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

Updated on:11 May 2021, 02:39am IST
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.
Tanya Percy Vasunia
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It’s time to protect your precious eyes from contamination of coronavirus. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

“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. 

coronavirus flu
Be sure whether it’s coronavirus or just flu. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

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. 

Also, listen:

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.

3. 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.

soap and sanitizer
Washing your hands is basic. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

4. 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.

5. 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. 

Quiz time: Just how prepared are you to fight coronavirus? Take this quiz to find out

Anxiety craves stability and with life the only constant is change, therefore moving towards acceptance of this situation will help reduce overall Anxiety. For those who are living with people who struggle with Anxiety, I beseech you to display patience and empathy as it is hard to manage anxiety. 

Tanya Percy Vasunia Tanya Percy Vasunia

Tanya is a psychologist and lead for clinical collaborations at  Mpower – The Centre, Mumbai