How Social Distancing is Affecting Social Anxiety During the Pandemic: by Anita Ginsburg

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a concurrent mental health crisis for many. Some of the problems which individuals dealt with in very specific ways before the pandemic now require entirely new coping methods. One such problem is social anxiety, an issue that has been greatly affected by social distance.

Increased Feelings of Isolation

One of the major issues that has been exacerbated by social distancing is the feeling of isolation that tends to be comorbid with feelings of social anxiety. While those who experience social anxiety certainly feel uncomfortable in social situations, being forced out of them leads to even greater feelings of being isolated. With social distancing in place, now many are forced to stay away from others, even when they do want to go be around their friends or family.

New Social Patterns

For others, the emergence of new social patterns has been both a blessing and a curse. Social distancing now allows individuals to spend more time communicating via video chat, which often feels safer for those who are socially anxious. At the same time, the smaller groups mandated by many orders can help to decrease the level of social anxiety felt by many in those occasions in which they can go out and see others.

Falling Back on Bad Habits

Unfortunately, social distancing has also allowed some individuals to start falling back on bad habits. Those who were making progress in dealing with anxiety now have a whole new host of reasons to stay home and shrink the size of their social circles. This is not to say that individuals should be violating social distancing orders in order to overcome social anxiety. However, some find themselves unable to continue making forward progress due to the changes in the world around them.

New Access to Psychiatry

Finally, COVID-19 has changed how we interact with medical professionals. In many cases, healthcare workers have become more accessible through telehealth visits. Some who deal with social anxiety are finally finding it easier to get treatment thanks to remote psychiatry. Since this kind of anxiety makes it hard to go out in public, being able to get therapy from the safety of one’s own home can be quite appealing. Though it’s honestly not possible to say that the pandemic is good for anyone’s mental health, new forms of mental health access are certainly a good thing.

Social anxiety is still an issue even in a time of social distancing. For some, it’s an impediment to growth. For others, it provides a slower pace at which they can safely overcome obstacles. The only thing that’s certain is that this ongoing pandemic is putting a new focus on mental health.

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