Coronavirus mental health: How to relieve anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic
Coronavirus lockdown measures may harm people’s mental and physical health, with most allowed out only in select circumstances. Anxiety sufferers may be amongst the worst affected, with government and global health advice fixed on hand washing routines, a common symptom of OCD.
Anxiety and OCD sufferers entered the coronavirus pandemic with a growing list of worries.
Lockdown measures will have focussed many of these, and people who suffer from elevated stress may feel much more scared than others.
They may feel scared to leave their homes even for exercise and food, and check the news or compulsively wash their hands, which only serves to elevate anxiety levels.
Dr Matteo Ria, a Consultant Psychologist at Pall Mall Medical, explained how people with OCD feel on lockdown.
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He said: “There are many examples of obsessions, but the most common ones include fear of contamination, fear of causing harm and fear of things not being in order.
“Fear of contamination may lead someone to become obsessed with hand hygiene, general cleanliness and avoiding situations which they might perceive to be high-risk, such as travelling on public transport or visiting a supermarket.
“People with OCD who have a history of excessive hand washing, cleaning and avoiding contamination may well be ‘triggered’ by news of a viral outbreak such as coronavirus.
“The compulsion to wash or clean is likely to intensify, and for those who have successfully recovered from these compulsions, symptoms may return and presentations might deteriorate again.”
Doctor Ria has provided five tips for people dealing with a peak in anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic:
Reduce exposure to news
Stay clear of news channels and reduce how much time you spend on social media.
Stay updated with a check once or twice a day but don’t fall down the rabbit hole.
Follow the recommended Government and WHO advice
These will help to adopt the most effective strategies for dealing with the virus.
Regularly speak to friends and family members with conversations via digital platforms such as Zoom.
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Set a routine
Routines can help people keep busy and put the pandemic aside in their thoughts.
Don’t be hard on yourself – there is no shame in struggling with anxiety or making a minor slip-up.
While people staying at home will experience an uptick in anxiety or OCD symptoms, NHS frontline workers may feel much the same or worse.
To help people working during the COVID-19 crisis, the government has set up a free helpline for NHS workers.
Volunteers from the Samaritans, Hospice UK and Shout have clubbed together to provide psychological support and listen to concerns.
A phone line will operate during the day between 7am and 11pm, while a text service will open around the clock.
Advice from the Samaritans is available for the general public by calling 116 123.
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