Most people are more fearful now that the COVID pandemic has subsided. The different forms of anxiety that people are experiencing relate to being afraid to go out, anxiety about returning to work, post-lockdown anxiety and even having recovered from COVID-19. This mental occurrence has been coined “post-COVID anxiety” by experts. The last two years have been difficult for many who find it hard to imagine that SARS-CoV-2 did not exist until recently.

Not more than a couple of years ago, people went about their lives shaking hands with complete strangers, embracing people without thinking twice, and cramming ourselves into spaces from boardrooms to concert halls. Now the thought of engaging in these things makes thousands of people feel anxious. There is hope, however, to overcome these feelings, with expert guidance and self-care techniques.

Anxiety Post-COVID 

Many places have now relaxed lockdowns and restrictions. Up to 67.9% of Americans, 84.7% of Australian, and 75.3% of British people have all received recommended vaccinations. However, many people say they continue to experience severe anxiety in the months after having recovered from COVID-19. Anxiety is one of the more persistent symptoms of the post-COVID syndrome (PCS), also known as Long-COVID, a condition that has just recently emerged as a formal diagnosis. According to research, between 23% and 26% of people, and in some places as up to 50%, report experiencing mental health issues, particularly anxiety long after COVID subsided.

Post-COVID anxiety shares symptoms with several different mental health problems, such as:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress (PTS)
  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Health anxiety
  • Panic disorder

The Symptoms of Anxiety After COVID

It is impossible to overestimate the pandemic’s effects on mental health across age groups and within different communities. Furthermore, according to some researchers, mental health problems linked to the COVID-19 pandemic could develop many months or years from now. Some of the symptoms of post-COVID anxiety include:

  • focusing or concentrating on a task
  • feelings of anxiety about crowds
  • distrust of others
  • washing hands compulsively
  • being afraid to leave the house
  • indulging in drugs and other addictions as a form of escape
  • experiencing irritation or a shift in mood
  • excessive monitoring for disease symptoms
  • cleaning relentlessy 
  • avoiding those you care about

The duration of symptoms is not yet determined, as there has been insufficient research carried out. However, it appears that these anxiety symptoms can last for at least a few months after recovering, if not longer. A detailed study from 2021 revealed that anxiety after COVID can get worse with time, which is why it is highly recommended for those who are struggling to seek help from a mental health expert as soon as possible.

The physical symptoms of post-COVID syndrome may include:

  • bowel or bladder issues
  • body aches 
  • cardiovascular problems
  • chest aches
  • Issues with taste and smell
  • tiredness or fatigue
  • Guillain-Barré Syndrome
  • headaches
  • increased worry, fear, and dread
  • reduced appetite
  • memory problems
  • respiratory issues or breathlessness
  • disruptions in sleep
  • spinal cord swelling
  • enlarged lymph nodes

Dealing With Post COVID Anxiety

The Fear of Going Out

One of the main post-lockdown anxieties is the fear of going out (FOGO). This refers simply to a phobia of leaving the house. Before the lockdown, many people had a “fear of missing out” (FOMO) – a phenomenon experienced when someone felt they believed they would miss out on social activities. However, now it seems they feel the reverse.

Anxiety that comes after a lockdown, or “post-lockdown anxiety,” as it has come to be known, is a fear or worry that emerged after lockdown procedures ended. Even though lockdowns have been eased in nearly all countries worldwide, a recent survey revealed that more than 60% of Britons felt uneasy about the idea of returning to bars and restaurants, utilising public transportation, or attending a sizable gathering such as a sporting event.

Over 40% would say they would be reluctant to go to the stores or to send their children to school when lockdown measures were lifted. Over 30% reported that they would be anxious about going to work or seeing friends. Most Americans, Australians, and the British have complied with the lockdown, according to survey data, not because they were required to by the government, but rather because they did not want to contract or transmit the virus.

Anxiety UK has stated that nearly 67% of the respondents to their most recent survey reported feeling more anxious just thinking about the lifting or loosening of COVID-19 limitations. Mental health practitioners are observing that worry over leaving the house and day-to-day living has risen sharply.

After being confined to being inside for a long lockdown period, going outside might feel quite unnatural and strange. Many people may feel uncertain of taking part in things they have not done in a while. Examples of scenarios that could make people anxious or overly concerned include riding crowded public transportation and having face-to-face business meetings. As we recently covered in our piece on the advantages of working from home for mental health, many people have now become used to this.

Fear of leaving the house is defined as agoraphobia in medical terminology and where this occurs it may be advisable to seek professional assistance. Agoraphobia is characterised by an intense fear of being in a place or circumstances from which you believe it would be impossible to leave or escape in a hurry.

The primary symptoms of post-lockdown anxiety and the fear of going out (FOGO) are:

  • A quick heartbeat.
  • Trouble breathing
  • Shaking.
  • Stomach ache that can cause diarrhoea.
  • Panic or anxiety attack 
  • Phobia.

The treatment for anxiety after COVID is comprises stress reduction therapy, relaxation therapy, and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Medication may be prescribed in some circumstances.

Please feel free to contact The Cabin to schedule a consultation with one of our clinical experts in the field who can provide advice and treatment alternatives. You don’t need to suffer alone; help is just a phone call away.

Treatment Options for Post-COVID Anxiety

According to recent studies, treatment for anxiety caused by COVID should be founded on a holistic healthcare philosophy.

Research indicates that people with fewer coping mechanisms for painful emotions are more likely to experience anxiety associated with post-COVID. Both issues can be helped by therapy, which provides the person struggling the opportunity to restore their nervous system and improve their ability to handle stress.

Anxiety problems can also be reduced through psychoeducational sessions, Mindfulness, and learning deep breathing techniques. An experienced mental health provider such as The Cabin may occasionally recommend taking anti-anxiety medication in the short term until your own resilience improves. You or your loved one may feel alone in this predicament but there is the hope of overcoming these post-COVID anxiety issues. 

Some Self-Help Techniques

Experts suggest trying the following if you are experiencing anxiety: 

  • Engaging in routine exercise
  • Eating wholesome meals
  • Keeping a regular sleeping routine
  • Performing deep breathing activities
  • Spending time in nature
  • Doing meditative exercise
  • Keeping a diary of your emotions
  • Connecting with family

S.C. Tharan

25th August 2022

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