Therapist offers advice as more people show signs of anxiety, depression

Posted at 1:26 PM, May 28, 2020

As states start to reopen, more than two months of isolation, social distancing and soaring unemployment have taken a psychological toll.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Thursday shows the number of adults reporting symptoms of an anxiety disorder has tripled from this time last year.

Technology has done a lot to keep people connected via video conferencing or by text, but being physically detached is wearing on some.

“One thing I've noticed with a lot of my clients is that initially they were not physically moving towards other people but like emotionally they were reaching out to friends and family,” said therapist, Dr. Kathleen Smith. “They were doing a lot of video calls, you know, scheduling things and I think people have gotten a little burnt out from that.”

Smith is also the author of the book “Everything Isn't Terrible: Conquer Your Insecurities, Interrupt Your Anxiety, and Finally Calm Down.”

“There's flavors of the anxiety or the loss right now. Right. And I think for some people it could be anger,” said Smith. “I think people are starting to experience sort of more of a malaise or depression now as opposed to just being a little bit anxious and jumpy right where we're kind of settling into this funk.”

The latest results from the Census Bureau indicate an alarming increase in the psychological toll the pandemic has taken on Americans. One third of the 42,000 surveyed are now showing signs of clinical anxiety, depression or both.

Smith says that perpetual anxiety can result in understandable irritability.

“The more anxious we are, the more we tend to pick fights or engage in conflict, because we're not on ourselves, we're focused on everyone else and how they might put us at risk,” said Smith. “What they're doing right, what they're doing wrong.”

Another important thing to realize is that you’re not just working from home. You’re at home during a global health emergency – trying to get work done.

Smith says another part of anxiety during the pandemic revolves around the inability to set normal expectations for yourself.

“The more anxious we are, the harder it is to be realistic and objective about what we can and can't accomplish in a day,” said Smith.

To help cope, Smith recommends writing down two or three questions you want to ask yourself each day.

“How do I want to manage my anxiety today or how do I want to strengthen my relationships today,” she said. “Just think questions that you can kind of turn to that are written down that help you do good thinking.”

Smith says it’s important to recognize the anxiety and face it head on.

“We have an anxiety for a reason,” said Smith. “It's built in. It helps us deal with crises and with threats. But sometimes it gets in the way and so I think being able to kind of laugh and sometimes recognize that it's, you know, it's part of our biology, it's part of our DNA that helps you kind of see around it when you need to.”