Woman wearing mask outside

Community Psychiatry’s Allie Shapiro, MD was featured in InStyle discussing Re-Entry Anxiety and how to cope with it. 

As the country re-opens — and often shuts down again — therapists say this form of anxiety is on the rise.

By: Julia Malacoff | InStyle | August 21, 2020

In 2019, around 8 percent of the U.S. population showed symptoms of an anxiety disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s mental health surveys. The stats from the COVID-19 era? Since April, rates have jumped, rarely dropping below a whopping 30 percent. In other words, it’s safe to say anxiety is on the rise.

What is ‘re-entry anxiety’?

“In Los Angeles where I live and practice, the idea of re-entry anxiety is real and thriving,” adds  Allie Shapiro, M.D., a psychiatrist at Community Psychiatry. “Many parents tell me they do not feel safe sending their children to school if they reopen at this point.” Plus, people wonder if establishments that have reopened are safe at all, given that many things have opened only to shut down again and remain closed.

How to know if you’re dealing with re-entry anxiety:

So how can you tell the difference between normal, reasonable hesitation about going back out into the world and full-on re-entry anxiety? Here are some signs to look out for.

You can’t sleep.

“Difficulties with sleep would likely be the first sign that you have some anxiety, whether related to re-entry or generally related to this pandemic,” Shapiro notes. “This could be issues with falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up in the morning when needed.”

You notice physical symptoms of anxiety.

These can include an upset stomach, headaches, a rapid heart rate, or just generally feeling unwell, Shapiro says. “These would be most prominent prior to an anxiety-provoking event such as going to the grocery store, the office, or any crowded setting.”

How to cope

Stay informed about local guidelines.

“People with high anxiety have a difficult time differentiating between reasonable risk and the risk associated with anxiety,” Shapiro says. So the best way to determine the real risk level is to look at what’s happening in your local setting. “This changes constantly, but there is always a local health department that provides recommendations for what are considered safe activities and behaviors in a particular place and point in time.”

If your anxiety is still high after assessing local guidance, Shapiro recommends stepping back to consider if the thought process you’re having is truly reasonable. “It might be helpful to ask a friend or close family member to talk through how you’re feeling, or seek out professional help and advice.” (More on that below.)

Start slow.

When you start to venture out again, know that baby steps are completely okay. “Start by taking each interaction and each day one step at a time,” Shapiro says. “Consider bringing a trusted friend or close family member with you.”

Remember that you’re not alone, and get help if needed.

“It’s important to remember that you are not alone in what is going on, and anxiety during this situation is common even if you’ve never experienced it before,” Shapiro says. “If you feel things are getting out of hand or out of control, start by talking to a friend or family member.” If that doesn’t help, consider therapy.

Click here to read the entire article on InStyle.

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