These days, leaving the house and socializing with others comes with a laundry list of warnings and precautions because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and that can make anyone a bit nervous.
But how do you know if the fear and anxiety you’re feeling has gotten more serious than you realized?
The Rise of Pandemic-Related Fears
The stress and trauma caused by the current crisis have impacted people in countless ways, including the state of their mental health. Many have lost loved ones to the virus, while others have stood on the front lines caring for those who have contracted the disease. And people across the country have lost jobs, been cut off from friends and family, or struggled to balance child care with work.
These unusual circumstances have given rise to fears directly tied to the pandemic, making people feel afraid of the uncertainty of the current situation and causing concerns that the social restrictions will last longer than expected. This past year has also brought constant fears of infection and nagging worries that any symptoms a person is experiencing may be caused by the novel virus.
It’s no wonder people are feeling more anxious than ever.
Warning Signs of an Anxiety Disorder
If you’re experiencing heightened anxiety about leaving the house or socializing with others because of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to pay attention to whether these fears have developed into a mental health condition that requires professional support.
There are several types of anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder or agoraphobia, that each have different symptoms. However, there are certain warning signs that may indicate that you’re struggling with more than just day-to-day anxiety:
- You feel intensely anxious even in safe, socially distanced situations.
- You’ve started to look for excuses to avoid socializing with friends, family, and coworkers, even over the phone or through video chat.
- It’s getting increasingly difficult to engage in conversation with others.
- Every day gets more exhausting no matter how much sleep you get, or you struggle to fall asleep or sleep through the night.
- It seems impossible to concentrate on simple tasks, or sometimes your mind just goes blank.
- You feel lightheaded, your heart starts to race, and you start to sweat during social situations or when you leave the house.
“If [the anxiety] feels paralyzing and debilitating, and you’re avoiding even the most mild forms of human contact outside of your home, then seek mental health counseling,” Gregory Kushnick, Psy.D., told HuffPost.
Tips for Managing Fear & Anxiety
As the current crisis heads into its one-year mark, it can be easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed at times. You might feel tempted to simply stop socializing altogether, but doing this will only worsen the compulsion to avoid anything that makes you feel anxious.
To manage the fear and anxiety you’re feeling, try some of these tips:
- Schedule video chats – If you haven’t already, schedule video chats with friends and family members. This will allow you to socialize without having to leave the house.
- Go to an uncrowded public space – Find a public space, such as a park or a walking trail, that isn’t very crowded and ease yourself back into the experience of being around other people.
- Have socially distanced get-togethers – People are getting creative these days, with many chatting from the (safe) distance of their cars in parking lots or driveways.
- Reach out for help – If you’re still feeling distressed whenever you try to socialize or leave the house, please reach out for professional help.
The connections we have with other people can be a powerful source of support. But remember that you can always seek help from a professional if your struggles with anxiety are keeping you from living a productive, fulfilling life.