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Anxiety and the COVID-19 pandemic

Due to COVID-19, large portions of the country are mandating social distancing, and a “Shelter in Place” order, which may exact a physical toll on our brain’s circuitry, triggering higher blood pressure and heart rates, stress hormones and inflammation, as well as anxiety and depression. New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo acknowledged, the “truly significant” psychological and social stresses of our uncertain times “People are struggling with the emotions as much as they are struggling with the economics,” he said.


 He appealed to psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists willing to volunteer to contact the state to help provide mental-health assistance for people who are anxious, depressed and feel isolated.

Anxiety can be as contagious as the coronavirus, and psychological states such as loneliness spreads throughout populations like New York, like a virus. We need, all of us, to work mindfully on the physiology of fear unprecedented in American history, during which much of the country has closed down, the economy has ground to a halt and millions have been told to stay home. Normal life has been suspended. Phobias can be activated whether by repetitive thought, overwhelming anxiety, or plain mind-numbing fear. 

Sure, it all feels eerie and scary. There is so much information coming through our news reports.  What to believe? Your mind may be swinging backwards and forwards. When you finally decided that this is something very serious, further psychological states may occur in which all the ways you had unsuccessfully sought to deal with problems may no longer work and overwhelming fear assails. 

A few tools to help with the anxiety:


Anxiety also has a way of affecting our immune system.

“When we're stressed, the immune system's ability to fight off antigens is reduced. That is why we are more susceptible to infections. The stress hormone corticosteroid can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system (e.g. lowers the number of lymphocytes).” Saul McLeod


Anxiety is always about the future, not the present. What’s happening now is the virus presents itself as some kind of perceived catastrophe or horror, and the other element on us, very often inappropriately, is to fight-or-flee. But where do we flee, and how do we fight something we do not know much about at this time?

Work on trying to remain calm, to center oneself and to control things that you have control over.

It is time to be extra diligent in taking care of oneself.





Michael John Arnold Michael John Arnold is a licensed Psychotherapist based in New York,N.Y.

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