All Posts Tagged: COVID-19

woman grocery shopping while wearing a mask

Coronavirus Anxiety In The New Normal

Life during the pandemic is slowly returning to a “new normal.” Here in Florida, we’ve reopened just about everything as long as certain rules are followed and masks and social distancing is used.

While many welcome these new freedoms, some people are either wary of going out or are finding their coronavirus anxiety levels are still too high to consider it. Although the prospect of reopening is both welcomed and scary, there are ways to help reduce your anxiety.

First, Be Kind To Yourself If You Are Anxious.

Being worried about your safety and that of loved ones is completely normal.

Knowledge is empowering. It can be helpful to get the facts about the virus from trustworthy sources, like the CDC or your local health department. You should, however, avoid getting information strictly from social media (or even some news reports) where facts and stories are often written in ways designed to scare you.

Be Realistic About Your Expectations.

When venturing out the first few times, keep your expectations low. You will likely relax more once you see that most stores have mask requirements, most businesses have social distancing procedures in place and most people are wearing masks and using hand sanitizer.

Take Baby Steps As You Begin To Emerge From Sheltering In Place.

Just because a phased reopening says you can go to a bar or eat in a restaurant doesn’t mean you have to. Making careful decisions about where you’ll go and when can help you feel in control, which is calming.

When you are ready to resume going places, look for the safer options. When dining out, for example, it can ease some anxiety if you eat outside on the patio instead of inside the restaurant.

If you need to get your hair done, try to make an appointment during off-peak days and times. If you have a dental or doctor visit scheduled, call the office beforehand to find out what new protocols they have in place for safe visits. Maybe you’ll choose to wait in your car until you can be seen, rather than in the reception area.

Or, Jump In With Both Feet.

This is the “rip off the band aid” approach, but it can be highly effective for some people. This is known as a flooding technique.

Wherein taking baby steps might potentially keep your anxiety high in between each new experience, flooding lumps everything together so you get several of those dreaded “firsts” out of the way all at once.

With the flooding method, you might decide to hit the gym, go to the grocery store afterwards, and then end the day by dining out at a favorite restaurant. By doing so, you will see that businesses are doing all they can to keep customers safe, which can ease your anxiety.

Of course, whether you take baby steps or you go all out with reopening activities, you will want to do it responsibly by wearing a mask and staying socially distant.

Keep In Mind That We Need Social Connections.

Social isolation has played a big role in the unease and insecurity we have experienced during the pandemic. Getting out and seeing other people (even just in the aisle of a store) can make us feel like life is more normal, which can improve mental health.

Seek Professional Help If Your Anxiety Is Getting Worse.

If you are having a lot of trouble getting out because you are too anxious or your anxiety is interfering with your daily life and has continued for longer than two to three weeks, it is time to speak with a professional.

You’re Safe With Us

If you are struggling with coronavirus anxiety, reach out and get the help you need. Our office has virtual options available as well as in-person appointments.

For more information, please contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 today.  

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COVID Paradox

The COVID Paradox

Never before in modern memory has the human race been faced with such a stressful and anxiety provoking foe. The novel coronavirus or COVI-19 has resulted in untold emotional unrest and fear among all nations and peoples of our world. There has been a lot of talk about the “invisible enemy,” an RNA based complex protein that looks like a World War 2 anti-ship mine with spikes sticking out of its surface. We are informed daily by the media that young and old victims of this virus are ending up on ventilators for weeks at a time if they survive. To “flatten the curve” and avoid overwhelming our hospitals we have had to become socially isolated, settle in place in our residences, wear masks when going out and remembering to wash our hands and not touch our faces. And after three months of dealing with this enemy of grown ups we are now being informed that children who we believed were not at risk of being made seriously ill have suffered as cases of a strange multi system inflammatory syndrome much like Kawasaki disease began to appear at hospitals.

