Reactive depression and anxiety somatization

In the context of the current Covid-19 health crisis, we are increasingly discovering every day that the consequences are not only economic and social but also psychological. The pandemic no longer concerns only the medical field but also the mental health field. Indeed, in this particular and unusual reality, where this virus is conducive to raising our greatest fears, the psychological consequences that emerge from studies and research for the moment are the appearance and generalization of stress, of anxiety and depression.

What is Stress?

Before stress there is fear which is an emotion coupled with a physiological reaction that accompanies the awareness of a real danger. Then fear can be accompanied by stress if the source of the stimuli is present over the long term. Stress is therefore a physiological reaction that responds to the demands of the environment or a concrete event in order to mobilize the resources of the individual to deal with these situations that cause concern. Somatic stress reactions are muscle tension, difficulty breathing and increased heart rate. If the individual’s exposure to stress is prolonged then it can lead initially to exhaustion of energy and motivation resources, irritability or sadness, and secondly, chronic stress can lead to a state of anxiety.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety can be considered the next stage of fear and stress in terms of increasing intensity. However, unlike fear, which is a reaction to an immediate danger, anxiety is a anticipatory reaction to a situation that causes concern. Because it is anticipatory and uncontrollable, anxiety is a condition that has a strong tendency to chronicization, we speak then of generalized anxiety disorder (TAG). During a GAD, the person is blocked in his capacity of action resulting in distress and suffering. Symptomatic manifestations are high muscle tension, hypervigilance, sleep disturbance and excessive physical reaction (bursts), irritability and possible somatization. It is also often accompanied by avoidance behaviours and can initiate a crisis of anxiety informs Maria Mogileva, clinical psychologist.

What is the anguish?

Anxiety is a more intense state where anxiety and stress are permanent. It can lead to so-called panic or anxiety attacks that refer to a timely and destabilizing psychological experience where the individual has been confronted with a sense of loss of control or the imminence of a serious danger. In the symptomatology we find an acceleration of the heart rate with respiratory and thoracic gene, hypervigilance and tetany or for some a feeling of going out of oneself. Anxiety and anxiety can be different but they can also complement each other and associate; For example, it is possible to create anxiety by fearing a panic attack, as the expression “being afraid of fear” tells us psychiatrist Christophe André. When these states of worry and worry are constant and too intense they can lead to reactive depression.

What is reactive depression?

A depression is called a reaction when one can give an “external” cause either a traumatic event or due to a comorbidity, ie association with other disorders (such as anxiety).

In any case, it does not differ in the symptomatology or in the definition of a «classical» depression, it remains a disorder of the mood, where sadness becomes permanent and pathological. There are 3 main categories of symptoms: psychic (sadness, anxiety and cognitive disorders), behavioral (motor slowdown, behavioural disorder, suicidal ideation) and somatic (sleep and libido disorders, digestive and cardiovascular disorders). Only, because it is reactive, this type of depression is more considered as an acute and reversible depressive episode that generally lasts between 4 to 6 months informs the reference site of the depression.

On the other hand, in the case where depression occurred due to anxiety the risk is that the subject develops an anxiety-depressive disorder, which is the association of the psychological symptoms of depression with the somatic symptoms of anxiety. It is therefore important to consult a mental health professional to prevent any complications.

Why are stress, anxiety, anxiety and depression so easily linked?

These disorders are part of the category of psychosomatic disorders that is to say that they associate psychic symptoms and somatic complaints (which are reflected in the body). As we have seen above, stress, anxiety and anguish do not differ so much in their symptoms as in their intensity and duration, and a large part of these symptoms find expression in the body.

Why does the body resort to somatization?

According to Lipowski, somatization is “the tendency to report somatic distress in response to psycho-social stress”. It is also a protection of the body to face too great a psychological tension which is characterized by somatisations that resist any medial investigation.

However, at the moment, a new wave of somatization is taking shape: “somatization of coronaviruses”. Indeed, because the situation of incessant stress leads to anxiety disorders, which are, for 50% of them, the cause of somatization, people begin to develop symptoms of the virus while being negative on the screening test. The French doctor Gilbert Tordjman, expert in psychosomatic diseases, points out that in times of crisis somatization are more common, so it is for him at present an almost inevitable phenomenon. Neurologist Suzanne O’Sullivan joins this theory by warning that each of us is likely to suffer from somatization once the distress threshold is crossed. On the other hand, experts warn that while somatization can generate pain and headaches similar to the virus, it cannot “create” fever as such. But in case of strong fear or panic, intense negative rumination, it is possible to feel a «psychological fever» or a heat stroke caused by a burning of thoughts and emotions, such as a heat stroke or a hot flash. A PhD student in neuropsychology in Morocco is currently setting up a new scale for measuring somatization to allow a better differentiation of Covid-19 symptoms and anxiety somatization.

In conclusion, stress, anxiety and anxiety are strongly related to each other, differentiating subtly by their intensity and duration. These conditions are accompanied by important physical symptoms and often handicapping the daily life, reinforcing the ill-being of the person, this is called somatization. Somatization is then the means of expression of the favored psychological suffering that is found notably in anxiety disorders, emotional disorders, personality disorders and depression. All of these conditions, which are beginning to be recognized, are part of the mental health impacts of the Covid-19 crisis.

Web sources: