I am afraid to walk outside in the age of coronavirus
Stay at home orders are being lifted in many places around the United States and the world. However, the easing of restrictions does not mean that danger is no longer present. Many people are feeling anxious about leaving their homes and beginning to return to their pre-coronavirus era lives. A recent article by Vice, asked an important question of an expert.
Why am I afraid to leave my house?
Vice’s author asked the expert about anxiety related to leaving his home. The author commented that he has experienced mood swings, anxiety, and panic attacks related to going outside. He commented that since the pandemic started he has felt intense anxiety simply from writing grocery lists, anticipating shopping trips, and imagining himself being judged for buying non-essential items at the market. He noted that he feels ashamed for the way he is feeling. The author asked very simply, “why has this happened?”
Answer from an expert
Vice’s expert was Dr. Laura Guaglio, a psychologist practicing in Italy. Dr. Guaglio noted that feeling uncomfortable doing things that were once considered normal can lead to feelings of inadequacy and shame. She pointed out that many things are very uncertain right now. When planning a simple trip to the market, people are likely to ask themselves questions such as, “What if I need to stand near someone who is infected with COVID-19?” and “What if I cannot tell someone is infected because they are asymptomatic?” and “What if come home and infect my loved ones?” Although these are appropriate questions to ask, it can lead to feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed with anxiety.
Dr. Guaglio also pointed out that while people are at home they are able to shield themselves from the realities of the pandemic. When they leave their home they are forced to confront how the world has changed. They may see eerily empty streets and lines of masked people waiting to enter markets. These experiences can be traumatic and can result in people wanting to retreat back into their homes.
Dr. Guaglio had some simple suggestions to help people to face their anxiety. She suggested voicing your concerns rather than keeping them locked up inside. She reminded readers that, at least currently, this is the new normal. It is perfectly normal to feel anxious as we deal with these uncertain times. She reminded readers that people are likely to continue feeling anxious even after quarantines are lifted and she suggested that people seek the help of a mental health professional if their anxiety persists for 3 to 6 months.
Dr. Jason von Stietz specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Sport/Performance Psychology in Torrance, CA. He provides online therapy (telehealth) by way of the Torrance office and is available for a free initial phone consultation. Dr. von Stietz works with individuals from Long Beach, the greater Los Angeles area, and the South Bay including Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo and all over California.