Dear Barb—Anxiety After COVID

Dear Barb:

Hi, I have pretty much been at home since this pandemic began and I’ve been okay with that.  I suffer from social anxiety, so during the lockdowns and closures my life has been stress free.  The only person I see is my husband, and I video chat with my mother who is staying safely at home. 

However, with the vaccines beginning, I fear what will happen when I have to start going out again.  I fear my anxiety will be at an all time high, and I wonder if I will be able to function.  We will be expected to not be fearful of other people but I don’t think that will just happen automatically.  How will people like me who have been able to stay at home comfortably be able to cope?  It’s all too much for a lot of people, and I think anyone with mental health issues will have a super hard time adjusting to their old way of life.  Where are these people going to turn for help?  Maybe I’m just seeing a problem where there isn’t one, what do you think?  Thank you, Samantha.

Hi Samantha:

Great question! According to research there is going to be a lot of mental health issues which will carry on long after the pandemic is over.  The social isolation, hand washing and distancing will definitely impact people long term, although history has proven that these are important ways to halt the spread of the virus and hopefully get our lives back to normal.

“Historically, we know that pandemics and other public health crises, much like natural disasters, have a lasting impact,” said Itai Danovitch, MD, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavior Neurosciences at Cedars Sinai Hospital.

Individuals who already struggle with OCD or are germaphobes, will experience an increase in their symptoms and will most likely have to receive ongoing treatment after the pandemic is over.  Those who experience anxiety, as yourself, will also feel more anxious and these feelings may continue long after this virus is gone, as they may fear a resurgence of a variant strain.  As well, individuals, like yourself, who experience social anxiety and have become comfortable living in isolation, will have a difficult time adjusting and may become resistant to opening up their lives to others after the threat of the virus is under control.

Historically we have survived many disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, Chernobyl and SARS just to name a few, and as a result much research and studies have been, and are presently being carried out, to find ways to help individuals cope with the after affects of COVID-19.

Fortunately there have been some positive affects, as you have witnessed in yourself.  Individuals have experienced a reduction in panic attacks due to living with less stressors, from the outside world and living in a safe environment that they are able to control.  Although there is a risk of becoming too isolated, the takeaway is to find that important balance.

Your concern is genuine, but it appears there are some preparations in place to deal with the long term affects.  Thank you for your letter Samantha, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.