Dear Therapist: How do I overcome post-Covid anxiety?
Our weekly Dear Therapist column responds to your day-to-day mental health challenges
I recovered from Covid-19 recently and tested negative now. However, I still don’t feel very comfortable being around people as I feel it’s unsafe. I don’t want to step outside my house, but staying indoors has really made me feel suffocated. Is it a type of social anxiety? — Safia M.
Dear Safia, I am glad that you continue to follow safety guidelines despite your recent infection from Covid-19. Conceptually, social anxiety stems from fear of negative evaluation from people in social situations, like worrying about what people may think of you, your behaviour, appearance or the way you carry out activities in social settings. As such, your predicament cannot be labelled as social anxiety but I do agree that it is a form of anxiety which is often reported in post-Covid patients or individuals in prolonged hospitalisation/after infection. I recommend that you try stepping outside home in a graded manner.
You can begin with running errands nearby or going out for a walk. Use social support by initially being with a friend or a family member whom you feel safe with. Discussing boundaries in bigger social events (eating out, going out with a friend) would also be beneficial. What this would mean is that if you are uncomfortable with a hug or a handshake, it is important to communicate that you are not ready yet and that it is in no way personal or reflective of the person initiating tactile greetings. Refrain from pushing yourself; instead dip your toes to check what you trust and what a hard limit is for you. For instance, you may not be ready to lower your mask; therefore, you may need to arrange events where you can keep your mask on. Pacing out social events can also help you reflect on recovery and enable you to feel in control.