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For once, we Spaniards agree: confinement is not easy. Many hours between four walls, too much uncertainty in the environment and plenty of time to worry about everything. But if the vast majority are taking too long, there are also those who, now that they can, refuse to leave the house. In many cases it is a normal reaction, in many others it is explained by some type of phobia. What are the most common problems? How do they manifest?
The images of walks and squares have recently betrayed an enormous desire to abandon the confinement, but there are people for whom, on the other hand, the confinement has been the perfect excuse to finally avoid what they least like: going out to the street. Being in contact with other people and losing control of what is happening around them causes stress. Many of them are diagnosed with obsession-related syndromes, social phobias, or agoraphobia. They are, precisely, the disorders that will grow in the coming months, according to specialists, always bearing in mind that “everything depends on each one, their personality and their experience,” says Antonio Cano, president of the Spanish Society for the Study of Anxiety and Stress. The increase will be greater “among people with previous disorders,” says the also Professor of Psychology at the Complutense University.
How is the mental footprint of the covid-19
“There are people who have felt very comfortable in the quarantine and may feel very uncomfortable when I’m done,” explains clinical psychologist Arun Mansukhani. Although it is early to ensure it, the specialist points out various pathologies that can be triggered in the coming months. It does so based on the care it is carrying out these days within a care program for health workers, security forces and those affected by the coronavirus crisis, direct or family, an initiative of the EMDR association that has been expanding to other groups professionals for the past few weeks.
One of them is agoraphobia, a disorder that makes people feel insecure in certain places that cause anxiety, where they fear having a panic attack. It is a fear in anticipation of a situation that does not have to happen. According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the risk factors for suffering it is “going through stressful events in life” or “having an anxious or nervous temperament”; These are situations that we are all experiencing during confinement, whether due to job loss, uncertainty about the future, fear of personal or family contagion, and many other issues. Symptoms include fear of leaving home alone, waiting in line, using public transportation, or going to public spaces, exactly the ones that surround us today. With the aggravation of the masks, the fear of contagion or the feeling that someone can commit irresponsibility at any time, such as failing to respect the rules of physical distance.
Another one of the issues that looks to grow are the disorders within the obsessive spectrum, related to control that we have from our environment. During the quarantine, it was an easy task: without interaction with other people (or only with family members or cohabitants), with marked schedules and rules or ease to clean every corner of the home, it was easy for everything to be in its place. But the situation is complicated by de-escalation, and many of the people who have had the feeling of dominating the situation now see it as a loss because everything is less predictable away from home. “Issues like hypochondria are going to increase and, therefore, many will think that they are safer at home and, even if they can, they will not want to go out,” Mansukhani explains. The obsession with hygiene to avoid contagion will be one of the pathologies that will grow in the short term. The fear that the slightest symptom implies having a coronavirus, the panic of contracting it or having many tests, such as constant temperature measurements, will be more common than before.
Finally, there is a third group of pathologies that is on an upward path: avoidance patterns, which are related to social phobia. That is to say, the tendency to social inhibition, to avoid contact with other people because they do not trust each other very much or it is believed that they will be constantly evaluated. The anxietyFeeling like moving away from crowded places or worrying about going somewhere where there may be crowds are symptoms of disorders related to social phobia. Among its risk factors are negative experiences, just like the current one, in which going outside can make us look like the mass is going to infect us with covid-19 yes or yes.
Persistence, the key to know if there is to ask for help
“The resistance to going out now is natural, we have been at home for a long time and there is a real risk, but that does not mean that everything is pathological,” says Juan Francisco Rodríguez Testal, professor of psychopathology at the University of Seville. “It is like when we return to work after a month of vacation: the afternoon before you snort, you get overwhelmed … but in the end you go. That is a normal reaction, just like now, with the only difference that there is a real risk of contagion” , says the teacher. Then the doubt arises. If I have anxiety, I don’t feel like going out and I tend to avoid places with enough people, do I suffer from any pathology?
The border is difficult to define, nor can the specialists themselves define it clearly. But Rodríguez Testal stresses that There are some questions that can help us know what is happening to us. The main one is persistence. That is, if the possible nervousness about going out does not end when we stay at home, we have sleep or appetite disorders, anxiety attacks, if when we go to work we do not give up because of all the worry or even ask for a permission not to go … These are issues that generate a pattern that tells us that something is happening and that, when they interfere with daily life, they are a reason to ask for help.
“We must not be tempted to pathologize everything,” insists Rodríguez Testal, because these days of so much change and uncertainty are exhibited “absolutely normal reactions that suppose having a bad time”, without necessarily meaning that we have a problem. “Human beings have a great capacity for adaptation and resistance. Therefore, we must try to differentiate between suffering and having a bad time and pathology.” To those who have doubts these days, he offers two tips. The first, not to give it importance: sooner or later you will end up returning to normal activity and the nervousness will end. The second is to plan progressive outings, which last only a little while, the next day for something else, and so on.
In any case, professionals remember that social relationships they are essential for the well-being of the human being. And not only with friends or family, but also with the group in general. For the past few weeks we have maintained the tribe thanks to new technologies, but which in the long term cannot be a substitute. “Human beings have tremendous adaptive capacity and in the short term, relating less is not a problem, but in the long run it is,” says Arun Nansukhani. For Rodríguez Testal, the consequences of the lack of relationships “are very many” for human beings, a species “essentially social and not out of habit.” The first of these is impoverishment from the cognitive and behavioral point of view. better to go back to the street sooner than later, even if it is little by little. Of course, with responsibility.
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