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Anxiety or Panic about Coronavirus? A Psychotherapist explains the difference




Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Many people may be feeling anxiety around this issue and many people may be feeling panic. People living with anxiety are particularly vulnerable. There is a difference!


Anxiety feeds anxiety. We often create our own. Anxiety symptoms vary in intensity, from mild to severe. Panic appears suddenly, whilst anxiety symptoms become gradually more intense over minutes, hours, or days. Panic usually subsides after a few minutes, whilst anxiety symptoms can be experienced for long periods.


Having some anxiety is normal, however our thoughts can take us into panic mode very easily. Widespread anxiety is a good thing in that it makes us change our habits by limiting exposure to coronavirus. Anxiety brings prevention and prevention reduces anxiety.


While some anxiety helps us to cope, extreme anxiety can become "coronavirus panic". When we are in a panic state, we suffer, we stress out our children, we are more likely to make mistakes and engage in irrational decisions and behaviour. Panic creates new problems, such as overbuying that creates supply chain shortages of toilet paper, masks and sanitisers, and xenophobia toward certain groups of people. Too much anxiety creates emotion contagion and spreads panic. That’s not helpful.


We can all reduce anxiety by reducing our risk. Follow public safety advice from the World Health Organisation www.who.int. We can reduce anxiety by thinking calmly and help to support each other, frequent hand washing, stay at home if feeling unwell, maintain good sleep routine and taking care of our own immune system. Self care is essential when it comes to recognising the difference between our own anxiety and sense of panic.





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