How to live with anxiety disorders — and not develop one — during coronavirus lockdown
Apr 05, 2020 3 mins, 30 secs
As an agoraphobe (which for me manifests as a fear of crowds and public spaces) with social anxiety and panic disorder, "safer-at-home" is what I was built for.

While the rest of the world is struggling to believe in this terrifying post-pandemic world, those of us with anxiety disorders are struggling to maintain our disbelief in the apocalyptic scenarios we've always been waiting for.

"Even when we're not in the middle of a pandemic, most people with anxiety disorders grapple with trying to distinguish between excessive fears to threats that aren't real, or what's called false alarms," said Tom Armstrong, a psychologist and professor at Whitman College in Washington who specializes in anxiety-related disorders and phobias.

I'm not the only one with an anxiety disorder having the mind-melting experience of watching their tendencies not only become the norm, but a weapon to combat a fierce threat to humanity. .

On the other side of agoraphobia, those with separation anxiety are likely feeling nightmarishly alone because of social distancing.

People with contamination-related anxiety disorders like germaphobia and certain types of OCD are obviously getting hit particularly hard?

Those with generalized anxiety and panic disorders aren't being spared, either, especially since shortness of breath is a symptom of both COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, and panic attacks.

All that compounds with hypochondria (aka illness anxiety disorder), which is likely amplified by the CDC's recent report that one in four COVID-19 cases can be asymptomatic.

"People who struggle with anxiety disorders have what we call an intolerance to uncertainty," said Dean McKay, a psychology professor at Fordham University in New York specializing in anxiety disorders. .

It becomes impossible to distinguish between what's a trigger, what's life-saving information, and what's your anxiety disorder.

Hello anxiety disorder, my old friend.

While just about everyone's anxiety is skyrocketing right now, the danger for people with phobias and anxiety disorders are manifold and multi-layered. .

Then there's the more existential Catch 22 of having an anxiety disorder in the age of COVID-19.

It's not just that public health and safety guidelines are reinforcing and exacerbating common symptoms of these anxiety disorders, like obsessive-compulsive hand-washing or avoiding people and outdoor spaces.

Even before all this, one of the biggest hurdles to managing my anxiety disorder was that, no matter how much my rational brain understood it to be an issue hindering my life, nothing could stop a small part of me from continuing to believe that staying at home really was the only way to guarantee safety.

While much of Freud's approach and theories on disorders are considered outdated, one of his most famous quotes still strikes a chord for me: "Neurotics complain of their illness, but they make the most of it, and when it comes to taking it away from them they will defend it like a lioness her young.".

What will I do when perpetual isolation is no longer guilt-free, when my fear of people goes back to being irrational, when my disorder becomes a disorder again and not the right thing to do.

My fear of people and leaving the house mostly stems from an excessive fear of negative evaluation or judgment from others.

(You can still do this in much of the U.S., but in India and elsewhere, the lockdown rules are more severe.) If you have social anxiety, stay in touch with friends and family through video chat hangouts and phone calls.

"Right now folks are kind of walking in the shoes of those with OCD, illness anxiety disorder, social anxiety

Before COVID-19, anxiety disorders were one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health issues in the U.S., affecting 18 percent of the population, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America

There will be a great need to address the mental health crisis (not only for increases in anxiety disorders but also depression, alcoholism, etc.) currently brewing on top of the physical public health crisis

If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others, the CDC suggests that you can: Call 911, visit the Disaster Distress Helpline's website or call the helpline at 1-800-985-5990 (TTY 1-800-846-8517)


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