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Long Covid

Coping with the after-effects of Covid-19 can be gruelling. The cycle of recovery and relapse leaves people questioning when they will feel better and get back to normal. Worse, some people might feel depressed if they are not offered support or feel they’re not believed by friends, family or doctors. Therapists can provide the extra support people need during recovery from long Covid.

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What is 'long Covid'?

'Long Covid' is a broad description of symptoms that persist after a person catches Covid-19 (whether proven or suspected).

The most frequently reported is fatigue. Many patients report a frustrating cycle of relapse and recovery. People report that even when undertaking what seem to be 'small' tasks, they find themselves easily exhausted – often referred to as a 'relapse'. People also report that relapses feel 'like going back to square one', and their capacity to do tasks has to be built back up 'from scratch'. This cycle of effort and exhaustion may be repeated over and over, seemingly without a sense of progress.

Other physical symptoms include:

  • Palpitations.
  • Shortness of breath and chest pain.
  • Joint pain.
  • Headaches.
  • Loss of smell.

Long Covid is often likened to fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)/myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). All four conditions share fatigue as a major symptom.

How does long Covid affect mental health?

Naturally, it's common for people experiencing post-viral symptoms to also report low mood and anxiety. Therapists can help support people with long Covid during these periods, and therapists with experience of working with patients who have chronic or acute health conditions will be particularly well-placed to connect with your experience.

Do I have long Covid?

You do not need to have tested positive for Covid-19 to have had the virus, and anyone who experienced Covid-19 could be at risk of post-viral symptoms.

It is also possible that 'long Covid'-type symptoms are a sign of a different problem.

In particular, more people might experience depression and anxiety symptoms this year because of stressors like lockdown, grief, isolation, remote or insecure work, and a sense of loss.

How long does long Covid last?

Given how new the diagnosis is, there is no prognosis. But in their experience of treating people with other post-viral illnesses, doctors report that recovery can take years or even months. Many people recover fully from post-viral illness.

How many people have long Covid?

Up to 60,000 people in the UK may experience long Covid, according to research published by the Covid-19 Symptom Study last September.

What treatments are there for depression and anxiety with long Covid?

Therapy for patients with long Covid

Psychotherapy is an ideal place to get help and support. Some therapists specialise in working with people who have a chronic health condition like long Covid, and are well-placed to understand the experience of living with a long Covid diagnosis or symptoms.

Medication for depression and anxiety with long Covid

Psychiatrists can prescribe medication for patients who develop depression or anxiety as a result of coping with long Covid symptoms.

Other resources for long Covid

The COVID Symptom Study

A report into a large-scale UK study.

NHS Your COVID Recovery

Self-help resources and information for people recovering from Covid-19.

Click here to see practitioners who specialise in chronic or acute health conditions.