What is coronanxiety? #coronanxiety

02 - May - 2020

Of course someone was going to create a new condition from the COVID-19, Coronavirus Pandemic and Lockdown. As a word it may be a useful reference point for us to think about what COVID-19 means to us and others in terms of psychological wellbeing.

In reality and as we go through the pandemic and the restrictions to our lives I suggest that Coronanxiety is something that is best thought about as an evolving condition, one that will change as the impact on our lives changes.

In talking about the impact of COVID-19 on our psychological wellbeing there are so very many things that come to mind. The anxiety for our loved ones, our own health, the impact on our everyday lives both in the present, for the future - our work and social lives, our lives full stop - and even the past - those regrets for things that we didn’t do when they were so easy - like that round the world trip. 

In terms of impact on our everyday lives in the present there is the journey from our first hearing of the virus, to its arrival in Italy, the UK, the US, its evolution from epidemic to pandemic. The arrival of daily news broadcasts from government ministers, the numbers of infections, tests and deaths, the disappointments around PPE and testing and the beacons of hope - the opening of the nightingale hospitals and testing. The lockdown announcements and the arrival of letters from our Prime Minister and for many the NHS advising them to stay home. And then there are the stories of real people, the harrowing accounts of victims, survivors and their families and friends.

And meanwhile our days are different, no commuting, no socialising, limited trips out of the house, home working and homeschooling, separation from loved ones, being thrown together with loved and unloved ones, fear about running out of food and essentials, financial situations never before experienced, avoiding people on the street, clapping together on the street, being avoided, less eye contact, more eye contact…. such unfamiliarity and uncertainty. 

Shock after shock after shock and for many trauma and loss, hardship and terrible discomfort.

And how are you?

We know from our work with patients that some people are faring better than they expected and some worse. Some people can’t wait for the restrictions to end whilst some dread a return to a new normal. The clue is in the wording - we are changed yet we are the same - there is so much to process.

We were told at the start this was going to be a marathon and not a sprint. But a marathon is 26 miles whilst we really don’t know how long we will be dealing with COVID-19 and its consequences. If only it were a marathon!

In terms of anxieties that we recognise, we know that some people suffer from anxiety caused by social situations and for now the threat is real, the anxiety totally understandable, other people are a threat - we are physically disconnected. Some people’s anxiety focuses on their health, again at the moment the anxiety is totally understandable, then there’s agoraphobia, of course people might be anxious being away from home right now. The charity Anxiety UK actually lists 25 different anxieties and if you were already suffering the key to whether you are doing better of worse is likely to be found in whether you adjusted easily in the first few days or whether you felt your life was thrown upside down.

If you were ok before all of this then, as the research about 60% of people nervous about the easing of restrictions suggests it is likely that many will suffer anxiety for the very first time. If you’ve had anxiety then you will remember just how painful it could be right at the start when nothing felt right, you felt terrible and you didn’t even realise it was an anxiety. We anticipate many people needing help with anxiety, bereavements, trauma and as the financial impacts lead to unemployment then depression and increases in suicide.

We need to make sure we can talk about all this, feel comfortable talking and feel ok listening. We are going to have to look after ourselves and look out for each other.