The current coronavirus pandemic is fuelling anxiety levels on two distinct levels. The first level is coping with the self-isolation many people are having to deal with. Being kept away from friends and family for a vast amount of time is likened to being incarcerated, bringing about a large amount of stress leading to anxiety. Individuals with existing anxiety disorders such as social anxiety, who ordinarily find social situations difficult, are finding staying at home, particularly with loved ones reassuring and safe. This is due to them now having their protection network around them 24/7.
The second level brings about considerable amount of stress and anxiety to everybody during lockdown, what will happen after the lockdown? For individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions, venturing outside can be difficult at the best of times, now individuals who don’t have pre-existing mental health problems who have been self-isolating for a long time may also find problems. According to Nicky Lidbetter, the CEO of Anxiety UK “After you’ve been inside for a long time, it can feel very strange to go outside,” . Nicky Lidbetter then goes onto mention about the face to face situations or cramped public transport situation that become stressful for people due to fear of infection. “You perhaps lose your confidence to do things you haven’t had to in a while. These things might have been difficult in the first place and having to return to them after having quite a sustained break might actually be very challenging”. Ironically that can create problems later on because people can love their lockdown too much and become anxious about going outside.”
Key workers have found the scourge of covid 19 particularly challenging, for example doctors and nurses on the front-line seeing death and suffering increase on a daily level. Experts claim that key workers, subjected to high levels of pressure could develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. People’s livelihoods are directly under threat too, many businesses are worried about the impact that covid is going to have on their business in the future.
One thing is for sure, no matter if you are a key worker, or self-isolating at home. Everybody has gone through an enormous amount of change in a very short space of time. According to Dr Steven Taylor, a professor in the psychiatry department at the University of British Columbia, in Canada. “People are trying to cope by loving being in lockdown, by creating a cocoon of safety, a haven, to make the whole experience more tolerable. Ironically that can create problems later on because people can love their lockdown too much and become anxious about going outside.” So, we may yet see an increase in the levels of people suffering from acrophobia at the end of lockdown. Dr Taylor then goes on to elaborate on the psychological impacts this will have: “The spreading and containment of contagion in the case of a pandemic is very much a psychological phenomenon,” he says. “It’s not just some bug that’s going at random around the world. It’s people’s behaviour that determines whether or not a virus will spread.”
All is not lost thought. Dr Taylor offers hope for people currently suffering with covid-19 related anxiety. “The good news is people are resilient,” he says. “I expect that most of the people who are anxious right now will recover in the weeks, perhaps months, after lockdown restrictions have been lifted. Experts such as Dr Taylor agree that we can all do things to keep our minds busy, such as learning a new skill such as a foreign language or partake in regular exercise.