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Should You Get The Flu Shot?

It’s a personal decision–and sometimes a fraught one–but whether or not you get a flu shot should be addressed, especially if you are coping with a mental illness or addiction.

The flu can be vicious. Last year, 80,000 Americans died from flu (and related complications.)

We don’t always get the flu vaccine, and last year was one of the years we didn’t–and we both got flu. The doctor told us that he sees that even people who get the flu who have received the vaccine, have markedly less strong symptoms than those that get the flu and didn’t get a vaccine.

If you are dealing with depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder or are in recovery from addiction, this is something you may want to discuss with an MD, and possibly your therapist who can help support you in your decision if need be. The flu can be dangerous, even life-threatening. At the least, it is debilitating, and someone who is depressed, for example, may find their symptoms are worse if they are sick and confined to bed for a week or so.

Dealing with a cold, even a bad one, is nothing to dealing with the flu. The flu symptoms are painful and can be frightening, and it has been linked to anxiety and fear and depression, studies show.  (There isn’t proof that flu causes symptoms of mental illness, just that there is a correlation.)

There are two main categories of flu virus–type A and type B (there is also type C which can affect humans and type D which doesn’t.) The vaccine can be up to 60 percent effective in preventing type A and B. The vaccine doesn’t always prevent you from catching the flu but it can greatly lessen your chances of catching the flu and, as mentioned above, and reduce the severity of symptoms if you do catch the flu.

Symptoms include:

Sudden, excessive fatigue
Body aches
Sore throat
A persistent cough
Tightness of the chest
Wheezing and congestion
Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting

Complications can lead to bronchitis, pneumonia, dehydration and other serious conditions. While we love a good debate, we think the decision to get a vaccine (or not) is so important to someone who already has any illness, including mental illness, that we ask you to discuss it with a qualified health professional as soon as possible, as it can take two weeks or so after getting a flu shot for enough antibodies to build up and begin protecting you from infection

Have a healthy, flu-free winter,

Richard and C.R.


Photo: Petty Officer 3rd class Tiffany Long administers the influenza vaccination to Chief Petty Officer Romeo Mortel aboard the USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) on Oct. 28, 2004. The immunizations are provided to all active-duty personnel to prevent the spread of the flu and maintain service members’ health. Long serves as a hospital corpsman and is from San Diego, Calif. Mortel is assigned as a personnel man and is from Batangas, Philippines. Airman Joseph R Schmitt, U.S. Navy – This Image was released by the United States Navy with the ID041028-N-9864S-021 



Should You Get The Flu Shot?

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2018). Should You Get The Flu Shot?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 15 Oct 2018
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