Today, the only problem in the universe is called SARS-COV-2 and eradicating it has become the be-all and end-all. It matters little if deaths from other diseases have increased or if the economy is destroyed and poverty increases. No one cares if the manifestations, even extreme ones, of psychic problems caused or worsened by the lockdown are there for all to see.
The regulations in place have the same “wisdom and foresight” as a person who shoots wildly to kill a mosquito yet is heedless of hitting other things, be they animals and people. The important thing is to kill the mosquito. The costs of the constant closures are devastating; it is mainly children and adolescents who pay the highest price. We spoke with Professor Rosanna Chifari Negri, a neurologist, author of over 70 scientific publications and international speaker, about the consequences of these lockdowns, especially regarding the problem of epilepsy.
Doctor, can you tell us about your study?
I reviewed the international literature on the neurological damage of lockdowns, especially on adolescents and young people. There were 768 scientific papers confirming the relationship between lockdown and mental health in young people. The damage observed concerns not only mood, i.e., depression, anxiety, behavioral disorders, etc., but also a 30-40% increase in addictions.
Which addictions have particularly increased?
In the adolescents’ and children’s groups, screen addictions stand out. Distance learning has not helped.
What do you mean?
Colleagues in different parts of the world have published many works showing how the “online brain,” that is, the brain that stays online for a long time, suffers organic damage. We usually associate anatomical damage with the intake of substances. This damage is a fact even though we often do not realize the extent of the problem. This is the case of the legitimization of marijuana, which has led to suicide.
However, screen exposure is no less dangerous. The lockdowns have forced children into online addiction. Distance learning keeps them glued to the screen for several hours. Social media then keeps children in touch with friends they cannot visit. Afterward, they watch Netflix.
Can you specify the anatomical changes and their consequences?
The online brain “hits” the frontal lobe, the seat of decision-making and strategy, which becomes atrophic and loses neurons irreversibly. The thinning of the cortex means neuronal loss, and the latter means functional loss. It inhibits memories and leads to a decline in learning. All young people tested showed a loss of memory and attention span (the same applies to adults). They also suffer social psychopathologies. There is also a decrease in vocabulary, which has been frighteningly reduced to 200-300 words, corresponding to the ones they use for messaging.
Regarding the problems caused by lockdown, you spoke of a “discontinuity syndrome.” What is this?
It is a catchphrase used to describe an emergency situation we have experienced for a year now. It clearly does not yet have a DSM [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual] classification. However, the condition involves those problems caused by isolation and the interruption of routine, work or school activities. There is a sudden discontinuity with everyday life. Using great common sense, Prof. Paolo Crepet has pleaded that schools be reopened because distance learning does not rebuild that social environment fundamental to the structuring of a healthy personality.
What are the dangers of smart-working on adults?
I have given a talk on this subject for Studio Mascheroni, a law firm that interacts with companies. Although broaching the topic is somewhat awkward, I spoke about the damages caused by smart-working and clearly showed that avoiding it will benefit companies in the long run. People who work in this manner are more likely to experience burnout, by which they suffer many symptoms (lack of interest, exhaustion, lack of enthusiasm and even depression). Their work performance decreases. The best attitude is to limit and dose smart-working.
Have other addictions also increased?
Yes. Drugs, for example, have increased. If people can’t go out, one might ask how they manage to meet the dealer? I think that this is a question that postal authorities might investigate since it would uncover very daring strategies. There has been a 27% increase in the consumption of marijuana and other substances. The consumption of these substances can lead to schizophrenia due to the altered brain circuits. Alcoholism has also increased.
Do people also tend to eat more?
Yes, they eat more for a very specific reason. During forced isolation, the hunger centers at the hypothalamic level experience increased stimulation. This leads to eating disorders, a sort of bulimic hyperphagia, which then obviously impacts health. My diabetologist colleagues tell me that there is an increase in dietary diabetes. This fragility factor makes people vulnerable to contracting Covid.
It’s like a dog biting its own tail. Beyond lockdown, people also experience constant uncertainty with everything changing weekly. You can’t leave the region or the city, you go to school or stay at home. Some businesses can remain open while others must close. What impact does this state of affairs have on the psyche?
It definitely triggers an anxiety syndrome. Uncertainty leads to anxiety, which can end in depression. Remember that when repeatedly tense situations produce too much cortisol, there is the risk of memory loss and the phenomenon of so-called freezing. Equally serious is the attitude by which we give up our freedom. We are sending a terrible message: irrational and, pardon me, headless central management can do whatever it wants without any reaction. It recalls the technique reminiscent of Chomsky’s boiled frog.
What can you tell us about suicides or attempted suicides, especially in adolescents?
There has been an increase in both suicide and its attempts. The figures are alarming. The data is absolutely objective and quantifiable. We see reports like those of Prof. Lino Nobili, who describes tests on young people at Gaslini Hospital in Genoa. This increase is not only found in children but also adults. They resort to suicide because of lost jobs or the prospect of losing them. Cases in the news and psychiatric institutions attest to this.
This situation cannot go on if we are to preserve our mental health. We are living in a totally unhealthy context. Lockdowns are not the way to fight against the virus. I have talked about the Swedish model, which did not implement lockdowns. Its data is no worse than ours. I am talking about real scientific data. Fear ends up lobotomizing the people and making them uncritically submissive.
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