A pandemic, anxiety, and you.

It’s day – who knows what, of week – can anyone remember? and minute – at least 8 trillion of Quarantine 2020.

Families are sequestered in homes that used to be places of comfort but now feel more like institutions of confinement. If you try to escape for a few minutes, don’t dare take a walk around the neighborhood without a mask or you’ll feel like Cersei on her “Shame” walk. Speaking of shame, has TikTok really become our best chance at modern human connection?

All this time in isolation has given us lots of time to think. Normally we long for those quiet moments where our brains can have still reflection, but it is possible to get too much of a good thing. Especially for those with anxiety.

With anxiety, overthinking is a baseline. The brain spirals into thoughts that are often out of proportion with reality. No matter how hard you try, you can’t suppress them, and the frustration of being out of control feeds the anxiety even more. Sometimes it ultimately culminates in the near-death experience of a panic attack. You can’t breathe, your chest seizes up, your vision blurs, your arm goes numb, and your hands clench against your will. You’re convinced this is it — you’re having a heart attack and a stroke at the same time.

Except you’re not. You’re in the grips of anxiety, experiencing the very real symptoms it brings, and it’s just awful.

“Anxiety is understandably on the rise with the Covid-19 pandemic, not just in patients with anxiety disorders but also in people who typically manage anxiety without issue,” said Joshua Flatow, a psychiatrist at Pacific Mind Health in Los Angeles, Calif. “The constant worry, the isolation, the actual threat of death — these are legitimate concerns having a significant effect on all of us.”

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For those new to anxiety thanks to Covid-19, it seems like this cycle of feeling out of control, worried, frustrated, and trapped will never end. We can’t escape to the gym or a spa to reset because our normal coping places are closed. No more heading to the pub for happy hour with friends to blow off some steam. We can’t get relief from our families because they’re likely contributing to our stress levels. This will not last forever, but what are we supposed to do in the meantime?

Get professional help for your anxiety. Seriously. This is not a time to be coy about struggling.

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“Getting help early will not only prevent an escalation in symptoms, but it can also prevent a decline overall,” said Joshua Flatow, a psychiatrist at Pacific Mind Health specializing in anxiety management. “Stress and anxiety can lead to emotional instability, insomnia, abuse of alcohol or drugs, and even depression or suicide. Early intervention can spare patients from getting to the point of crisis.”

To ensure all patients who need it can get timely comprehensive care, Pacific Mind Health is offering telepsychiatry and teletherapy, an easy-to-use service that allows providers to see patients through an encrypted, HIPPA compliant online video service. For those with known anxiety disorders or those with pandemic-induced anxiety, telepsychiatry provides continuity of care and a face-to-face interaction while respecting health-related mandates.

Pacific Mind Health is offering Telepsychiatry and Teletherapy

Several medications exist for the treatment of anxiety, the most common of which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). SSRIs and SNRIs target neurotransmitters in the brain to increase a person’s threshold for stress and decrease the intensity anxiety responses.

Other medications like buspirone may be indicated for panic attacks, as it provides a rapid calming effect.

Benzodiazepines were historically used for management of anxiety, but as understanding of the underlying causes of anxiety and the long term effects of benzodiazepines increased, reliance on them has decreased. They still have value for short-term, immediate relief of anxiety symptoms, but they are no longer considered a first-line treatment for anxiety.

One exciting new development in the treatment of anxiety associated with depression is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS stimulates brain cells associated with mood control and depression, however many studies indicate it may be useful in treating a range of psychiatric conditions, including anxiety and OCD. To that end, Pacific Mind Health is offering TMS therapy to qualified patients.

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In addition to medications and TMS, therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy, can help patients learn new tools for coping with anxiety, especially in times like these when our normal coping methods are unavailable to us.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is useful in teaching patients how to become aware of anxiety triggers, to explore stressful situations in less frightening ways, and to cultivate better coping and problem-solving skills. Pacific Mind Health offers CBT in person or through its convenient, easy-to-use telepsychiatry service.

“CBT is based on the premise that thoughts dictate feelings,” said Dr. Flatow, who said he recommends therapy to the majority of the patients he treats for anxiety. “By challenging thoughts, you can reprogram negative thinking patterns and stave off anxious feelings.”

The cognitive restructuring cultivated in CBT challenges patients with anxiety to:

  • Recognize distorted thought patterns that heighten anxiety
  • Evaluate thoughts to identify how they are disconnected from reality
  • Replace distorted thoughts with realistic ones
  • Use the new understanding of thoughts to guide behavior and actions

“Anxiety is a heightened reaction to input from various areas of life, and this pandemic has essentially pushed most of us into a corner when it comes to managing anxiety. But there is no need to stay in that corner, trembling and worried. There are treatments available. This pandemic does not have to feel like the end of the world simply because anxiety is trying to make it so.” –  Dr. Flatow of Pacific Mind Health.

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Pacific Mind Health offers comprehensive mental health care for a range of psychiatric conditions, including anxiety and depression. If you are looking for a psychiatrist in Los Angeles or Long Beach, California, or telepsychiatry in California, please contact us to schedule an appointment