Do pre-existing anxiety-related and mood disorders differentially impact COVID-19 stress responses and coping?
J Anxiety Disord. 2020 08 ;74:102271. Epub 2020 Jul 7. PMID: 32673930
Gordon J G Asmundson
BACKGROUND: People with pre-existing mental health conditions may be more susceptible to stressors associated with COVID-19 relative to the general population; however, no studies have assessed whether susceptibility differs between classes of mental health disorders. We assessed COVID-19-related stress, self-isolation stressors, and coping in those with a primary anxiety-related disorder diagnosis, a primary mood disorder diagnosis, and no mental health disorder.
METHODS: Adults from a population-representative sample from the United States and Canada who reported current (past year) anxiety-related (n = 700) or mood (n = 368) disorders were compared to a random sample of respondents who did not report a current mental health diagnosis (n = 500) on COVID-19-related stress, self-isolation stress, and coping.
RESULTS: The anxiety-related disorders group exhibited higher COVID Stress Scales total scores and higher scores on its fears about danger and contamination, socioeconomic consequences, xenophobia, and traumatic stress symptoms scales than the other groups. The mood disorders group had higher scores on the traumatic stress symptoms and socioeconomic consequences scales than those with no current mental disorder. Those with current anxiety-related or mood disorders were more likely to voluntarily self-isolate and were more likely to report greater self-isolation stressors and distress than those without a mental health disorder. Yet, there were no major differences in perceived effectiveness of coping strategies across groups.
CONCLUSION: People with anxiety-related or mood disorders were more negatively affected by COVID-19 compared to those with no mental health disorder; however, adding to psychological burden, those with anxiety-related disorders reported greater fears about danger and contamination, socioeconomic consequences, xenophobia, and traumatic stress symptoms than the other groups. These findings suggest the need for tailoring COVID-19-related mental health interventions to meet the specific needs of people with pre-existing mental health conditions.