Major elections, such as the presidential and National Assembly elections that just took place in Nigeria can take a toll on the mental health of Nigerians, experts say.
The experts say stress caused by election anxiety can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, and depression.
The presidential and National Assembly elections were held on Saturday, and there has been palpable tension across the country following the collation of the election results and stakeholders raising issues bordering on irregularities in the process.
The Labour Party and the Peoples Democratic Party have kicked against the process, describing it as compromised.
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Monday, also issued an open letter to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), expressing concern over the integrity of the elections.
In the letter, Obasanjo claimed that the Independent National Electoral Commission had allegedly compromised its officials to manipulate the election process and revert to the manual transmission of results, instead of using the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System and Server for immediate transmission of results from polling units.
Speaking in an interview with The PUNCH, the President of the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria, Taiwo Obindo said there are chances of increased mental illness, palpitations, and frustration if people’s expectations are high.
“If the expectation is quite high, there are chances of frustration, developing significant emotional challenges, and high blood pressure because the anxiety may make them have palpitation, increased blood pressure, and sleeping disorder,” he said.
Also, a health practitioner, Dr Obi Igbokwe said election-related stress and anxiety can affect the digestive system, leading to nausea, diarrhoea, or constipation.
Igbokwe also said chronic stress caused by election anxiety and excitement can suppress your immune system, leaving one more vulnerable to infections and illnesses.
“Stress can trigger headaches and migraines, which can be debilitating and interfere with your daily life. Some individuals may turn to substances such as alcohol or drugs to cope with election anxiety and excitement, which can lead to addiction and other health problems.
“Political differences can lead to relationship problems, which can cause stress and anxiety and affect your mental and emotional health,” Igbokwe added.
The experts, however, called for calm and urged Nigerians to practise stress-reducing techniques.
“You can practise stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and exercise. Additionally, seeking support from friends, family, or a mental health professional can help you cope with election anxiety and excitement,” Igbokwe noted.
Obindo also urged people to have realistic expectations as they await the final results of the elections.
“It’s either you win or lose, so let’s expect that it can happen the other way so that the negative impact will not be too much. People should avoid social media, television, and radio because the news will further heighten their anxiety.
“If possible they should find something else to distract them, those who can watch football should do so, and those who can watch a movie can do so or can switch off completely from watching anything related to the election or the result collation.
“If they can’t control the symptoms of the anxiety, they can see an expert,” he advised.