The reality of this plague is bad enough to fathom by any rational person. The facts we are presented with certainly evoke fear and apprehension. Our frontline healthcare providers who are by their profession somewhat desensitized to run-of-the-mill suffering as they treat patients with terminal illness, heart attacks, metastatic cancer or debilitating strokes, find themselves traumatized by the COVID crisis.

So what is generating this degree of emotional suffering? Much of it comes from the unseen enemy, this virus that is only visible under special microscopes. Some of it comes from the fact that its genetic structure is novel. No human being had been exposed to it prior to its appearance in Wuhan so our immune systems had no defense against its onslaught. It is extraordinarily infectious so that an infected person will infect several people in close proximity over time.

What is the paradox that I am referring to? Actually, there is more than one paradox. The first one involves the media explosion that began last century and has exponentially continued this century. We appreciate all the benefits from being plugged in 24/7 to social media, internet messaging and an abundance of television news all day long. The digital revolution that amazed us has also proved to be harmful to our emotional well being. Multimedia exposure during the COVID pandemic has been like watching a horror movie that never ends! What we valued and embraced has turned out to be a traumatizing process. If you check the Centers for Disease Control website for data on the influenza outbreak for the 2018-2019 season you will find that 35.5 million Americans came down with the flu, 490,000 hospitalizations resulted, and there were 34,200 deaths. Imagine if the media tracked the annual flu season like they have tracked the COVID pandemic. Every flu season would be emotionally traumatizing. We certainly don’t go into lockdown every year for the flu nor do we social distance. We do have a flu shot available, but data on its effectiveness suggests a 45% effectiveness this past season. Our advantage with influenza is that over time, all of us have had some level of exposure to this family of viruses imparting a degree of “herd immunity.”

This brings us to the core paradox. If we stay locked down and isolated indefinitely there will be no herd immunity developing. The concept of herd immunity means that if enough of our population is exposed and develops immunity to this virus, ongoing spread becomes very difficult. For example, smallpox, chicken pox, measles and mumps had been the scourge of society until the administration of vaccines essentially created a herd immunity.

We will eventually have an effective vaccine for COVID-19 but it will be some time before we will be able to provide mass inoculation. If there had been no COVID-19 social isolation our healthcare system would be over run, resulting in a tsunami of fatalities.

So the course that is being taken is to gradually open up our lockdown while we carefully prepare for future waves of illness. Be reassured that there will come a day in the not too distant future that this horrible virus will be no greater a threat than the annual flu. That time will come.

Connect With A Psychologist.

If you are experiencing anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are available for online services. For more information, contact the The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 496-1094.

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game tiles spelling anxiety

Is The Coronavirus Pandemic Affecting Your Mental Health?

For months we’ve been hearing about the spread of the coronavirus and rising COVID-19 death rates. Some areas of the country have begun to slowly reopen, but others still remain either locked down or people are very restricted. While we tend to think of the virus in terms of health and physical illness, there is also a mental health toll to the fear and stay-at-home orders that have resulted from the pandemic.

What Are The Effects Of COVID-19 On Mental Health?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the mental health effects of the stress generated by coping with COVID-19 can include:

  • “Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs”

We all react to stress differently, therefore not everyone will experience the same concerns. Some people, however, are dealing with several of these challenges, particularly if they suffered from anxiety or depression before the pandemic.

People who may have a harder time dealing with the mental health effects of the coronavirus are those who:

  • Are first responders, such as front-line doctors and nurses
  • Have loved ones who have gotten the virus (whether or not they have recovered)
  • Are already dealing with mental health concerns
  • Engage in substance abuse
  • Have been temporarily laid off or have lost their jobs
  • Are in abusive relationships
  • Are over age 65
  • Have chronic medical conditions

Anxiety Symptoms

When we are faced with the unknown, fear and anxiety can take on a life of its own.

If you are already someone who is anxious, you might find that you are now having physical symptom, as well. Maybe you are having headaches or stomach problems. Maybe you aren’t sleeping well or are having trouble or eating. Whenever someone experiences new symptoms, worry and fear can quickly become overwhelming.

