How the Coronavirus Affects People with Health Anxiety
While countries are dealing with mass breakouts of Coronavirus, there are many people with health anxiety going into crisis with their mental health. It is difficult to get away from the conversations on the news that talk about how many more new cases there are daily, or social media posts that share videos of people being stuck in their homes for weeks at a time. You can’t escape the grocery store conversations about the shortage of toilet paper or not see the signs posted everywhere, warning people to take precaution.
For someone with health anxiety, these situations can trigger anxiety symptoms to the point that it interferes with daily life. Living with health anxiety can be exhausting for someone who constantly worries about germs, getting sick, and non-specific symptoms they fear may be terminal.
So how does someone with health anxiety cope during this raging fear of Coronavirus? It is not as simple as reminding people to wash their hands, take precautions, report symptoms and limit contact in public. For many with health anxiety, every precaution suggested can be followed and they will still have sleepless nights, worrying they will contract the illness.
An anxious mind can overestimate the threat and underestimate the ability to cope. Medical resources that are posting information to minimize the concerns are saying the flu kills more people than Coronavirus. This is not helpful for someone with health anxiety. A person with health anxiety will worry about the flu AND Coronavirus with that kind of information.
Health anxiety is a real concern for people. It is not just someone over-exaggerating and being dramatic. Often there is an underlying traumatic health-related experience that manifests into a generalized daily health fear. Other times, health anxiety is branched off from another anxiety disorder like Generalized Anxiety Disorder, social phobias, or OCD.
Coping with health anxiety during mass outbreaks, like the Coronavirus, is possible with a few self-care tips listed below:
- Share your concerns with a trusted person, like your family, therapist or doctor. Sharing your concerns might not make the fear entirely leave, but will give you a safe platform to voice your feelings and get support and validation.
- Limit your exposure to social media and the news. Easier said than done, for sure. Even as a temporary solution, unfollow or block any pages that seem to spend every day online talking about the Coronavirus. Your sanity is worth it.
- Take time every day to engage in an activity that brings you relaxation and serenity — or start doing a new one. This is a great time to consider trying yoga, meditation and art therapy as anxiety outlets, if you have not tried them yet.
- Make sure if you do come across information on social media, or even in the general public, that the resource is reliable. Nothing can escalate someone’s anxiety more than false information and uncertainty, fueled by people who don’t have the correct facts.
- Prepare yourself. If your community does have a quarantine, you can alleviate some of the self isolation by preparing yourself with enough food, water and anything else you might need. Being prepared gives you the power back and lets your anxious mind know that you are ready and able to get through any potential isolation that may occur.
We need to be cautious of Coronavirus but not anxiety-ridden to the point that it is interfering with the enjoyment of living. If you are struggling to find your balance with your health anxiety, reach out for support to help you come up with an empowering plan to combat your fears. Empowering yourself during stressful times is a great way to quiet the anxious mind a little.
Have you ever noticed that, when you feel most anxious about anything, it is your perception about the situation that you don’t have what it takes to cope that makes your anxiety rise? You do have what it takes. Writing down some positive affirmations to remind you that you can handle this is a good starting point. It can help you to shift focus from your uncertainty to knowing you are resilient and capable of navigating through stressful situations.
The Coronavirus does not need to escalate your health anxiety unless you give it the power to do so. Take back your power and believe in yourself. You got this!
Morton, S. (2020). How the Coronavirus Affects People with Health Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-the-coronavirus-affects-people-with-health-anxiety/