Covid Anxiety In 2024: The Continued Strain Of Covid-19

January 7, 2024
written by:Claire Brandon, M.D.

Even though it’s 2024 and the Covid-19 pandemic emergency state has been technically ended, it’s still a quite serious illness, especially for medically vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, cancer, and autoimmune patients. The CDC currently noted that there are surging cases of Covid-19 based on wastewater analysis and unfortunately people are still being hospitalized and even dying from Covid-19. Though we all have to live with this reality and do what’s best for us, whether that’s to wear a mask (many hospital systems are reinstating this), stay away from crowds, or get vaccinated, at times we may still experience a surge of anxiety related to the virus.

What is Covid Anxiety?

Covid anxiety refers to a heightened state of worry, fear, and stress associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. This anxiety can be widespread and related to fear of contracting the virus, concerns about loved ones’ health, uncertainty about the future due to the pandemic, or stress from the changes in daily routines and lifestyle. It can also show up in various ways like sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, constant worry, difficulty focusing, and feelings of sadness. If you’re struggling with Covid anxiety you’re in good company, as a large group in the population are feeling the same.

Who might be at higher risk for experiencing Covid Anxiety?

Individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions: 

Those with conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder may find their symptoms worsened by the pandemic. 

Healthcare workers: 

These individuals are on the frontlines of the pandemic and have now for years faced increased stress, fear of infection, and emotional exhaustion. The added pressure that health care systems put on them is not helping.  They can easily be experiencing burnout on top of the anxiety that they understandably feel. (Be nice to your doctors.)

Elderly individuals and those with chronic health conditions: 

These groups are at higher risk for severe illness from Covid-19, which may increase their anxiety levels. Unfortunately the majority of hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19 are of the over 70 year old population, so they may feel especially on guard and hypervigilant. 

Individuals with close family or friends affected by Covid-19: 

Knowing someone who has been ill or died from the virus can increase fear and anxiety and may even bring up PTSD.

People experiencing financial stress or job loss due to the pandemic:

The economic impact of the pandemic can lead to significant stress and anxiety. While joblessness is down and staying that way in the US, people impacted by supply chain issues and reduced feelings of safety in things like restaurants and spas can bring up complicated feelings. 

Children and teens: 

Changes in routine, lack of social interaction, and fear about the situation can also impact younger individuals since they may recall loss of time with their friends, school or loss of trusted adults like family members and teachers. 

Conclusion

It’s important to note that everyone responds to stress and anxiety differently, and these factors don’t necessarily mean that a person will experience Covid anxiety. If you’re struggling with Covid Anxiety, it’s worth speaking with your doctor, whether that’s a psychiatrist or a primary care doctor, they can listen and help you process these understandable experiences.

Claire Brandon, M.D.

Dr. Brandon is a dual board-certified psychiatrist in both adult psychiatry and consultation-liaison psychiatry (treatment of psychiatric illness in medically ill adults). She completed her residency and fellowship training at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and did a second fellowship in public psychiatry at New York University in New York City

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