Fear, Anxiety, and COVID-19

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By Dr. Christina Herrera, Clinical Psychologist

There is no doubt that the situation we are going through has had an impact on our feelings and mood. COVID-19 made us face uncertainty, an economic downturn, isolation, changes in our daily routines, homeschooling, and the news. In general, everything we experienced in 2020 came together to unnerve everyone.

“Put on a mask,” “don’t touch anything,” “wash your hands,” “keep 6 feet away from others,” and “don’t visit anyone” were some of the instructions that have been part of our lives since March. How do you feel after reading them?  Maybe they make you feel anxious, or they might make you want to laugh or cry.

This new routine directly affects how we feel. The most evident emotion is fear, something very common in situations that we cannot control or put us in danger. Fear is a universal emotion and is necessary for survival. When faced with the potential spread of COVID-19, fear helps us stay alert and use all necessary measures to take care of ourselves. If, beyond the fear that helps you be prepared, what you are feeling is anguish and spend most of the day dwelling on these thoughts or in a state of unease, this could be a symptom of a bigger problem or an anxiety disorder.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a natural human reaction; it is a defense mechanism that helps us adapt, anticipate, and respond to different situations. It could be described as a feeling of restlessness, concern, fear, or panic because of any future event that may occur.

Feeling moderate anxiety may be a good thing in the face of the challenges we will confront after COVID-19. However, anxiety is considered a disorder when it impairs our normal functions. When we experience an anxiety or panic attack, fear takes over our mind and our thoughts take control of how we feel and react. Anxiety may affect us at work, at a personal level, and in our social relationships. It is important that you consult a health professional if you are experiencing these symptoms. Remember, asking for help is an act of courage.

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