doctors can officially diagnose someone with clinical depression.

The COVID-19 Pandemic and Depression

Even though mental health challenges like depression were increasing before COVID-19, the pandemic has negatively affected many people’s mental health. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) brief, 4 in 10 American adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic, compared to 1 in 10 adults before COVID-19. A poll revealed that COVID-19 caused many adults to experience:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Trouble maintaining their appetite
  • Increased alcohol consumption
  • Worsening chronic conditions
  • High levels of worry and stress

The pandemic also affected young adults. An online CDC survey revealed that 63% of adolescents between 18 to 24 years old experienced symptoms of depression or anxiety. An estimated 25% of them used alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs to cope with their emotions.

How COVID-19 Caused An Increase in Depression

Experts believe that the pandemic contributed to a rise in depression for many reasons. Unexpected and unprecedented loss, for example, evoked long-lasting sadness. Unemployment and financial problems encouraged hopelessness and helplessness. Quarantine and social distance bred isolation and loss of interest. Fear of getting sick evoked anxiety and insomnia.

Let’s examine each factor in more detail.

High Levels of Loss and Grief Triggered Persistent Sadness

More than 4 million people around the world died from COVID-19. Even though grief doesn’t necessarily lead to depression, the duration of individuals’ grief during the pandemic coupled with a lack of support due to lockdowns affected many people’s ability to function outside of their grief.

Although many grieving individuals temporarily avoid social settings, they may accept support from and remain in contact with close friends and loved ones. Quarantine, social distancing, and lockdowns prevented many individuals from remaining in close contact with others, triggering isolation, another key symptom of depression.

In addition, many grieving individuals go to work or school to help occupy their minds. The pandemic forced most people to work and attend school from home. Being isolated from others, hearing about death every day, and not being able to leave the house to do everyday activities like work and school made many grieving individuals more vulnerable to depression.

Uncertainty and Instability Lead to Feelings Of Helplessness and Hopelessness

One of the worst aspects of the pandemic was the uncertainty and instability it caused. Doctors didn’t fully understand the virus at first. The CDC wasn’t sure masks would help stop the virus from spreading. Unemployed individuals didn’t know when they’d find work again. Parents were unsure how their children’s education would be affected. No one knew when life would return to normal. All of this uncertainty caused an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and helplessness. Feeling such an immense sense of worthlessness along with a pervasive feeling of sadness increased many people’s risk of depression.

Quarantine, Social Distancing and Lockdown Encouraged Isolation and Loss of Interest

COVID-19 also forced people to stay away from each other. To help stop the spread of the virus, federal, state, and local government officials encouraged social distancing. Although helpful, the lockdowns bred isolation. Instead of being surrounded by family members and friends, many sick people were forced to quarantine alone. Spending days, weeks, and months apart from others can negatively affect many people’s moods. Isolation can also lead to apathy, restlessness, and excessive crying, all of which are symptoms of depression. Living in lockdown also caused many people to lose interest in activities and hobbies they once loved. Instead, many people realized their zest for life and their energy had decreased.

In addition, COVID-19 contributed to a rise in depression because many people:

  • Feared getting sick
  • Faced financial concerns and housing insecurity
  • Struggled with a loss of community
  • Excessively consumed alcohol and other mind-altering substances
  • Had difficulty finding time to unwind
  • Didn’t take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories
  • Struggled to find healthy ways to cope with stress

All in all, the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a rise in depression because it was a major life change that evoked high levels of stress which caused various forms of psychological trauma.

Helping Improve and Maintain Your Mental Health

Here at StoneRidge Centers, we know that life has many challenges. Unexpected, multifaceted, and prolonged challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic can easily affect your mental wellbeing and the health of your brain. Our innovative, evidence-based treatment programs can help improve your mental health and enhance your overall well-being. Let us help you get there. Contact us today to learn more.

Innovative, Evidence-Based Therapies

Because mental health and addiction concerns are so often interconnected, we utilize research-based approaches with evidence-based outcomes that promote overall healing and recovery.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

This low-impact magnetic stimulation activates neurons inside the brain, relieving symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.

qEEG/Brain Mapping

Using brain scanning and readings, we create a map of our patients’ brains, helping us develop more targeted and effective treatments.


This process assists patients in visualizing their own brain functionality through continuous EEG readings.

Spravato Therapy

We use carefully monitored doses of Spravato to help patients struggling with complex mental health disorders, including severe depression.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Patients use this practice to help reframe intrusive or negative thought patterns and develop coping techniques for long-term recovery.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

This practice helps patients learn to regulate emotions, communicate more effectively, and process their own thoughts and feelings..

Eye Movement Desensitization (EMDR)

Licensed and trained therapists guide patients through this technique for managing stress and anxiety on an ongoing basis.

Individual Therapy

Patients experience one-on-one therapy sessions with a licensed therapist to provide a safe and private place to recover and heal.

Group/Family Therapy

Patients can practice the skills and techniques they have learned in treatment with others in a safe, therapist-guided space.

Contact StoneRidge Centers

5940 E. Copper Hill Dr. Ste B & E, Prescott Valley, AZ. 86314

We exercise progressive, leading brain science in our treatment approach for patients in our community and across the country who are struggling with mental health and addiction challenges.