"Covid Anxiety Syndrome"

The Anxiety Pandemic Created by SAGE’s Project Fear

There follows a guest post by Dr. Mark Stephen Nesti, a Chartered Psychologist, Consultant Performance Psychologist and former Associate Professor of Psychology in Sport, who is very concerned about the long term ramifications of the societal anxiety deliberately generated during the pandemic to increase compliance. He is author of Meaning and Spirituality in Sport and Exercise – Psychological Perspectives.

Much has been said about how fear has been used to drive the narrative and help impose restrictions on personal liberty we have faced during the pandemic. In this article I would like to suggest that anxiety, rather than fear itself, has become the much bigger concern, and one whose effects will haunt us for years to come.

If we take a step back for a moment, we can see that psychological language has been in the spotlight throughout the last two years. Some sections of the media and various bodies of experts have undoubtedly used their influence to generate fear in the general public. Although fear can paralyse our thoughts and actions, I believe that what we have actually been subject to has been a deliberate attempt to generate massive levels of societal anxiety. As a psychologist, I believe that anxiety, rather than fear, will turn out to be a major health problem facing individuals in the years ahead. Due to a number of complex factors operating at personal and community levels, the incidence of clinical and sub-clinical anxiety has never been higher in the U.K. population. The data to support this claim are well known, and yet, we have just been through a situation where psychologists on SAGE supported by others have deliberately stoked anxiety to increase compliance around various Covid measures.

Therapists Warn Of Rise in Anxiety over the Easing of Restrictions

Reports suggest that a high proportion of Brits not only disagree with the easing of lockdown restrictions on July 19th (or ever, in some cases) but are also seeking help from mental health organisations due to their anxiety over ‘Freedom Day’. MailOnline has the story.

One in five people are suffering from what experts have dubbed “Covid Anxiety Syndrome”, with people reporting fears of losing control as the restriction rules put in place to protect people from contracting the virus are removed.

Meanwhile, mental health charities have warned of a surge in treatment requests while an opinion poll has revealed half of people want restrictions to remain in place.

Research by the London South Bank University (LSBU), shows that 40% of respondents to a survey avoid touching things in public, and nearly 25% are avoiding being in public places. 

Professor Marcantonio Spada from LSBU’s Centre for Addictive Behaviours and Professor Ana Nikčević from Kingston University first identified the concept of Covid Anxiety Syndrome in April 2020.

Their research found that people were developing a particular set of behaviours as a result of their fear of the virus.

Covid Anxiety Syndrome consists of forms of coping such as a constant attention to threat, worry, avoidance and excessive checking, that can keep people locked into a state of continuous anxiety and fear of contracting the virus.

Professor Marcantonio Spada, Professor of Addictive Behaviours and Mental Health at LSBU, said: “Our data indicates that after one month of re-opening of society many people are still struggling with aspects of Covid Anxiety Syndrome, a similar figure to what we previously observed during full lockdown.

“This means that there are still many people who find it difficult to disengage from the Covid threats which may make return to normal daily living harder as restrictions ease.

“Our new findings show how vital it is that people affected by Covid Anxiety Syndrome receive support. Mapping out how we will do this will become a priority for mental health service providers.”

Meanwhile, an opinion poll carried out for the Observer has revealed 50% of people believe Freedom Day should be pushed back.

The poll, of more than 2,000 people, also revealed around 65% will continue to wear masks in shops and supermarkets while 54% will wear them on public transport. …

Research by mental health charities backs up the findings, with Mind reporting that 55% of adults and young people are concerned about seeing and being near others when restrictions ease next week. 

Nearly half, 46%, of those who have been vaccinated, say they are still concerned they will catch the virus. 

It comes after Mind reported that one in four adults experienced mental distress for the first time during the pandemic, with NHS figures showing an increase in people’s contact with mental health services since March 2020.   

Worth reading in full.

Five Year-Olds Are Suffering Panic Attacks About Meeting Friends After More Than a Year of Lockdowns

It’s not just adults who have been affected by the Covid campaign of fear. Children as young as five are now having panic attacks over meeting their friends following more than a year of lockdowns, according to the Telegraph.

Experts said young children had become increasingly anxious, with some fearful of leaving their homes, amid an explosion in “locked-in trauma” across the country.

Waits of up to four years for help on the NHS have forced a growing number of families to seek help from private psychologists – only to find that they are oversubscribed and unable to take on more patients, a Telegraph investigation reveals.

