The Coronavirus pandemic is causing increased stress and anxiety, particularly among people with existing mental health problems, experts have warned.
Reactions to the crisis can include feeling overwhelmed, fearful, sad, angry and helpless, while some people may have difficulty sleeping or concentrating or suffer physical symptoms such as an increased heart rate or upset stomach.
The World Health Organization has acknowledged that the crisis is generating stress and has advised people to avoid watching, reading or listening to news that causes feelings of anxiety or distress.
Stephen Buckley, of the mental health charity Mind, told the Guardian: “We know that the coronavirus and its impact are causing stress and worry for many people. If you already have a mental health problem, it’s possible that the worries of coronavirus may be affecting how you’re coping.”
Quarantine or self-isolation is also likely to have a negative impact on mental wellbeing, according to a review of the psychological impact of quarantine published in the Lancet.
“Separation from loved ones, the loss of freedom, uncertainty over disease status, and boredom can, on occasion, create dramatic effects. Suicide has been reported, substantial anger generated, and lawsuits brought following the imposition of quarantine in previous outbreaks,” the report warned.
Katherine Kinmond, a psychotherapist in Staffordshire and a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, told the newspaper that uncertainty is a key driver of anxiety.
“Coronavirus gives rise to lots of uncertainty, and this has particular resonance with people who suffer from anxiety,” she said.
Ashley Fulwood, of OCD UK, added that the charity had received an increase in calls and emails from people with obsessive compulsive disorder who were developing a new fixation on the coronavirus.
Panic attacks may also be a response to the coronavirus outbreak, according to David Crepaz-Keay, of the Mental Health Foundation.
“One of the things that leads to panic attacks is excessive worrying for unsubstantiated reasons,” he said. “There are a relatively small number of people in this country affected by coronavirus … We shouldn’t allow that anxiety to cause us more problems than it warrants at the moment.”