Anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, the world took a sudden turn with the COVID-19 pandemic crisis affecting all over the world. Social distancing and self-isolation are being followed by every community member however, this change in lifestyle has brought forward mental health crises within the community. As the situation unfolds; with a daily rise in the number of cases and death tolls, people are now feeling anxious and worried. It is obvious to note that the sudden disruption in our daily routine can be detrimental to one’s psychological health, especially among pre-existing mental health conditions. Keep reading for understanding for Dealing with anxiety during the COVID-19
One of the most common emotional outcomes that have been observed is the increasing incidence of an anxiety attack and under extreme circumstances, panic attacks. To be isolated at home with nothing else to look forward to gives rise to negative thoughts. Therefore, in this time it is essential to look after one’s mental health and thus, recognize anxiety symptoms.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is defined as an emotional response brought on by itself or external stressors which affects the psychological and physiological function of a person. The psychological aspect includes difficulty thinking or sometimes overthinking, restlessness, lack of concentration, and changes in sleeping patterns. The physiological component includes the body’s physical response to the emotional turmoil and includes hyperactivity and changes in the body’s autonomic nervous symptom. (Chand & Marwaha, 2020)
Taking the meaning of anxiety into account, we can see how this can be a conditioned response in a situation like the COVID-19 that is out of our control. The condition can be further exacerbated under pre-existing mental health problems or if your family has/had an anxiety history.
Signs and symptoms;
Anxiousness is a normal response to any fearful situation however, it is important to differentiate normal anxiety from anxiety. The latter takes over your life, to the point that you are unable to even do something as simple as going out for a walk. The symptoms differ from person to person in terms of severity and frequency however, the common set of anxiety attack symptoms seen in most of the cases are the following; (Anxiety Disorders – Symptoms and Causes, n.d.)
- Feeling restless and tensed.
- Rapid heart rate
- Unable to direct your focus from the thing you’re worried about.
- Feeling of nausea and abnormal bowel habits.
- Feeling lethargic most of the time,
Panic and Anxiety Attacks
Most people view panic and anxiety attacks as synonyms of each other but, this is a misconception. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not recognize anxiety attacks as a clinical condition, rather its set of symptoms is categorized under generalized anxiety disorder. Panic attacks on the other hand are labeled as unexpected that is, not preceded by any previous stressful event.
So, can one identify panic attacks from anxiety? Panic attacks are usually associated with a history of complicated childhood or difficulties in adulthood. The stress trigger is not related to something recent like going to the grocery to buy fruits during these times. It comes unexpectedly and the symptoms have often been described as similar to a heart attack. Severe chest pain and dizziness often warrant an emergency service which is not the case for anxiety attacks. In some situations, the overwhelming worry, which is associated with anxiety, can turn into fear due to lack of control and therefore triggering a panic attack.
Diagnosis and Treatment:
Anxiety test includes a set of examinations carried out by your health care provider. Your doctor may do a physical examination to look for symptoms or other underlying conditions. Similarly, they will ask detailed questions to assess your psychological well-being. Since hospitals should be avoided in the present, online consultations are happening in most healthcare institutes.
The doctor will prescribe you anxiety medications to manage your symptoms when he identifies the particular anxiety disorder. The best treatment plan is based on your age, severity, and other associated medical conditions. Often, they encourage relaxation training like Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or mindfulness instead of antidepressants. However, in cases where pharmacological intervention becomes necessary SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) like Celexa, Lexapro are recommended. These are long-term medications that you should take daily whether or not you’re feeling anxious. (11 Anxiety Triggers and How to Identify and Manage Them, n.d.)
If you are getting panic attacks, then you’ll also need an anti-anxiety pill that you take when you have an attack. These drugs include Xanax or Klonopin, unfortunately, the drug comes with its own set of side effects ranging from dizziness to irritability.
How to manage our anxiety?
These are unprecedented times and the best we can do is be patient and look after our own physical and mental health as much as possible. Our best service to the community and all other essential workers fighting against COVID-19 is to stay at home and isolate ourselves from the outside world. Unfortunately, social distancing does have its psychological impact and therefore managing anxiety must be the foremost thing in our mind.
Avoid obsessing over the news:
You must avoid obsessing over the news, constantly checking the social media for the number of cases and death tolls is an unhealthy obsession. The rising number can trigger a stressful event since the situation is out of your control and the constant worrying will eventually cause you an anxiety attack. We all know how hard it will be to ignore the world out there but for the sake of your mental health, try to watch as little news as possible.
This is the time to give yourself a social media detox and communicate with your family and friends. Share the ups and downs of your emotions and try to lean on them since family support can help lessen the anxiety boiling inside you. Play games, cards, or even listen to music with them, companionship has now become more important these days. Aside from that, try to do engaging activities that will distract your mind from the constant worry. It could be painting, yoga exercise, dancing, or baking your grandma’s secret pie recipe.
Lastly, be kind to yourself, your mind, and your body. Have a positive approach and fill yourself with thoughts of optimism, after all, we will overcome this.
Chand, S. P., & Marwaha, R. (2020). Anxiety. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470361/
Anxiety disorders—Symptoms and causes. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved May 5, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961
11 Anxiety Triggers and How to Identify and Manage Them. (n.d.). Retrieved May 5, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/anxiety-triggers.
Read also this helpful material about Mental Health Month 2020