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What is COVID anxiety?

Since early 2020 we have experienced one of the worst global pandemics to date, with Coronavirus rapidly spreading throughout the world and impacting heavily upon our ability to follow typical routines and lead healthy, balanced lives.  As such, global health experts are increasingly concerned about the significant physical and psychological difficulties experienced throughout this state of emergency for all those who have had Coronavirus, lost loved ones due to the disease, or faced anxiety about the possibility of being infected.

In the UK, most of 2020 and the start of 2021 has been spent in ‘Lockdown’ which has arguably contributed to moral panic in society and collective despair towards many restrictions put into place that have affected quality of life.  This combined with the uncertainty surrounding when rules would be lifted have led to negative affect for most people, particularly increased feelings of hopelessness, desperation, loneliness, and frustration.

As such, there has been an overall rise in the number of mental health difficulties reported, with most people describing lockdown as a trigger for existing mental health issues to regress or for new issues to emerge.  Recent research evidence indicates that there are certain factors which have significantly lowered subjective wellbeing in the population which include:

  • Aspecific and uncontrolled fears to infection – examples include increased health or social anxiety
  • Pervasive anxiety– Abnormally increased anxiety often associated with insomnia, fatigue and can increase risk of depression and post-traumatic stress
  • Psychiatric or medical conditions – Existing conditions which have worsened during the pandemic due to extreme pressure placed upon NHS and changes in the interventions available 
  • Significant lifestyle changes– Profound adaptations to work life, relationships, financial status, physical health maintenance and social life
  • Frustration and boredom – risk factor for poor emotional regulation 
  • Disabling loneliness – risk factor for drug and alcohol abuse and suicidal ideation 
  • Inadequate supplies– risk factor for perceived deprivation and panic
  • Inadequate information or lowered capacity to process information 
  • Alexithymic traits – difficulty identifying or describing emotions, mood and reactions
  • Lack of social support – reduced interaction which increases the risk of negative affect particularly for those already considered vulnerable (elderly, disabled or cases of domestic abuse)

How can counselling / psychotherapy help?

If you have identified with any of the above and are still struggling with the physical, psychological or socio-economic effects of COVID-19, you may benefit from speaking to your GP and/or seeking therapeutic support.  Please note that if you are concerned about someone else and think they may benefit from counselling or psychotherapy, often the best results are achieved when self-motivated, therefore suggesting that someone considers therapy may be more helpful than making the decision for them.  

There are many therapeutic options available depending on what you are experiencing, for example, those who have experienced significant loss throughout the pandemic may opt for a Person-Centred talking therapy approach suited to exploring grief further.  Whereas, if health anxiety or depression is the dominant issue , your therapist may inform you about evidence-based approaches including Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy or Compassion Focussed therapy and collaborate with you to find what is most suited to your needs and goals. 

It is important to acknowledge that this has been an extremely challenging time for even the most resilient of people, therefore, seeking support is not necessarily a cause for concern that something is ‘wrong’ with you.  Therapy is a safe, non-judgemental space for you to make sense of your experiences throughout the pandemic and can help normalise or work through some of the common unhelpful consequences observed, such as body image concerns, lowered confidence, increased anxiety, relationship issues, avoidance behaviours and difficulty readapting to ‘normal’ life now that restrictions are lifting.

Whatever the issue you wish to address, you and your therapist can explore ways to improve your wellbeing by refocusing attention towards more positive thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.  This may involve building your protective factors or learning healthier ways of coping with distress such as practicing self-soothing and relaxation techniques to improve quality of life moving forward. 

Make an appointment or enquiry

If you would like to arrange an appointment or require further information regarding our services please telephone our Wolverhampton practice on: 01902 827808.  Alternatively fill out our online contact form and we will contact you within 24 hours.