Leading private therapists said they are taking twice the normal level of calls from worried parents, forcing them to turn away patients, or open waiting lists for the first time in their careers.

Experts said many children were suffering behavioural problems fuelled by lockdowns, social distancing and fear of infection, with many now anxious about everyday social activities…

Dame Rachel De Souza, Children’s Commissioner for England, said a survey of more than 550,000 children – the largest such poll in history – will show mental health to be the greatest concern of this generation of children.

She said her visits across the country, as part of a forthcoming commission, had found children suffering “locked-in trauma” and struggling to adjust to changes to their lives since the pandemic…

Dame Rachel told [a meeting run by the NHS Confederation]: “I’ve been around the country and seen those sad little faces… putting their arms around their friends as they tell me about having their trauma from losing a grandparent, not being able to go to a funeral. Coming out of lockdown and not knowing how to make friends anymore, not knowing how to talk to anyone else,” she said…

During the 12 months since the first lockdown, 420,504 children and young people have received NHS treatment for mental health problems, an 11% rise in two years.

But experts say this is just a tiny proportion of those who need help.

Child Psychologist Maryhan Baker has seen demand for her services double in recent months, with average waiting times jumping from two weeks to nearly four months.

“I’m working longer hours and more evenings to fit more people in but the demand is beyond my own individual capability,” she said.

She said many parents who approached her for help had been warned by GPs “not to bother” waiting for an NHS appointment.

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better. There are a lot of children who were maybe just a bit anxious before the pandemic presenting now with compulsions, eating disorders, self-harm and other control behaviours,” she said.

Worth reading in full.

Majority of Brits “Worried” About Ending of Lockdown Restrictions, According to New Survey

Recent reports on the level of fear over Covid in Britain significantly understate how anxious people feel about returning to life as normal, according to new polling. Over 60% of respondents in a new poll for the Independent say they are worried about the ending of social distancing and mask-wearing. This is far higher than the level reported in recent polling from Ipsos MORI (12% and 21% said they were “not looking forward” to abandoning social distancing and giving up face masks respectively). Perhaps far more are suffering from “Covid Anxiety Syndrome” than we previously thought. The Independent has more.

A large majority of Britons are “worried” about Boris Johnson’s plan to remove all remaining coronavirus rules this month…

Some 65% of people said they are worried about scrapping the “one metre plus” rule, which requires venues to use screens, or seat people facing away from each other, and prevents ordering at bars with table service required instead.

There is similar concern about removing the need to wear masks in many settings (63%) and about allowing unlimited numbers into concerts, theatres and sports stadiums (60%).

Reopening nightclubs alarms 58% of people who responded to pollsters Savanta ComRes, with 49% nervous about scrapping limits on the size of weddings and funerals…

The poll of 2,180 people conducted between May 28th and 30th revealed the Government does not have majority backing for lifting all restrictions, with only 45% in favour and 42% against.

Crucially, when confronted with specific curbs to be removed, a much smaller minority is “not worried” about ending social distancing (33%), mask-wearing (35%) and attendance limits at events (37%).

The greatest public concern centres on lifting all foreign travel restrictions – with 69% of people fearful.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Shame on those peddling fear,” says Co-Founder of Time for Recovery Alan Miller.

More Than Half of Brits Have Not Hugged a Friend or Relative Since the Easing of Restrictions, New Polling Suggests

New polling by the MailOnline suggests that more than half of Brits have not yet cuddled a friend or relative since the easing of restrictions last Monday which “allowed” them to do so. Only a fifth are planning on holidaying abroad this summer.

Some 51% of those polled for [the MailOnline] claimed they had yet to take advantage of the easing of restrictions introduced on May 17th that allow them to wrap their arms around a loved one.

And in a blow to holiday firms and airlines, the same poll by Redfield and Wilton Strategies found that just a fifth of Brits are planning to take a foreign holiday this year.

More than half of those polled said they didn’t plan to take any form of holiday away from home this year, either abroad or in the U.K..

The findings show that the country is being extremely cautious in emerging from more than a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions despite the widespread roll-out of Covid vaccines. 

Lucy Johnston recently drew attention to the long-term impacts of the Government’s (and the media’s) campaign of fear regarding the virus in her Sunday Express article on “Covid Anxiety Syndrome” (CAS).

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 [on CAS]…

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. 

Polling from Ipsos MORI suggests that even more than a fifth of the population could be suffering from CAS. It found that 28% of British adults aren’t looking forward to “greeting people with handshake/hug/kiss”.

The MailOnline report is worth reading in full.

“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)”.