Coronavirus scare can be debilitating for people with anxiety. Here’s how an expert suggests to tame the panic

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People with anxiety may not be a high risk segment when it comes to covid-19, but the uncertainty that comes with this pandemic can hamper their mental health.

“Don’t stand too close”… “Did that person just cough?”…

We are in the midst of a pandemic. And while we are doing our best to contain the contagion and identify people at higher risk–we have neglected to acknowledge another vulnerable section of society who will be impacted: those struggling with Anxiety and other mental health concerns.

Anxiety is a mental health concern wherein an individual experiences excessive worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities. Given the nature of the disorder, a pandemic crisis will impact those with anxiety.

As a mental health practitioner working in the field, I feel that the fear that coronavirus has dispatched in our society is palpable. The virus brings with it a tsunami of uncertainty that has engulfed us and rendered a majority of us feeling panicked and helpless.

For those struggling with anxiety, in particular, GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) it is the uncertainty and elevated chances of negative outcomes that are primary triggers.

Furthermore, it is the difficulty in trusting those around us that further drives the anxious thoughts. “Are they being honest about their travel?”, “Do they actually sanitize regularly?”, “Are they taking the healthcare guidelines seriously?”. These and many more questions like these haunt those struggling with anxiety.

Unfortunately, anxiety is one of the most common mental health concerns to experience and like most mental health diagnoses it functions on a spectrum, therefore the degree to which the covid-19 will impact individuals with Anxiety will vary.

In our current situation with covid-19, the potential negative consequences of infection are exponentially worse than ordinary consequences. Individuals who are triggered might experience panic attacks and anxiety attacks.

In an attempt to control the contamination, they can develop obsessive-compulsive behaviors and experience mood swings as a by-product of their anxiety.

While the current state of the world is fairly negative, don’t let the negativity render you helpless.

Below are a few simple steps to assist with anxiety Covid-19 triggers:

  1. Try identifying the anxious thought
    Label it as anxiety and not fact. This is the first step to move past it.
  2. Filter your social media
    I understand that during this uncertain time being abreast of the current happenings is key, however, understand the impact of the constant flux of news is having on you.

Ensure that you get your news from verified sources and remember WhatsApp is not a verified source. Being in a negative headspace can have an impact on your immunity. Therefore, it is important to attempt to manage your anxious thoughts.

  1. Focus on the things you do know
    For example: “I know that the virus is not lethal for everyone and taking basic precautions can help prevent contamination”. Focus on the facts.
  2. Change your focus
    Watch something that you find relaxing, go for a walk (this could just be under your building if nothing else), and spend time playing board games. Distract yourself.
  3. Speak to your psychologist
    If you are worried about going to the clinic, request for Skype or Zoom sessions.

For those struggling with anxiety, the overall uncertainty creates the most discomfort. Unfortunately, as we stand today, our knowledge on covid-19 is limited and there isn’t much we as individuals can do on that front.