Anxiety - Overview

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry or fear. This is a naturally occurring emotion that serves as an automatic response to danger, or threats. Anxiety is an essential emotion for protection, and it serves as the body’s “built-in alarm system”. Every person will experience anxiety many times throughout their life, just as they will experience all other human emotions.

However for some people, this feeling can become constant or overwhelming, or occur in situations that the individual would not normally feel anxious in. This is typically characterised as an anxiety disorder, something 1 in 10 people will see their GP for.

Long-COVID and anxiety

Long-COVID and COVID-19 can be triggers for anxiety in some individuals. These psychological symptoms can result from a combination of the effects of the immune disturbance caused by the virus, the brain toxicity of the virus and psychological trauma associated with the virus and illness.

Dealing with the physical symptoms of Long Covid, particularly fatigue and breathlessness, and the associated inability to resume normal roles and routines can be very stressful, isolating and traumatic.  When we don’t recover within an expected time frame, this can lead to frustration, confusion and fear which can then lead to anxiety and depression.

What you can do to help:

  • Stay informed. Don’t obsessively check the news or social media and stay away if you feel overwhelmed. Stick to trustworthy sources only, such as the NHS and Your COVID Recovery.
  • Follow guidelines on preventing the spread of the virus.
  • Focus on the things within your control.
  • Stay connected. Talk to someone, particularly if you are physically isolated.
  • Re-frame negative thoughts. Don’t let COVID dominate your thoughts or conversations.
  • Take care of yourself.
  • Maintain a routine and structure your day.
  • Make time for enjoyment, exercise and relaxation.
  • Get outdoors, get a daily dose of sunlight!

How common are the Psychological effects of Long-COVID?

  • 57% said that Long Covid had negatively affected their wellbeing (Office for National Statistics, 2021).
  • 25% were likely to have some form of anxiety (Office for National Statistics, 2021).
  • 30% reported experiencing moderate to severe depressive symptoms (Office for National Statistics, 2021).
  • 11.5% experienced symptoms of PTSD (Sindhu et al, 2021).
  • Psychological symptoms were more prevalent in those experiencing continued multiple physical symptoms (Sindhu et al, 2021).

Some of the experiences that Long-COVID patients may have include can include:

  • Stress from enduring a potential fatal disease.
  • Fear of illness / health anxieties.
  • Stigma of having the illness.
  • Traumatic memories of severe illness or time in hospital (PTSD).
  • Social isolation.
  • Persisting symptoms and inability to resume normal life/employment.
  • Uncertainty about the future
  • Reduced wellbeing and quality of life.
  • Exacerbation or relapse of previous anxiety or depression.
  • Psychological effects of pandemic (isolation, change in routine and lifestyle, health worries).

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