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Anxiety During the Covid-19 Pandemic

    The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as emotions characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. During the course of the pandemic, a more recent term, pandemic anxiety has been seen making the rounds. Although appropriate levels of anxiety about viral contagion are linked to adaptive behaviors like handwashing, social distancing, and vaccination (Taylor, 2019), high levels of anxiety are linked to socially disruptive behaviors like panic-buying, exaggerated interpretations of minor symptoms, etc(Asmundson & Taylor, 2020). While the symptoms experienced by individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic may be similar to those experienced by people with generalized anxiety, research has shown that many people experience various types of anxiety-related distress during such outbreaks. Despite taking precautions and practicing social distancing, studies have shown that people have an exaggerated fear of being infected and are persistently worried about family members contracting the disease and subsequently, dying (Wang et al., 2020).

    Individuals who have themselves suffered from serious COVID-19 illness and potential death; individuals who have family members and health care workers who have witnessed others’ suffering and death; individuals who have learned about the death or risk of death of a family member or friend due to the virus; and individuals who have experienced extreme exposure to aversive details such as journalists, hospital staff, etc are all found to be at a risk for developing severe forms of anxiety as a result of the covid-19 pandemic.

    The psychological and emotional consequences as a result of the pandemic include anxiety, grief, loneliness, among others. The experience of the loss of relatives, which is already a highly stressful event in a person’s life, has turned out to be even more challenging for survivors because of the pandemic. The majority of family members did not even get the opportunity to properly say farewell to their loved ones or have a funeral/ceremony for their death. In addition to the devastating impact that death has on an individual’s mental state, social distancing, loneliness, mass cremation, and other restrictions can increase the probability of a phenomenon known as complicated grief (Mortazavi et al., 2020).

    Anxiety, sleep disturbances, irritability, mood swings, and other irregularities are being fueled by massive uncertainty about the future. Long-term isolation has a difficult effect on mental health because it has been linked to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and increased stress. Individuals with existing psychological difficulties are faced with an even more exaggerated form of struggle (Winch, 2020).

    As we know, to protect oneself from the coronavirus, one must maintain a strong immune system. Unfortunately, anxiety has an effect on the immune system as well. Anxiety activates the flight-or-fight stress response, which releases a surge of chemicals and hormones into our system, including adrenaline.

    This raises our heart rate and breathing rate, allowing our brain to receive more oxygen. This could also provide a temporary boost to our immune system. So, when one only intermittently experiences anxiety, the body can return to normal functioning. However, when it comes to chronic and persistent anxiety, the body never receives the signal to return to normal functioning. This can cause our immune system to weaken and leave us more vulnerable to viral infections and frequent illnesses (Cherney, 2020).

    Anxiety may also have long-term, negative effects on our physical wellbeing. It can cause heart attacks and place us at a higher risk of developing heart disease. Anxious people, according to studies, have a higher risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and even cardiac death (Roest, Martens, De & Denollet., 2010). In addition, anxiety may negatively influence our gut health. By affecting our excretory and digestive systems, anxiety can cause stomachaches, nausea, diarrhea, and other digestive issues. Loss of appetite can also occur. Studies have also found a link between anxiety disorders and the development of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation  (Cherney, 2020).

    The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on our lives. Many of us are confronted with difficulties that can be frustrating, overwhelming, and elicit intense emotions. Public health measures like social distancing are important to stop COVID-19 from spreading, but they can make us feel disconnected and lonely, as well as increase anxiety. It is therefore crucial that one understands when anxiety symptoms present themselves and reach out to professionals who can help them manage the same. 


    Asmundson, G., & Taylor, S. (2020). Coronaphobia revisited: A state-of-the-art on pandemic-related fear, anxiety, and stress. Journal of anxiety disorders, 76, 102326.

    Cherney, K. (2020, August 25). Effects of Anxiety on the Body. Healthline.

    Mortazavi, S. S., Assari, S., Alimohamadi, A., Rafiee, M., & Shati, M. (2020). Fear, Loss, Social Isolation, and Incomplete Grief Due to COVID-19: A Recipe for a Psychiatric Pandemic. Basic and clinical neuroscience, 11(2), 225–232.

    Roest AM, Martens EJ, de JP, Denollet J. Anxiety and risk of incident coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis. J. Am. Coll. Cardiol. 2010;56:38–46).

    Wang, C., Pan, R., Wan, X., Tan, Y., Xu, L., Ho, C. S., & Ho, R. C. (2020). Immediate Psychological Responses and Associated Factors during the Initial Stage of the 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Epidemic among the General Population in China. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(5), 1729.

    Wench, G. (2020, April 21). Loneliness, anxiety, grief — dealing with the mental health impacts of the coronavirus. The Boston Globe.

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