Fear, Anxiety, Mood, Memory, Concentration

Why am I still feeling anxious now I am recovering from COVID?

You, or people around you, might expect you to have left any fear and anxiety behind when you left hospital, or after a certain amount of time has passed.

People may even say things like “well you can relax now that you know you’re out of danger”.

If you’re only able to remember one thing from this section, we hope it is this: having COVID, being in hospital, or trying to seek help out of hospital, can be really frightening experiences

Fear & anxiety are completely normal

Fear is a normal, helpful, part of our make-up. If we really had no fear, we would probably be involved in some kind of accident very quickly.

The fear response is sometimes called the ‘Fight or Flight’ response as it involves a series of reactions that happen automatically in our bodies: these include raised heart rate, breathing faster, sweating, blood diverting from the digestive system leading to ‘butterflies’ sensation, and narrowing of attention.

These can seem quite strange or frightening, but they all serve a function and provide what could be a life-saving edge if we are faced by physical danger, such as a wild animal.

What does “low mood” mean?

After a serious illness, it is very common to experience low mood. We know that relatives are just as likely (if not more so) to experience low mood as patients themselves. The following are all common indicators of low mood:

  • Feeling sad or empty for much of the time (you may feel worse first thing in the morning).
  • Becoming more tearful than usual.
  • Feeling irritable and intolerant of others.
  • Losing interest in activities that you used to enjoy.
  • Finding it difficult to make decisions.
  • Paying less attention to your appearance.
  • Having thoughts of harming yourself or that you would be better off dead.

Some physical symptoms can also be related to low mood:

  • Moving or speaking more slowly than usual.
  • Decrease (or increase) in appetite.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Low sex drive.
  • Disturbed sleep, for instance difficulty falling asleep or waking up early in the morning.

Managing the effects on memory and thinking

Most people who have had COVID will recover with no long-term impact on their memory and concentration. Some people experience mild difficulties that don’t last for long.

Other people, particularly those who have had a severe illness and been admitted to intensive care may find problems last longer.

People who had some memory problems before becoming ill may find that they worsen afterwards, these changes may be mild and may not last for long.

How can COVID affect memory and thinking?

Memory: If your memory is affected, you may find it difficult to hold information in your head in order to use it to make decisions based on that information, you may struggle to recall something that has happened, or forget to take medication on time.

Attention and concentration: Problems with attention/concentration can make it hard to focus and ignore distractions. So, it may be difficult to find the can opener in the cluttered utensil drawer, help your child/grandchild with homework, or hold a conversation, whilst the TV is on, or keep up with conversations that are fast-paced or involve more than one other person.

It may be more difficult to do two things at the same time and not be distracted when trying to concentrate on a task.