Anxiety and withdrawal related cases are the most common cases in the Psychiatry Ward of the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH).
The COVID-19 pandemic is also being blamed for the increase in anxiety cases within a period of six months this year.
As per the record maintained by JDWNRH for January till June 2020, the psychiatrists saw 145 females and 97 males suffering from anxiety disorder, 30 females and 155 males with alcohol use disorder (AUD) followed by depression in 67 females and 53 males, and substance abuse with 76 cases so far.
By comparison the whole of 2018 saw 164 females and 95 males with anxiety disorder and 154 males and 22 females with alcohol use disorder.
Psychiatrist in JDWNRH, Dr Damber K. Nirola, said there is a high level of anxiety among the vulnerable Bhutanese due to the news of the huge COVID-19 cases and death tolls around the world. Dr Nirola said everyone is worried that they might get infected and die, especially the people prone to psychiatric conditions.
“Any type of psychological stress can lead to a sudden onset of the disorder that may be lying dormant in many people. It can lead to people having anxiety in the form of panic attacks. So when a person keeps on listening to the same thing repeatedly, it creates a lot of fear among the people,” said Dr Nirola.
According to the doctors, panic disorder is the most common disorder that can happen because of such dire news. The people on medication for anxiety could also have aggression as one of the symptoms due to the pandemic scare.
“There is lot of exacerbation of symptoms of mood disorders for people who were already doing fine with medications, and some of them who were for asymptomatic for seven years or more, came out with the flare up of symptoms because of the COVID-19 anxiety. So similarly, a lot of depression cases came up and we also saw surge in domestic violence because people were staying at home and probably fighting each other, and alcohol plays a very important role,” Dr Nirola said.
Dr Nirola said the current situation has caused a lot of social issues, such as people losing their jobs and finding it hard to make ends meet, especially in Thimphu. There are some people who are dealing with idleness, most of them cannot socialize and are left feeling isolated. All such factors are leading to increased mental illness.
Most of the students are not doing anything other than attending a few of the online classes. Therefore, most of them are either playing online games like PUBG or other games that are violent at night due to cheap data charges, which can affect their sleep cycle and harm them mentally, added Dr Nirola.
“So they are more active towards the night and less during day time. It is not very good for a healthy mind,” Dr Nirola added.
He said no student has come to seek help for mental aggravation, but in the long run the gamers may get addicted to gaming. The doctor said once the schools reopen and the students become game addicts then they would not be able to concentrate on their studies.
“This can lead to irritability, disrupted mood towards certain people and impulsive behavior. To prevent such thing, one must balance the time and their sleep time has to be monitored. Instead of playing all these games, they should develop a habit of reading books and some quality stuff; physical activities is very important; encourage young people to go out for hiking, trekking, outdoor games and following their hobbies,” said Dr Nirola.
As for those getting help for substance abuse, Dr Nirola said most of the young people that experienced withdrawal symptoms have volunteered to undergo rehab for four months. Meanwhile, some young students caught abusing marijuana were mandated to undergo treatment.