Anxiety can also become evident through psychological symptoms, such as:

  • Having trouble concentrating or insistently worrying about the virus
  • Being short-tempered with your family or others
  • Feeling like you are constantly “on edge”
  • Worrying that you are losing control

In addition to psychological symptoms, there are other physical symptoms of anxiety that can include:

  • A rapid heartbeat and/or shortness of breath
  • Insomnia and problems sleeping, which leaves you fatigued
  • Headaches or an increase in migraines
  • Nausea, sweating, muscle tension

Reducing Stress And Anxiety During The Pandemic

These self-care tips can help you regain control and reduce your anxiety about the coronavirus:

Stop watching coverage of the pandemic: The first thing you should do is to stop watching the news and reading about the pandemic online. When something grips us with fear, it is sometimes hard to break away from the catastrophic thoughts that come along with it. By continuously engaging in news coverage, however, you don’t give your mind a chance to gain some mental distance from it.

Keep in mind that news coverage is often designed to be presented in a way that makes us tense and concerned. This is what compels us to click on the new report or tune into the television station – and it’s what keeps the reporters or news channels in business.

Don’t focus on physical symptoms: If you know a symptom of the virus is a cough, for example, it’s natural to scrutinize every tiny cough you have. But remember that there are other, more likely causes of a new physical symptom than the coronavirus.

This is also allergy season, which can cause a cough. You may have been around dust or be dehydrated, which could cause a sore throat. The point is that there are numerous reasons for many of the symptoms of the virus that are normal and not a result of being sick.

Do some stress reducing activities: Meditate, take a walk, sit on your patio in the sunshine, or try an online yoga class. Take one of the endless online classes and virtual museum tours that have popped up during this time of social distancing. Being active lessens the stress hormone, cortisol, and also serves as a distraction.

Additionally, you might focus on doing something you’ve been meaning to do, such as clean out a drawer or a closet, organize a closet, paint a room, or plant spring flowers.

Professional Therapy For Covid-19 Anxiety

Sometimes self-care is not enough to get relief from anxiety. If your symptoms seem to be getting worse or if you find that a couple of weeks have gone by and you are still feeling more anxious than you think you should about the pandemic, you may have developed an anxiety disorder. In that case, it’s best to turn to a professional.

They can help you sort out your fears and gain a new perspective. Just talking through your concerns may be enough to reduce them, however speaking to a therapist can benefit you in many other ways as you navigate this pandemic.

The vast majority of mental health practitioners are using tele therapy to aid their clients during the shutdown, as well as after reopening. With tele therapy, you can talk to your therapist from your home – there is no need to go into the office.

 If it is decided that you would benefit from therapy, treatment may include one or a combination of these:

  • Cognitive behavior therapy, which can help you get a better understanding of your anxiety and teach you ways to cope.
  • Mindfulness training, which teaches you to refocus your attention away from thoughts about your fears and your symptoms.
  • Medication, which is also sometimes used short term and in combination with other forms of therapy. If you would benefit from a medication, the therapist may prescribe it or your primary care physician could do so.

Virtual Anxiety Help

If you find that you are experience anxiety due to the coronavirus pandemic that is persistent, seemingly uncontrollable, overwhelming and disabling, you may have an anxiety disorder. If your symptoms get worse or persist for longer than two weeks, please speak to one of our trained mental health professionals.

For more information, please contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 today. 

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Coping with COVID-19

Coping With COVID-19

The virus pandemic has certainly had an impact on all of us. Not being able to meet with my patients in person has required a major clinical adjustment. Thankfully, telemedicine has provided me with the ability to provide necessary ongoing treatment. But I also know firsthand how difficult and taxing social isolation and sheltering in place can be.

