These are the psychological effects of keeping people in lockdown for extended periods of time

Woman with her head in her hands (PHOTO: Layla Bird/Getty Images)
Woman with her head in her hands (PHOTO: Layla Bird/Getty Images)
Layla Bird

The country has been under lockdown for the past three weeks and it was due to be lifted on 16 April. But it was then announced that the lockdown would be extended by two weeks as evidence showed that current measures were working, limiting the spread of Covid-19.

Many of us had been staying at home before the lockdown started as companies started asking employees to work from home so as to not expose themselves to the virus. And if you’re not an essential service worker, you now only leave the house to buy groceries, medicine or to collect their social grant.

Read more: How the Covid-19 hysteria is affecting my existing mental health issues

DRUM spoke to clinical psychologist Ntokozo Gqweta about the effects of the lockdown on people.

“The word and the phenomenon of lockdown brings about difficult feelings for many people. It speaks to a sense of one’s freedom and independence being taken away. It creates a sense of loss of control over one's environment which has numerous ramifications for a person's psychological and physical wellbeing,” he says.

He shares some of the psychological effects that lockdown may have on people.

Heightened fear and anxiety

Being on lockdown does speak to a big, bad, scary thing happening there. Which may lead people to consume a lot of, sometimes unverified, social-media information in an attempt to get a sense of what is going on. This exposes them to scary and raw information about the current situation. People under these conditions (lockdown and consumption of negative media) lead to heightened levels of fear about their life, livelihood and future.

Lack of motivation, frustration and boredom

People may lose motivation to do the basic things necessary for going on with life. They will get bored of the mundane daily activities. For example, to bath, engage in activities necessary for daily living (like cooking and cleaning), including loss of interest in things they enjoyed before. This may also mean a lack of motivation to continue adhering to the regulations around Covid-19. Hence, one may start to notice more people roaming the streets illegally the longer the lockdown period.

Loneliness and Sadness

For some people, especially those who live alone, this is a very isolating and lonely time. The lack of connection with others may lead to deep sadness and other negative feelings and thoughts.

This is new to all of us, we have never experienced a national crisis, a pandemic or a lockdown. Gqweta suggests the following things are important in helping us cope with this new uncomfortable change.

Structure and consistency

This means that one’s day must have purpose as this will make each day more meaningful when one has a clear understanding of what lies ahead in their day. It is advisable to devise a plan for each day of the week with certain things being a daily occurrence, like waking up time, bath, breakfast and others. Try to make and maintain a day that is as close to your pre- lockdown schedule as possible.


It is important to incorporate activities of self-care in your daily routine. These may include exercise, relaxation techniques such as focused breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and imagery, practising mindfulness and self-soothing activities such as listening to one’s favourite music, taking baths with your favourite scented soaps, reading books, etc. and anything else that calms and centres you.


Human beings are wired for connection. Once that is disrupted it creates a sense of isolation, fear and it is “crazy making”. It is important to keep in touch with loved ones during this time. This will create that sense of community and that you’re not alone in this

Ntokozo Gqweta is a clinical psychologist in the private and public sector.

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