NewsDigital Exclusives


COVID Long-Haulers: Experts say some COVID-19 survivors are suffering from long-term mental symptoms

Posted at 6:42 PM, Jun 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-25 19:46:23-04

Dr. Tim Martindale has treated hundreds of COVID-19 patients. But in April 2020, he was in a one-on-one battle with the virus.

As a doctor, he recognized the physical symptoms.

“I had severe headache, incredible blood pressure changes, overall fatigue, terrible body and joint pains, nausea and panic," he explained.

But Dr. Martindale says the panic and other mental symptoms were new for him.

“The very first day I felt the symptoms, I had sudden... overall it hit my body hard. I felt it was if an evil entity had overtaken me and was rapidly coursing through my body and triggering all kinds of reactions. And I basically had to stay up all night long trying to deal with the symptoms I was having, including faster pulse, elevated sky-high blood pressure and incredible pain. So that first night I thought, 'Wow, this is hugely impactful, very difficult, and I can imagine if it doesn't stop doing this spiraling out of control stuff, I would need to be in the hospital relatively quickly,'” he recalled.

After four weeks, Dr. Martindale was able to return to work, but it took roughly eight months for all of his symptoms to subside.

“I've known people with COVID brain, COVID heart, COVID kidneys, COVID rash, COVID joints, COVID smell, COVID taste, all those things that happen as long-term complications, and for me it was COVID joints. For eight months, I had terrible pain in my ankles and knees, making it hard to walk any kind of distance or putting pressure to jump or get up from a sitting position,“ he said.

COVID-19 patients who suffer from long-term physical symptoms have been deemed "COVID long-haulers." Now some experts are applying that towards people who are still suffering from mental symptoms.

"I have found numerous people who had zero problems with mood before COVID and significant problems with mood after COVID simply due to that," said the family physician.

You don't have to be a COVID-19 survivor to suffer from the mental anguish brought on by the pandemic.

“The mental symptoms are very multi-factorial. There's an element where there is a sense that COVID itself has caused anxiety and depression-types of symptoms, mood problems, including manic types of things... but then there's the factor of just the sequella of COVID, the surrounding parts of COVID. It affected my job, I gained weight, the world is in stress," Dr. Martindale explained. “All those kinds of things collaborated together to make the emotional impact of COVID, from economic and medical and physical.”

Treating the mental symptoms is just as important as treating the physical ones.

“We're finding that, with data that we have, is that there's still a lot of uncertainties and anxiety surrounding COVID and the winter storm. And really now what our data is showing us is we're having a lot of grief," explained Vince Erickson, project manager for Texans Recovering Together.

Texans Recovering Together is a local program that offers free, anonymous emotional support for anyone in the community.

thumbnail_JTTNN Reopening Worry 6 13 copy.jpg

According to Texans Recovering Together, their total number of primary services delivered is 19,551. From October 1, 2020, through the week of June 21, 2021, the total number of primary services delivered is 17,768.

Erickson says while COVID-19 cases have slowed down here in Central Texas, many locals are still struggling.

“Right now things are much more relaxed. We have vaccinations going, and there's a lot of optimism going on, and there should be, but there's still a lot of reactions going on because of COVID," he said.

“So it's like, you know, why them not me? That type of thing. It's getting him to understand that, you know, we can't control that. You know, it's just some things beyond our control that we just have to, you know, chalk it up to our higher authority," explained Jonnell Majors, a crisis counselor with Texans Recovering Together.

Majors herself knows how important having a support system can be.

“I've struggled quite a bit this year with my own physical health, and so I've learned that it's important when you have a team to support you or, or that individual that you can turn to that gave help, just carry that burden of, you know, 'Hey, I know everyone's going through this, and I'm not alone.' And knowing that you can confide in someone that's not going to judge you has been a big thing," she said.

If you or someone you know is in need, reach out to Texans Recovering Together at (866) 576-1101.