Updated: Jan 11
The world has been opening up over the past several weeks. You may be watching your friends take vacations, throw parties, and get back to their old lives without a visible trace of fear. If you're struggling with your anxiety as the world opens up, you're not alone.
Many, many people are struggling with anxiety as they try to reintegrate into the world, and although it's about the virus and health-related fears for some folks, that's not the only reason your anxiety may be spiking. Depending on the form your anxiety takes, different aspects of this changing world may be pretty dang frightening.
If you already had trouble with social anxiety...
You may have spent the last year and a half safely at home - safe from the risk of judgment or rejection from other people. No one asked you to go to any social gatherings - and if you were asked to go, the excuse was easy, "I'm not going to parties during the pandemic." When you've been out in public, your mask offered a layer of protection from social judgment (this may have been especially the case if you struggle with blushing or worry about having the "right" facial expression). Social distancing also may have really simplified things. Basically, it was easy to avoid people when the pandemic was at its height.
Now, if you try to socialize again, you may find yourself especially anxious and awkward. It may be harder than ever to face your fear of social situations after a year and a half of social isolation. If your social anxiety is at its peak, you're not alone.
If you already had trouble with anxiety leaving your home...
If you had any history of panic attacks and agoraphobia before COVID-19 hit, the virus might have made things a lot simpler. The advice to stay at home could not be easier to follow if you have a history of agoraphobia. Shelter in place? No one is better at that than you are. It may have been a huge relief that everyone stopped pressuring you to leave your home.
Now, that pressure may be back on. Your mom wants you to visit. Your partner wants to take a vacation. Your work wants you to go back to the office. And now that you've spent all of this time in your home, the idea of leaving may feel completely insurmountable. If your agoraphobia is at its height, you're not alone.
If you already struggled with contamination fears...
You may have spent most of your life trying to keep yourself from ever getting sick - or maybe you feared spreading illnesses to others. You've avoided contaminants, and developed multiple rituals to reduce that sense of fear. In the past, you may have received messages that all of your precautions went way overboard, and maybe even you tried to curb your rituals in order to live a more carefree life. Then, a pandemic hit - and the fear of contamination may seem more real than ever.
Now, the precautions recommended by health experts are shifting. But how do you know the line to draw? How can be sure that you'll never get sick - or get anyone else sick? The sense of uncertainty may be higher than ever. If your OCD is the worst it's ever been, you're not alone.
If you already had a tendency to worry about anything and everything...
Before COVID, you were already more anxious than the average person - it's in your nature. Now, COVID might have made that anxiety seem very justified. Things really did go terribly, horribly wrong - and your brain might be saying, "What if it all falls apart again?"
Most people who worry a lot struggle with intolerance of uncertainty. Things like finances, health, and the state of the world may seem especially uncertain now. If you're worrying a lot in the wake of the pandemic, that can have other effects as well. You might find that you're tense and irritable. Your sleep may be way off - your health may be affected - you might find yourself unfocused and unmoored.
Struggling with anxiety as the world opens back up may not be just about the virus.
If you're struggling right now -
You need to know something.
There is hope.
Going through this kind of worldwide calamity may have affected you in profound ways, but the right therapist can help you find a path to healing and recovery. Approaches at the Anxiety and Trauma Clinic don't involve years and years of therapy - we offer focused, short-term care to help you recover as soon as possible. If you're struggling with life-limiting anxiety right now, it's worth trying cognitive behavioral therapy.