Gulf News: Anxiety during COVID-19: The rise of an emotional pandemic

The Coronavirus and its associated language and terminology is almost certainly on the tip of everyone’s tongue. We have all heard of and are (hopefully) practicing social distancing to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, it maybe that this virus pandemic is clearing an unwelcome path for an emotional pandemic to follow in its wake. Whilst the general public are on the whole complying with measures to ‘flatten the curve’, recent research data, indicate an increase in the number of cases of people feeling overwhelming anxiety.

What is anxiety?

It is in fact a useful human emotion; it occurs when we face a potentially harmful threat or trigger. Not only are feelings of anxiety normal, it is necessary for our survival.

In essence, our minds perform a risk assessment on a perceived threat/trigger causing a release of specific stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) resulting in excessive perspiration; heavy, fast breathing; rapid heartbeat; stomach pains; shaking; dry mouth and alike. Our body and mind prepare to physically confront or flee any potential threats to our safety, referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ response. Once a perceived threatening situation has been resolved, our bodies and thoughts return to normal.

It is safe to assume that the threat from a sabre toothed tiger is rather less pressing now than it was for our ancestors. Today’s typical anxieties revolve around work, money, health, family or other situations which require our attention, but not necessarily our ‘fight or flight’ reaction. Although this type of anxiety is unpleasant, it is an emotion that is fleeting.

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