Ava Mac ‘21, Managing/Copy Editor
You wake up one morning; it is just another day in quarantine. You check your phone and scroll through Twitter, only to see hundreds of posts detailing all the horrors of COVID-19. Even in the face of such awfulness, you feel numb and detached, desensitized by the continuous cycle of bad news.
That is until you feel a tickle in your throat, and panic starts to grow in your chest. You leap up and check your temperature, your breathing, and your cough. You then spend the next hour poring over any and every coronavirus symptom list you can find, meanwhile debating in your head whether or not you should call your local urgent care to get a test.
You are enveloped in fear. As far as you are concerned, you are infected with COVID-19.
The reality is, however, that for many who find themselves in this situation, the only thing they are infected with is pure anxiety. Coronavirus is not the only epidemic we are currently facing, as anxieties over health, unemployment, and lack of social contact escalate and paralyze the minds of humanity.
A recent study done by Sharon Larson, a research professor at the Jefferson College of Population Health, shows a “spike in the number of people experiencing anxiety symptoms to levels that would warrant treatment.” Out of nearly 5,000 responses, an alarming 40 percent showed a need for clinical support.
Such a high number can be accredited to both new cases of anxiety in people who have not experienced it before as well as relapses or worsened anxiety for those that the disorder has already plagued. For people struggling with OCD or health-based anxiety, like hypochondria, this situation has been especially difficult. Doctors everywhere recommend that we be mindful of our health and be on the lookout for any suspicious symptoms, but for people with somatic disorders such as these, it becomes an obsessive practice, one that plagues their minds worse than any sort of disease.
In the TIME article, “The Coronavirus Pandemic May Be Causing an Anxiety Pandemic,” it is said that “people with OCD might be the most susceptible to the impact of a viral outbreak. The disorder by definition entails anxiety about germs, disease and social interactions. It’s that much harder to manage when the world tells you that, guess what, now is the time to feel that fear for real.” The COVID-19 pandemic affirms compulsions in those with health anxiety to check and obsess over their health. These types of behaviors will be long-lasting because of this, even after the virus dies out.
But there is a positive long term effect that those suffering must remember. This collective experience of anxiety across the globe could possibly lead to better worldwide recognition of mental health. We all understand now what it is like to be constantly worried and constantly on edge. We have gone through these uncertain times together and even in isolation, we are never alone.
Photo courtesy of Kenwood Hearing Center