Study: Mental health prescriptions nearly double during COVID-19, doctors treat 2 types of disorders

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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — A new study using CDC data shows mental health prescriptions are up 12% in South Carolina in the past year.

The increase accounts for more than one million South Carolinians taking prescription medication. This comes as psychologists at the Waccamaw Center for Mental Health in Conway say they help more people of all ages with stress, anxiety and depression.

“The kids are struggling with the whole changing school situation; also, with the adults, you’ve seen financial problems and loss of jobs and that trickles down to the children too,” Dr. Rupa Shetty, the Chief of Psychiatric Services, at Waccamaw Center for Mental Health, said.

We’ve seen the physical effects COVID-19 can have on the body, now we are witnessing the mental impacts. Health experts are concerned by evidence showing higher risks of neurological disorders among COVID-19 survivors.

Studies show the average percent of people taking mental health medication in South Carolina is now up to 23%, nearly doubling the year prior.

“Initially, it was ok, but as the year has progressed, this has been a long term effect, and it is going to continue to affect these kids especially now that they are getting ready to go back to school they are more anxious as to how they are going to do,” Dr. Shetty said.

Mental health doctors are treating two main types of mental health disorders during the pandemic; situational depression and neuropsychiatric sequelae.

Dr. Shetty says situational depression or anxiety is typically short-term and can often be a stress-related type of depression.

The second is neuropsychiatric sequelae, which is typically more long-term and often exhibits more severe symptoms and impairment.

While studies show mental health prescriptions have nearly doubled in South Carolina during the pandemic, Dr. Shetty says not all patients who walk through her door need medication.

If a patient is experiencing situational depression or anxiety, an example being isolation, that’s different from a neurological circumstance.

“If there’s a true neuropsychiatric sequence after COVID, or there was an underlying health disorder that was not treated in the past if that comes to the forefront, then yes, we have to treat them with medications,” Dr. Shetty said.

The study from QuoteWizard using CDC data shows South Carolina is one of 18 states seeing at least a 10% to 20% increase in people taking prescription mental health medication during the pandemic.

The Waccamaw Center for Mental Health recommends reaching out to your primary care doctor for help. Doctors may recommend counseling or completing a mental health evaluation.

Click here for more mental health resources from the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. To make an appointment to see a mental health professional, click here.

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