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Virus doubles woes of anxiety

NEW YORK (AP) — At first, Jonathon Seidl wasn’t worried about the coronavirus despite his anxiety disorder. But that changed.

The 33-year-old digital media strategist from Dallas, who takes medication, said his concern was less about getting sick than about the battering the economy could sustain. Would he be able to feed his family? Would there be a run on food stores? He could not shake his worries.

So he paced. His heart raced. He wanted to go to bed early “because sleep was the only respite.” But his sleep was rarely restful. “I would wake up during the night,” he said.

The pandemic is worrisome enough for most people. For those with anxiety disorders, it presents a special challenge, especially if they are not receiving treatment.

That’s the case for about two-thirds of people with anxiety disorders, says Dr. Bruce Schwartz, president of the American Psychiatric Association. “Those are the ones I’m worried about,” he said.

Some psychologists say the have noticed an uptick in symptoms with the spread of the virus. And for some anxiety conditions, the recommendations from health officials can appear to feed the problem. People who fear of interacting with others now hear advice to avoid crowds. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder who fear germs so much they wash their hands excessively now hear public health authorities encouraging frequent hand-washing.

Standard treatments can deal with coronavirus fears in people who already had anxiety troubles, helping them to avoid emotional extremes, psychologists say. The goal is accepting an appropriate level of anxiety and living with some uncertainty.

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