By: Julia Massa
The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked fear in many people from diverse populations, especially those who are immunocompromised. Research shows that pre-existing vulnerability to certain illnesses is a major trigger, so it is no secret as to why the pandemic has significantly affected those with autoimmune disorders. People are leaving their homes less, cities are vacant, parks are untouched, businesses are closing, and schools are silent while hospitals are loud, chaotic, and constantly moving. The pandemic has fueled OCD symptoms where people are commonly seen drowning their hands in sanitizer, hoarding their homes with cleaning products, clearing the shelves of toiletries, and constantly cleaning surfaces- no matter the location. There has been an increase in OCD diagnoses and symptoms of those who already have the condition are becoming more severe.
People are stressing over potential blood clots, painful lumps, infections, and even having something as little as an itch- the list tracks on. Illness anxiety is real and can disrupt an individual’s daily functioning. Individuals with this condition constantly google symptoms and surveil their body for any physical signs of illness- previously recognized as hypochondriasis. These constant rituals and safety behaviors can be detrimental to a person’s mental state. In addition, this “what if” mindset only reinforces an individual’s anxiety. It can be very expensive dealing with this condition, as people tend to go to frequent doctor’s visits, whereas others may avoid going altogether.
Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive behavior therapy, can be an effective treatment for those with illness anxiety. Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can help an individual with illness anxiety manage their anxiety and stress without taking a trip to the doctor’s office. Anxiety can actually present with physical symptoms that an individual may think is from a serious illness, so finding ways to cope and deal with the excessive worries can lead to optimal outcomes.
If you or someone you know is seeking therapy for illness-anxiety, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/