Uncertain times due to the Corona virus: information for anxiety and obsessive-compulsive patients

04. April 2020

At the moment, uncertain times are prevailing due to the Corona virus. The Corona pandemic and the associated restrictions are having an effect on the psyche. Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive patients suffer particularly, because their symptomatology is strongly influenced by internal and external stress. If the stress increases, such as through increased worries about the uncertain course of the Corona pandemic or existential fears, their mental state may worsen.

The Corona pandemic fuels fears

The Corona pandemic has immense health and economic consequences for us. We are inundated daily with new horror news. More infections, more deaths, collapse of the economy, short-time work, layoffs… This triggers a queasy feeling in everyone. Patients with an anxiety disorder usually react more violently, because their psyche is already under attack. But how exactly does this increased anxiety symptomatology come about?

Anxiety patients are particularly sensitive
The feeling of anxiety is based on neural mechanisms in the brain. To understand why anxiety patients suffer from the situation in particular, you can imagine the brain like a widely ramified network of paths. The more often our thoughts and feelings take one of the paths, the wider and more beaten it is. People with anxiety disorder especially often take the “anxiety path” in the brain. It thus develops into a wide, well-trodden road that is difficult to leave. Again and again, anxiety patients return to this road, because it develops into a habit. Again and again, fearful thoughts and bodily sensations arise, to which the patients then react very sensitively.

Multiple threats trigger fears
The Corona pandemic with its multiple threats to our health and existence sends anxiety patients again and again on their “anxiety way”. In a sense, the brain is constantly triggered to produce fearful thoughts and feelings. Normally, distractions can help to get off the anxiety path again, but distractions are hard to find during the contact freeze that is currently in place. Private contacts, hobbies, and leisure activities are eliminated. With isolation and no activities, many sufferers often have more time to ruminate about the situation and imagine worst-case scenarios.

Increase in anxiety disorders expected
Most likely, anxiety symptoms are very useful during these times. They protect us from putting ourselves and others in danger by misbehaving. A healthy respect for the Corona pandemic should therefore prevail in everyone. However, leading psychologists expect that not all people will be able to self-regulate their fears and continue living their lives in a nearly normal manner. There is a risk that an anxiety spiral will develop from which some people will not be able to escape. This could significantly increase the rate of new anxiety disorders (BMBF – German Federal Ministry of Education and Research).

Compulsive behaviors may increase

In addition to anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders may also be affected by the Corona pandemic. Patients who suffer from severe worries about infections and therefore perform compulsive hygiene routines are particularly worthy of consideration here. They wash their hands very often and with very harsh soaps or disinfectants, they clean and disinfect surfaces and objects at short intervals, and they compulsively control the cleanliness of their environment.

Excursus: What does compulsive mean?
One may now ask where the difference lies between appropriate and pathological hygiene routines. The classification of mental illnesses stipulates that the behavior or thoughts must lead to suffering in the sufferer himself or in his relatives. Daily life must be restricted by the mental condition. Only then can one speak of a disorder. Mental illness therefore always depends on subjective suffering and must always be diagnosed in each individual case.

Indirect confirmation of obsessive thoughts and compulsive acts
A certain irony of the situation in connection with compulsive acts in the field of hygiene and cleanliness can not be ignored: All of a sudden, we are all being urged to increase our adherence to hygiene rules. Obsessive-compulsive patients may thus find their behavior confirmed and feel compelled to perform it even more frequently. The German Society for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders has dedicated itself to this topic and offers further information.

Psychological crisis due to Corona: what to do?

Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive symptoms can increase dramatically due to current stress. If you are struggling with severe symptoms and they are in a vicious cycle of anxiety and tension, you should act. We have compiled first aid measures for you. You can find more helpful tips at the Bund deutscher Psychologen e.V. (Association of German Psychologists)

First-aid measures

  • Think back to past therapy sessions: what strategies and mind games helped you back then?
  • Provide routine in your daily life. Structure your days and schedule enough time for relaxation and self-care.
  • Seek contact (online or by phone) with people who are good for you.
  • Inform yourself in moderation about the new developments in the Corona crisis: one news broadcast per day is enough to be up to date.
  • Contact their psychotherapist, psychiatrist or family doctor to initiate professional help.

In good hands: The LIMES Castle Clinics

The LIMES Castle Clinics team specializes in catching people in crisis and providing them with professional help. This expertise is also in demand during the Corona crisis. Short-term inpatient admission is possible at any time and provides intensive care during these troubled times. The holistic and individually adapted therapy program according to the LIMES 360° formula is designed to stabilize in times of crisis and helps to cope with the current situation.

References

(1) Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Accessed 08.04.2020. Available at: https://www.bmbf.de/de/corona-quarantaene-kann-angstzustaende-ausloesen-11142.html

(2) Association of German Psychologists. Accessed 08.04.2020. Available at: https://www.bdp-verband.de/aktuelles/2020/corona/aktuelle-informationen-zum-coronavirus-sars-cov-2.html

(3) Deutsche Gesellschaft für Zwangserkrankungen e. V. Accessed 08.04.2020. Available at: https://www.bmbf.de/de/corona-quarantaene-kann-angstzustaende-ausloesen-11142.html.

Friederike Reuver
Autor:in Friederike Reuver
"Die LIMES Schlosskliniken haben sich auf die Behandlung von psychischen und psychosomatischen Erkrankungen spezialisiert. Mit Hilfe des Blogs möchten wir als Klinikgruppe die verschiedenen psychischen Erkrankungen näher beleuchten und verschiedene Therapien sowie aktuelle Themen vorstellen."

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