Is COVID anxiety real? Psychologists speak out

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WICHITA. (KSNW) — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it can bring up various emotions. For some, it’s anxiety. For others, it’s a sense of numbness.

While reactions are different from person to person, Dr. Brian Mills from Friends University says when it comes down to taking in new information, it is the same process for everyone.

The psychology professor says our brains search folders created in our minds and look for a way to store the new information.

“We ask ourselves, does this fit into an existing file folder? Do I need to modify an existing file folder or do I need to create a new one?” Mills explained.

With new information regarding variants, vaccines, hospital cases, and more coming daily, the process repeatedly starts for people.

“So people think they have the file folder situation all figured out, and then, they don’t, and then they start to wonder can I trust the information I’m getting? And so people are kind of in this constant state of flux, and that creates anxiety,” he said.

On the other hand, some might feel overloaded by the constant cycle of information.

“When you’re being hit with thing after thing, after thing, it gets kind of raw,” Dr. Mills said.

This may cause some to get desensitized or numb, a normal reaction Dr. Mills says.

“A breaker-switch, if you will, that we use to keep ourselves from being overwhelmed,” he said. “So everybody has a different point at which I’ve just heard all I can hear, just dealt with all I can deal with, and so you just naturally kind of flip that switch and go to something else.”

Compared to the pandemic’s start, Dr. Jessica Provines, a psychologist and assistant vice president of wellness from Wichita State University, says there is a bigger range of responses.

“We may see increased anger, irritability, some anxiety, sadness,” Dr. Provines said. “We just have to meet both groups of people where they’re at and try and help them as we can and provide the support that we can.”

She says if you are feeling high levels of anxiety or distress, it is important to be aware of the warning signs and to reach out for help.

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