“Covid Anxiety Syndrome” Preventing People from Returning to Normal Life, Says New Report

Fear whipped up over Covid by the Government and the media has resulted in millions of Brits struggling to return to normal life, according to a report which will warn that people are locking themselves down from within. Set to be published next month, the report identifies “Covid Anxiety Syndrome” as a condition which burdens many with a fear of public places and a need to maintain compulsive hygiene habits. Lucy Johnston in the Sunday Express has more.

Up to one in five is believed to have developed a “compulsive and disproportionate” fear of Covid, which would likely stay in place even if the virus disappeared completely. Warnings about the dangers of Covid have heightened the problem, and mixed messages about the level of danger have made it worse, said Marcantonio Spada, a Professor of Addictive Behaviours and Mental Health at London’s South Bank University, who co-authored the report.

He said: “Our research suggests a number of people may not be able to return to normality even if the pandemic disappeared altogether. Worrying, checking others for symptoms, and avoidance have, over the months, gradually cemented a state of fear about the virus. Life has become restricted, and many people are experiencing a ‘psychological lockdown’ even if we are coming out of the physical one.”

The recently identified condition – Covid Anxiety Syndrome – is characterised by fear of public places, compulsive hygiene habits, worrying about the virus and frequent symptom checking. 

The findings from the study, which was undertaken in March and April 2021, showed 46% of people feared returning to public transport, 44% feared touching things, while 35% were checking their family members and loved ones for signs of Covid on a regular basis.

Professor Spada and co-author Ana Nikčević, Professor of Psychology at Kingston University, compared these recent findings to those they had collected in May 2020. They found the patterns to be broadly unchanged.

Overall one in five was “struggling with marked levels of maladaptive behaviour” related to the syndrome. Vaccination status – with around 35% of respondents being vaccinated – and a previous diagnosis of mental health condition did not appear to play a role in the severity of the syndrome which affects people from all professions and educational backgrounds.

Those affected are likely to represent the tip of an iceberg with many others suffering less severe anxiety related to fear of the virus making them feel threatened or afraid of returning to normal.

Professor Spada and his colleague are analysing a sample of 6,000 adults across China, Europe and the U.S. in collaboration with researchers from Imperial College to assess the global prevalence and impact of the syndrome. Results will be published by the summer, but preliminary indications show the syndrome is present across all countries surveyed to varying degrees.

Professor Spada said: “Our research suggests many people may struggle or may not return to normal even if the pandemic disappeared altogether.

“Avoidance locks you into fear. People are now locked down within despite the fall in infection rates and vaccine rollout. It appears that the syndrome affects people from all professions and educational levels.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: New polling from Ipsos MORI suggests it may be more than 20% of the population that’s suffering from Covid Anxiety Syndrome. It shows that 28% of British adults aren’t looking forward to “Greeting people with handshake/hug/kiss”, 27% aren’t looking forward to “going to large public gatherings such as sport of music events” and 24% aren’t looking forward to “Going to parties (such as weddings or birthday parties)”.

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