PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Acute anxiety caused by the pandemic now has a name: Coronaphobia.
Researchers recently coined the term after analyzing nearly 500 studies that looked at the psychological impact of the coronavirus.
Lily Brown, director of the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania, said coronophia is caused by a combination of uncertainty and dread about the future, and the impact of COVID-19.
“Certainly we’re seeing major increases,” she said. “In some cases, three to four times the rate of anxiety and depression now compared to before the pandemic. It’s really been hard to keep up.”
Many of the patients are overwhelmed by the stress brought on by fear of getting the virus, dealing with grief over a loved one who died of COVID-19 or losing their job.
On top of that are the constant negative messaging from politicians and health officials that make it seem like there’s no hope of returning to a normal life.
Brown said people with coronaphobia become so gripped by anxiety that they can’t do fundamental things like go to the grocery store or engage with family members and friends.
And that kind of behavior only makes the anxiety worse, so she provides cognitive behavioral therapy to patients.
“And when we think of anxiety, the behaviors that tend to stem from anxiety are avoidance or escape. In the long run, it tends to backfire and exacerbate anxiety or maintain anxiety. So the goal with cognitive behavioral therapy is helping people to practice in most cases doing the opposite of what their unhealthful emotions are telling them to do,” she said.
This includes practicing approaching things that make you anxious in a safe manner.