Whether it’s the hordes of people stockpiling supplies at the grocery store or the constant stream of updates on our TVs or social media, it’s nearly impossible to escape the hysteria of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
While our government continues to get a handle on the pandemic and daily life has been dramatically disrupted for nearly all Americans, it’s no wonder that the general public is experiencing an increased level of stress.
For the nearly 40 million American adults – about 18% of the population – who suffer from anxiety disorders such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Panic Disorder, COVID-19 can create yet another mental health threat. All the questions and unknowns surrounding this worldwide epidemic can lead to excessive worry, irrational behavior, and a deep sense of dread.
You might think…
Did I wash my hands long enough?
Should I stay at home?
Will I get infected?
Is this crowd of people carrying the virus?
Are my children safe?
Will I be able to financially support myself if I can’t go into work?
The uncertainties and paranoia surrounding the coronavirus can mount and be crippling for those that suffer from an anxiety disorder.
“We are seeing increasing levels of anxiety [in the U.S.] over a relatively short period of time,” said Vaile Wright, director of clinical research and quality at the American Psychological Association. “What we know from psychological science is, it’s the uncertainty that drives anxiety.”
“This is definitely a trigger for a lot of patients,” states Krystal Lewis, a clinical psychologist at the National Institute of Mental Health, who treats children as well as adults. “For anyone who might have OCD or specific concerns about getting sick, once you start seeing those signs pop up even more, and the Purell is everywhere, it can be really tough.”
Says author and writer, Lux Alptraum, “As someone who lives with OCD, I’m used to having my anxious thoughts take over — and, thanks to the work I’ve done in therapy, I’m usually pretty good at flagging thoughts as anxiety and OCD rather than a legitimate concern. But as the coronavirus outbreak has put the world on high alert, many of the thoughts I’d ordinarily dismiss as a product of my anxiety have started to seem like rational worry, and I find it harder to push back.”
Finding Calm Within the Coronavirus Storm
In addition to adopting common-sense prevention measures such as diligent handwashing and social distancing, it is also important for those suffering from anxiety disorders to pay close attention to their own mental and psychological well-being.
Here are a few tips to support you or a loved one who may have an anxiety disorder during this uncertain and unsettling time:
We Are With You!
We are living in undeniably unsettling times, and we at The American Brain Society understand the added stress COVID-19 has likely brought to your life. Whether or not you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety disorders, know that you are not alone.
We share your worry.
We see your concern.
We understand your uncertainty.
With patience, time, and through supporting one another, we will all get through this!
If you need additional support we encourage you to reach out to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) Helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI or visit https://www.nami.org/ for local resources.
World Health Organization