Which is worse depression or anxiety

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In view of the corona pandemic and the lockdown, it is becoming apparent that many people across all age groups are developing mental health problems - or existing mental illnesses are worsening. Psychotherapists and psychologists are concerned about this.

By: Veronika Scheidl and Sina-Felicitas Wende

Status: March 28, 2021

Anna M. (name changed) was 22 years old when an accident completely changed her life: she slipped unhappily on a staircase and suffered a very complicated fracture in her right ankle. Even three years later, the young woman is plagued by chronic pain in her foot. And Anna M. also suffers mentally from the pain. She developed a pain disorder that led to depression. With the Corona crisis, this depression got worse, she says.

"I tend to curl up and withdraw completely. And that was the perfect opportunity when Corona came. I felt almost relieved because I thought, 'Thank God nobody is doing anything productive. Then I don't have to guilty feel that I'm not doing anything productive. '"

Anna M.

She let herself be drawn down into a vortex, doing almost nothing more than lying in bed, sleeping and constantly letting her thoughts wander.

Corona crisis hits people with mental illness

Since the end of January Anna M. has been receiving psychotherapeutic treatment in the Schön Klinik Roseneck am Chiemsee because of her depression. Psychologists like Prof. Ulrich Voderholzer are worried there. He notes that the corona crisis is particularly affecting those who are psychologically stressed.

"They usually have less contact with other people and are often withdrawn. And when the contacts they had broke away, they have suffered particularly."

Prof. Dr. med. Ulrich Voderholzer, Medical Director Schön Klinik Roseneck, Prien am Chiemsee

The loneliness increased in the corona pandemic. In addition, there was often poorer access to therapy because patients could no longer take advantage of outpatient therapies, for example, and therapy was discontinued.

Fear of the coronavirus

The 62-year-old Klaus, who does not want to give his full name, has been treated at the Roseneck clinic since the beginning of March. On the one hand, he also suffers from depression - and also from an anxiety disorder. Klaus is very scared of contracting the coronavirus - because he has a heart disease.

"If I go out and someone comes towards me, it is always a threat to me. And if he is not wearing a mask, then it is more of an attack."

Klaus

Because of Corona, Klaus closed himself off at home in frustration and plunged deeper into the depression. He only dared to go to the Roseneck clinic because he was vaccinated with AstraZeneca. But the fear is still there, explains Klaus

"Scientists say that even people who have been vaccinated can become infected. They are protected from a severe course. Now that my disease has a mild course, it is very, very dangerous for me and can have long-term effects."

Klaus

Telephone counseling with great demand

The corona pandemic can trigger a crisis even in people who have previously been mentally stable and healthy. Because fixed structures and rhythms, stability and security - all that has broken away for many. This can also be seen in offers of help such as telephone counseling.

This offers anonymous advice and discussions by phone, email and chat. In 2020, telephone counseling recorded five percent more calls compared to the previous year. In the case of chats, the plus was a whopping 70 percent.

The main concerns of people: Depressed mood, fears, loneliness - and Corona has intensified all of that, as Matthias Fischhold notes.

"My picture was always, it's like a catalyst. It makes someone who is lonely even more lonely. Someone who is depressed often slips even more into depression. Someone who is psychotic becomes more psychotic."

Matthias Fischhold, graduate theologian, head of telephone counseling in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising

It is alarming that the subject of "suicide" is playing an increasingly important role among young people. These are often not so stable in life, explains Fischhold. Especially when it comes to "taking a new step, moving out of home, to the new city, to work, to study. And all of this fails and is such an important life task that is actually pending now not possible."

Corona crisis has a strong impact on children and young people

The lockdown hits children and young people particularly hard - because they are in the middle of the development process, says Prof. Ulrich Voderholzer from the Schön Klinik Roseneck. There the waiting list for adolescents with mental illness is getting longer and longer.

"We have a great many young people with eating disorders, but also a great many with depression. They are also emotionally unstable and have mood swings."

Prof. Dr. med. Ulrich Voderholzer, Head of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, Schönklinik Roseneck, Prien am Chiemsee

They cannot cope with the isolation and are more insecure.

Krisenchat.de wants to help young people

But children and adolescents are less likely to dare to talk about their problems and seek professional help. The non-profit portal "Krisenchat.de" wants to change that. There, psychologists, psychotherapists and social workers provide advice via Whatsapp chat - free of charge, anonymously and around the clock.

Krisenchat.de was founded in May 2020 by three 18-year-olds in Berlin. In response to the Corona crisis, to offer young people the low-threshold opportunity to talk about their problems - be it school stress or lovesickness or even domestic violence. The offer is intended for under 25s. The demand is enormous, reports psychologist Filiz Horler, who works for Krisenchat.de.

"We notice, for example, that chatters often say they don't dare to call a counseling center because they are afraid of the phone, because they don't know what to say. And the whole thing falls away in the chat. And that does it easier to communicate the matter "

Filiz Horler, psychologist (M.Sc.), employee at Krisenchat.de

Children and young people who contact Krisenchat.de talk about a whole range of topics. Corona and the associated lockdown also play a role. In this context, the crisis chat found that there had been an increasing number of more extreme cases since January:

"Child welfare endangerment, self-harming behavior and suicidal thoughts, also depressive symptoms. And you definitely notice that this is more present now than it was at the beginning of the crisis."

Filiz Horler, psychologist (M.Sc.), employee at Krisenchat.de

Self-care in Corona times

Crisis chat is also on Instagram and TikTok - those social media platforms that young people use intensively. Here Krisenchat wants to provide information about mental health and give tips.

Psychologist Filiz Horler advises self-care and to find fixed structures and a regular daily routine again. Because that gives security.

"Especially in times of Corona, to take the time to go out, do something beautiful, try to focus on the positive, even if that sounds very clumsy. But this is often a core element that the children and adolescents don't do."

Filiz Horler, psychologist (M.Sc.), employee at Krisenchat.de