Around 1 in 5 COVID-19 Patients Later Develop Mental Health Disorders

A new struggle may begin after someone catches COVID-19. Research shows around one in five people with COVID-19 develop a mental health disorder within three months.

It’s easy to feel like there’s no winning with the COVID-19 pandemic, and new research still hasn’t allowed for much optimism. A recent study published in The Lancet Psychiatry found that 18.1% of people who contracted COVID-19 later developed a psychiatric disorder, such as anxiety, depression or insomnia. Essentially, nearly one in five people are diagnosed with mental health issues within three months of getting COVID-19.

Additionally, the researchers were surprised to find that mental health also played a key role in contracting the virus. They found that people with a mental health disorder were 65% more likely to contract COVID-19 than those with no mental health concerns.

The Relationship Between COVID-19 and Mental Health

The pandemic has been creating and worsening mental health symptoms for a variety of reasons. While the virus itself can cause cognitive problems like delirium that may affect mental health, people who have avoided the virus are still struggling with new or exacerbated conditions like anxiety and depression. Many believe this is due to the uncertainty, financial worries, isolation and stress that have stemmed from situations like lockdowns, health fears and unemployment.

survey on mental health professionals by The Recovery Village found:

  • 81% of professionals say that clients have increased mental health symptoms
  • The most commonly reported concern is anxiety (64.5%), followed by depression (17.2%) and stress (12.1%)
  • 53% of professionals say that clients have increased substance use

Often, people turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate their mental health symptoms. Another survey by The Recovery Village found:

  • 55% of respondents saw an increase in past-month alcohol use, with 18% reporting a significant increase
  • 36% of respondents saw an increase in illicit drug use
  • Alcohol (88%), marijuana (37%) and prescription opioids (15%) were the most commonly used substances

Unfortunately, substance use can easily lead to negative outcomes like addiction and overdose, two problems the pandemic is also exacerbating throughout the United States.

Addiction: The Other Crisis

America has been in the midst of an opioid epidemic for decades now, as their addictive nature has been unclear until fairly recently. Doctors would overprescribe these medications, causing widespread addiction and leading many to turn to other drugs when their prescriptions could no longer be filled. In 2018, around 70% of 67,367 overdose deaths in America involved opioids.

Over 40 states have reported increasing overdose rates during the pandemic due to decreased access to community resources, support groups, medication-assisted treatment and harm prevention services. The loss of employer-based health insurance benefits can also make finding treatment difficult. These issues, along with the recent discovery that getting COVID-19 may put people at risk for mental health concerns, have some wondering whether the pandemic will become even worse. Fortunately, many communities and organizations are taking steps to combat rising rates of overdose and substance abuse while increasing access to care.

Help Is Available

The American Medical Association recently laid out a proposal that would help states prevent additional substance-related deaths, such as increasing access to care, reducing certain restrictions and increasing harm prevention services. These would help remove treatment barriers and allow people to find the help they need.

The internet has proven to be a valuable tool during the pandemic, allowing people to access life-saving care from the comfort of home. Telehealth services, such as those offered by The Recovery Village, connect individuals struggling with substance use to trained addiction specialists who can provide remote treatment and therapy. Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have also turned to virtual means, allowing members to continue their routine while remaining socially distant and safe.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use or co-occurring mental health concerns during the pandemic, The Recovery Village is here to help. We accept most types of insurance and can also work with you to find affordable payment plans that work well for your financial situation. Contact us to learn more about treatment programs that can help you begin a healthier, substance-free life today.

Other COVID-Related News & Resources


Taquet, Maxime; et al. “Bidirectional associations between COVID[…]19 cases in the USA.” The Lancet Psychiatry, November 9, 2020. Accessed December 1, 2020.

Brooks, Megan. “Nearly one in five develop mental illnes[…] following COVID-19.” Rheumatology News, November 13, 2020. Accessed December 1, 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Understanding the Epidemic.” March 19, 2020. Accessed December 1, 2020.

Cipriani, Gabriele; et. al. “A complication of coronavirus disease 2019: delirium.” Acta Neurologica Belgica, June 10, 2020. Accessed December 1, 2020.

American Medical Association. “Issue brief: Reports of increases in opi[…]ring COVID pandemic.” October 31, 2020. Accessed December 1, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.