What has made this viral illness so stressful? After all, we have been dealing with annual episodes of influenza for decades. We also successfully made it through the fears of the bird flu, SARS, and swine flu. What makes Covid 19 so special and so scary? Covid 19 is called a novel virus because it is a protein that is totally new to the world’s human population’s immune systems. Our immune systems therefore do not have the capacity to adequately fight off this infection. The elderly and those with chronic illnesses are especially at risk. But 20 to 65 year olds are not immune from infection and risk severe illness if they are not cautious and follow CDC guidelines.

We can all agree that there are reasons to be fearful of this unique virus. We would all agree that sheltering in place and social isolation plays a role in our unease and insecurity. The inability to see loved ones and friends certainly takes a toll. Job loss and the subsequent financial stressors contributes as well. Lack of definitive treatment or a protective vaccine adds to our worries. But the level of emotional unrest seems to be much greater than what these issues would suggest. So what accounts for our level of apprehension?

It is my belief that our emotional upset and fearfulness is being fueled by an incessant level of media exposure, a 24/7 bombardment of our senses by vivid and at times sensationalistic accounts of the impact of this illness on our society. The negativity is inescapable. The drama can be horrifying. I do believe that we are being psychologically traumatized by the effects of this multi-sensory media explosion. Modern theories of post traumatic stress disorder have now implicated the impact of day to day low level traumatic experiences. We certainly deserve to be kept up to date, but non-stop communication of human suffering at this level can be seriously problematic.

So what can we do to minimize the stressors of these times? The answers are rather straight forward and simple. When the world around you seems out of control, frightening and foreign it is important to pay attention to our own personal world and life space. You may not be able to change what is outside of you but you certainly can have the ability to influence your own world. These are some basic guidelines to follow:

  1. Add consistency, structure and predictability to your day to day life.
  2. Go to bed at the same time every night and awaken at the same time the next day.
  3. Schedule exercise, studying, work (if you are lucky enough to still be working), meals, fun etc. at set times.
  4. Get outside while following CDC guidelines on a regular basis, even if it means sitting on a balcony or patio for extended periods.
  5. Do not allow yourself to isolate. Maintain social contacts through phone calls, video chats, emails, etc. Socialize with a friend or family member while maintaining the appropriate safe distance.
  6. Limit your news media exposure. Get the data you need to be adequately informed but don’t give in to the tendency to be a news voyeur. Sensationalistic news coverage can be addicting. Be careful and avoid over exposure.
  7. Attend to your basic activities of daily living that include your appearance and hygiene, maintaining healthy nutrition and caring for your living space.
  8. And most importantly, recognize that this period of difficulty and sacrifice will come to an end.

There will be life after Coronavirus. At some point in the near future, this virus will be treated no differently than the annual influenza virus. The same way that pharmaceutical companies formulate the year’s flu vaccine by taking into account the types of flu viruses prevalent that year, it will also include the coronavirus as part of the vaccine recipe.

The real challenge for the future will consist of what we can learn from this experience. How can we be better prepared? How can we improve our healthcare system and its inequities? How can we maintain the improvement in our environment that has resulted from reduced pollution, crowding overuse of natural resources? How can we return to person to person human contact and minimize communication through digital media only? How can the media learn to balance coverage with more hope and support? I wish that I had the answers. We shall have to wait and see.

For more information , please contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or contact us here.

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America’s germaphobes were ready for this — and have been for too long

America’s germaphobes were ready for this — and have been for too long

Health anxiety disorder is underreported, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, and possibly affects 12 percent of the nation’s population. (The group’s annual conference this week was nixed due to the coronavirus.) Those who suffer from the disorder are usually thought of as hypochondriacs or germaphobes.

The current alarm about the coronavirus could be hard on OCD sufferers, prompting them to overdo it even more than usual. However, some people with health anxiety may be coping better during the pandemic than individuals who aren’t used to worrying about sneezing and coughing and handshakes and other casual physical contact, says Andrew Rosen, who runs the Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Fla.

