Prescriptions for antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs surge amidst COVID-19 pandemic

Antidepressant prescriptions reportedly increased by 18.6% post COVID-19 outbreak.

According to a report, prescriptions of anti-anxiety medications rose by 34.1% between mid-February and mid-March in the US. Read to know more about how to handle emotional problems during coronavirus pandemic.

Stress about health, finances and uncertainty about the future amidst the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a serious toll on the mental health of people worldwide. In India, there has been a massive spike in patients with mental illness since the coronavirus outbreak. A recent survey conducted by the Indian Psychiatry Society reported 20% increase in patients with mental illness since the coronavirus outbreak. The survey noted that at least one out of every five Indians is suffering from mental illness.

More and more people in the US are also turning to prescription drugs like antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, to cope with mental health conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A report released this month by Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit management program, found that prescriptions per week for antidepressants, anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia drugs increased by 21% between mid-February and mid-March in the US, peaking the week of March 15 when the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

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According to the report, prescriptions of anti-anxiety medications rose by 34.1% over this period and 18% in the week of March 15. While antidepressant prescriptions increased by 18.6%, use of anti-insomnia medications went up by 14.8%.

Experts are also worried that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be a fallout of this crisis. PTSD was reported to be the most common psychiatric disorder to arise after the SARS outbreak. In some studies, the prevalence of acute post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) among COVID-19 survivors was observed. Researchers have cautioned that PTSS may affect a larger percentage of the population in countries without prior exposure to serious epidemics.


Are you feeling stressed or emotionally low during the lockdown? Movement restrictions and social isolation are essential to break the Covid-19 infection cycle, but it can have serious impact on mental health. With the intention to help people stay calm and conscious during the lockdown, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recently issued an advisory on how to handle emotional problems during coronavirus pandemic. Take a look -

Ways to handle social isolation

The ministry suggests some ways to keep positive and cheerful during the lockdown. These include -

  • Make yourself busy. Stick to a schedule. Help in doing household chores.
  • Listen to music, read, watch an entertaining programme on television to distract yourself from negative emotions. Rediscover your hobbies.
  • Eat well and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Stay physically active by doing simple indoor exercises.
  • Elderly people may feel confused, lost and need help. Offer them help by getting them what they need, their medicines, daily needs, etc.
  • If you have children at home, keep them busy by allowing them to help in the household chores make them feel responsible and acquire new skills

Tips for handling emotional problems

The government advises not to follow sensational news or social media posts that may impact your mental state. If you are going through any emotional issue, the ministry recommends trying these tips -

  • At times of anxiety, practice breathing slowly for a few minutes. Try and distance the thoughts that are making you anxious. Think of something calm and serene, and slowdown your mind.
  • When feeling angry and irritated, calm your mind, counting back from 10 to 1, distracting yourself helps.
  • Even when feeling afraid, deal with it by asking yourself:
  1. What is under my control?
  2. Am I unnecessarily worrying about the worst thing that can happen?
  3. When I have been stressed in the past, how have I managed?
  4. What are the things I can do to help myself and be positive?
  • Feeling lonely or sad is also quite common. Stay connected with others. Communication can help you to connect with family and friends. Call up people whom you haven't spoken to and surprise them. Discuss happy events, common interests, exchange cooking tips, share music.

In case you need advice from a mental health professional, you can call at the helpline number (080-46110007).

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