Signs Your Anxiety Over Avoiding People Is Turning Into Something Worse

·2-min read
Chronic anxiety and agoraphobia ― an anxiety disorder characterized by excessive fears of leaving the house or being in open spaces ― are a few of the mental health issues therapists worry about in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Chronic anxiety and agoraphobia ― an anxiety disorder characterized by excessive fears of leaving the house or being in open spaces ― are a few of the mental health issues therapists worry about in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t feel a little wary about stepping out in public these days. (Even the most mask-averse folks probably flinch a little when someone in the grocery checkout line gets a little too up close and personal.)

Almost a full year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of us have gotten used to staying inside as much as possible and avoiding places where people gather. Now that new variants with increased transmissibility have surfaced, we’re even more inclined to stay home.

But when is your anxiety around venturing out ― be it to the supermarket, back to the office or to any other public space ― a sign of something more serious?

An uptick in chronic anxiety and agoraphobia ― an anxiety disorder characterized by excessive fears of leaving the house or being in open spaces ― are among the mental health issues therapists are concerned about in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Many people already have reached a point where their aversion to going out is veering into unhealthy territory, said Amelia Aldao, a psychologist and anxiety specialist in New York City. And that likely will intensity now that some workplaces are phasing out of work-from-home arrangements.

“Clients of mine who now have to go back to the office are noticing that even simple interactions, such as talking to someone on the elevator or by the kitchen, takes extreme effort,” she said.

Social muscles haven’t been exercised in almost a year, so interactions that once seemed easy, casual and commonplace now take some working up to, she said.

At this point in the pandemic, everyone has formulated their own opinions on safety and risks, but for many, staying home is not only the safer option, it takes a whole lot less mental energy.

“Some clients would say they would rather be working from home every day ― but then, when that happens, they begin to sink into loneliness and depression,” Aldao said.

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