How to Handle Coronavirus-Induced Anxiety, According to the Experts

By Kimberly Zapata

It’s been four months since the first case of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, was identified, and since that time, nearly half a million people have been infected. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, there have been 372,757 confirmed cases—and that’s enough to make anyone nervous.

I’ve lived with generalized anxiety disorder for 18 years, but thanks to the panic surrounding coronavirus, I have never felt more on edge. My psychiatrist is on speed dial. I spent the greater part of yesterday shopping for supplies and making an emergency plan. I’ve also cancelled unnecessary engagements. My daughter is home from school.

That said, I am not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), the coronavirus has caused a notable uptick in cases of situational anxiety, or anxiety caused by new events. In fact, a quick Google search for the term “coronavirus anxiety” yields nearly 600 million results.

Dr. Gail Saltz, an associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine, explains that situational anxiety can be sparked by a specific or new situation. “Public speaking, for example, can trigger situational anxiety, as can catastrophic events, like coronavirus.”

The website for ADAA confirms that, “for many in our public community…the current coronavirus outbreak is triggering increased anxiety.”

And the reason is two-fold.

“Anxiety is fueled by uncertainty and/or a lack of control,” Dr. Rebecca Cowan, the owner of Anchor Counseling & Wellness and a professor at Walden University, says. “And this uncertainty is one of the primary reasons why so many individuals are feeling anxious about the coronavirus.” But that’s not all. As Dr. Saltz explains, the perceived risk is also high.

“No one knows how many people will get this virus. You can’t tell who has it,” she says. “And you can’t tell who will be okay or who will get very sick.”

The good news is there is a lot you can do to calm your mind and shut down the situational anxiety associated with the coronavirus. Here are a few strategies to feel more at ease.

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