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COVID-19 banner across an image of the world

How COVID-19 Fears Can Fuel General Anxiety Disorders

COVID-19 (coronavirus) has officially been declared a pandemic. Across the globe, people are being quarantined, cruise ships are being denied entrance to ports, and social gatherings have been curtailed. This has resulted in a stock market free fall and panic buying as people hoard food and products in case of their own quarantining.

As the count of infected people rises, the unrelenting news coverage can make anyone feel helpless. It brings up worry, stress, and fear. This is even truer for those who already suffer from anxiety and its related syndromes, such as generalized anxiety disorder.

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

In the face of a pandemic, the fear and anxiety about possible exposure to the illness can take on a life of its own.

If you are already someone who is anxious, you might find that you are having headaches or stomach problems. You may begin to have trouble sleeping or eating, or can even have a panic attack. And, if you have generalized anxiety disorder, your worries and fears can rapidly become overwhelming.

Your normal anxiety levels might ramp up to the point that you:

  • Worry about the virus on an hourly or daily basis and often find yourself consumed by fears during your day.
  • Find that your fears are significantly disrupting your work, relationships, or daily activities.
  • Automatically envision the worst-case scenario for the pandemic.

Anxiety can also manifest as psychological symptoms, such as:

  • Insistent worrying or fixating about your fears
  • Being easily startled and feeling like you are constantly “on edge” or keyed up
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Being irritable and continually on the edge of an argument with someone
  • Worrying that you are losing control

In addition to these psychological symptoms, there are physical symptoms of anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder. These can include:

  • A rapid heartbeat and/or shortness of breath
  • Insomnia and problems sleeping, which leaves you fatigued
  • Headaches or an increase in migraines
  • Nausea, sweating, muscle tension

Self Care For COVID-19-Related Anxiety

While it’s understandable to worry about catching COVID-19, you may be able to calm your fears and lower your anxiety levels by doing the following:

  • First – turn off the TV and stop reading or watching online news reports and social media. Make the conscious decision to limit your exposure to distressing news. Fear is addictive, so know that if you are constantly watching world events, you’ll keep your mind focused on the negative.
  • It is good to keep in mind that news organizations prosper when people are watching and paying attention to what they are saying. If you are keeping an eye on the news right now, you’ll notice that you can hardly find any news about anything except the spread of the virus. Why is that? Because the media is making tons of money on this outbreak, so that’s what they are focusing on. Remember that we live in a safer world than ever before. Experts are working to solve this new virus and the majority of people who contract it will recover.
  • Next, try to detach – again, obsessing about germs and catching the coronavirus will not solve the problem, but it will make you more anxious and upset. Remember that your distress is only yours – worrying that you will catch COVID-19 will not change anything or protect you from getting ill. Instead, try to focus on something else – a hobby, exercise, your loved ones – so you aren’t constantly preoccupied with the news.
  • Take care of yourself by eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly to help relieve stress, and trying to get enough sleep. In addition, meditation can help to calm your mind, as can something as simple as deep, rhythmic breathing.
  • As much as possible, try to continue doing the things you enjoy so that you feel more in control of the world around you. While we are working from home and avoiding public places, we can catch up on the movies we have missed (or watch favorites again), read the books on our list, clean out clutter, or start an online class in something we are interested in (classes can be found on websites such as Udemy). All these things will help to distract from the virus.

It’s also good to remember that fear sucks the pleasure out of everything. Living in fear keeps you from enjoying your life – and it won’t change what happens in the world.

However, you are the only one who can choose whether to focus on the negative or whether you will look for ways to turn this into a “positive”. Be kind to yourself and don’t permit yourself to get wrapped up in negative news stories and worries about COIVD-19.

If, however, you use these ideas and are still stressed and fearful about the coronavirus, it might be time to speak with a professional to discuss more specific steps. Many offices, including ours, now have virtual options available, so that you can speak to someone without having to leave your home.

Virtual Options For Anxiety Treatment

For more information on our virtual (or in-office) help for your anxiety about COVID-19 or for a generalized anxiety disorder, please contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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