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Coronavirus and mental health: Things people suffering from anxiety should know

In a crisis situation, it is important to consume information that is coming to you from credible sources only.

It is easy to lose sight and get extremely overwhelmed and flustered when you are being bombarded with messages and news on the global pandemic that is COVID-19. For people who are suffering from anxiety disorders, this can be an extremely distressful time. For starters, every news channel and media outlet is discussing it. There are guidelines being flashed everywhere. Every platform is throwing light on it, mostly to make people aware.

But amid all this, a person who is already susceptible to panic and anxiety attacks, can get triggered by all the information. The whats, whens and the hows can make them incredibly jittery, affecting their mental peace. Which is why, experts say, it is important to prioritise your mental well-being as well.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already urged that people avoid watching, reading or listening to news that can cause them to feel anxious.

To understand the relationship between mental health and the pandemic, reached out to a mental health expert, and this is what they said.

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Trust reliable sources only

It is easy to get perplexed when you are receiving news from several different sources. This can even lead to more chaos and confusion. But, Dr Padmavati Ramachandran, a Chennai-based psychiatrist and director of SCARF, said that in order to stay mentally healthy, it is important that we only consume information that is coming to us from reliable sources. “We need to get the correct information only, through websites such as WHO. It is not uncommon to feel stressed in a crisis situation. So, you must know that is completely normal to go through these emotions,” she said, adding that misinformation can get disseminated, so it always recommended to reach out to reliable sources only.

It is slightly more difficult for a person who is already prone to anxiety… 

Ramachandran said that for a person who is already susceptible to anxiety, the current situation can cause some exacerbation. “They need to intensify the behavioural strategies to deal with this problem. But, sometimes they come and tell us that they cannot adapt these strategies because the anxiety level is just too high. So, mental health professionals can bring into play medication management, or anything else they consider appropriate,” she said.

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…but anyone can begin to feel anxious over it

Even those who do not have a prior history of anxiety. “It is the kind of situation that can cause a sudden increase in stress. One of the reasons people are beginning to panic is because there is no clarity on the pandemic; it is very new. And that can cause immense distress,” Ramachandran said.

The bottom line

Mental health experts around the world are insisting that people stay away from things that can trigger anxiety and impact their mental health. Ramachandran said that if people begin to gather information from reputed sources, watch out for the symptoms, reach out to mental and physical health experts, take measures like social distancing and personal hygiene, along with proper diet, adequate sleep, exercise and intake of water, they may be able to keep themselves mentally healthy, and boost their physical health, as well.

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