It has been nearly two years since COVID-19 spread across the globe. Its appearance, which was first met with mild concern, turned into a worldwide worry as more people contracted the virus. Although many have recovered from COVID-19, many have also died or are still suffering from prolonged side effects.
Worldwide, there are more than 200 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. At the beginning of the pandemic, many countries implemented mask mandates, lockdowns and physical distancing to curb the spread of the disease as scientists rushed to develop a vaccination. In the middle of the chaos, people waited anxiously in their homes while wondering if there will be an end to this pandemic.
A year into the pandemic, vaccines were finally introduced, which eventually triggered the gradual decline of new COVID-19 cases. To date, more than a billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide. As a result, many countries are softening their health protocols and lifting lockdowns. People who are now able to leave their homes do so while still being mindful of their safety.
However, some people are uncomfortable with the idea of mixing with others. Despite the decrease in disease prevalence and vaccines, some still experience COVID-19 anxiety syndrome.
Understanding COVID-19 Anxiety Syndrome
COVID-19 anxiety syndrome is one of the many ways the pandemic impacted mental health. This type of anxiety is often characterized by compulsive symptom-checking, threat monitoring and excessive worrying.
People with COVID-19 anxiety syndrome are often afraid to leave their homes due to COVID-related fears, avoid people or social situations and often check their symptoms despite not being in a high-risk scenario.
People with this syndrome tend to experience general stress, health anxiety, increased post-traumatic stress and suicidal ideation.
What are the Causes of COVID-19 Anxiety Syndrome?
Some researchers suggest that, in some people, the fear of contracting COVID-19, isolation and uncertainty during the pandemic may have resulted in this syndrome. Other researchers speculate that personality traits (particularly the “Big 5”) also play a role in the development of COVID-19 anxiety. Highly neurotic individuals have a higher chance of developing COVID-19 anxiety. Also, people with OCD tendencies may also be at risk for this syndrome.
Apart from personality traits, external elements may also cause a person to develop excessive worrying concerning the pandemic. Exposure to news and social media, difficulty in disengaging from the pandemic and disruption to routines can cause a person to develop an irrational fear of COVID-19.
Contributing Factors to COVID-19 Anxiety
COVID-19 has received extensive media coverage from social media platforms and news outlets. However, because the virus is new, many information concerning the development and spread of the virus changes rapidly and constantly. As a result, the public’s anxiety and mistrust grow.
The growing misinformation on social media, which much of it is negative, combined with people of power using the pandemic to their advantage may have contributed to the anxiety of people.
Low Tolerance to Uncertainty
An individual’s vulnerability to the virus, tolerance to uncertainty and tendency to be anxious can contribute to this syndrome. Studies suggest that people who experience hypochondria (illness anxiety disorder), a condition that causes a physically healthy person to think they’re sick, can also influence the development of COVID-19 anxiety syndrome.
Unintentional Use of Fear
Some studies suggest that authoritative figures using fear to ensure compliance may have fostered feelings of excessive anxiety in some people.
How Can You Deal With COVID-19 Anxiety?
COVID-19 might be a permanent part of our new normal, which is a reality everyone must learn to accept. However, this should not keep you from practicing anxiety reduction strategies. Consider the following:
To stop the spread of anxiety, distance from the media is a must. All anxiety stems from catastrophic thoughts fueled by anxiety. The media, which covers COVID-19 news 24/7, feeds your feeling of anxiety. Although the news is important, know when you have to distance yourself from the media. If you are always fearful, stop checking the latest news concerning COVID-19.
Avoid reacting to physical symptoms
If you sneezed or coughed, it doesn’t automatically mean you have COVID-19. Post-nasal drips, allergies, colds and bronchitis are still common. Avoid scanning your body for symptoms since this will reinforce anxious feelings.
Focus on being productive
Although no one has control over the current crisis, you must turn your focus on things you can control — your response. Consider the lockdown as an opportunity to do things that you used to not have time for. Clean your car, organize your room, edit photos on your phone or play board games with your family.
COVID-19 is unlikely to go away soon, but as restrictions continue to be lifted by authorities, it’s important to accept that a life apart from COVID is possible. Don’t let anxiety stop you from living your best life.