The Psychological Effects of Social Distancing

Since the coronavirus has emerged, governments have declared a public health emergency, and have put measures in place in order to contain the illness. Many people are socially distancing and in quarantine due to the extremity of the virus, which raises the concern of mental health during this time.

The Lancet released a review where 24 studies were evaluated, looking at the psychological effects of individuals who were quarantined during outbreaks of numerous different diseases. Many people reported that they dealt with short and long term issues which include stress, insomnia, and substance abuse. One study showed that during an outbreak, 34 percent of individuals experienced high amounts of anxiety or depression, while only 12% of non-quarantine people felt the same psychological distress.

CNN reports that prolonged isolation can affect everyone differently, whether you struggle with financial insecurity or you are being sent home to abusive situations among family. Dr. Dana Garfin explains how staying home through an outbreak is considered collective trauma. This can also affect loved ones, people who witness devastation, and people whose lives have been seriously altered. 

Extended time in quarantine can trigger fight or flight response, which is a physiological reaction to what is perceived as a threat to survival. Dr. Garfin says that this can cause more issues involving anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

There are ways to manage your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic. Luckily, we live in an age with modern technology. Although it is not a replacement for human touch/contact, it provides communication capabilities that can help with feeling isolated. 

The CDC lists stress coping mechanisms such as taking breaks from news stories, taking care of your body, doing activities you like, and connecting with others. They also advise people to support loved ones and make sure to check in with them often.

To learn more tips for taking care of yourself during an emergency response, click here.

To get more information about stress management for first responders from the Disaster Technical Assistance Center, click here

-Carmen Ya’ira


Gupta, Sujata. “Social Distancing Comes with Psychological Fallout.” Science News, 31 Mar. 2020,

Holcombe, Madeline. “Long-Term Social Distancing May Be Traumatic. Here Is What to Expect and What to Do.” CNN, Cable News Network, 12 Apr. 2020,

“Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 Apr. 2020,

Image: Brooks, Arthur. “Opinion | How Social Distancing Could Ultimately Teach Us How to Be Less Lonely.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 20 Mar. 2020,

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