June 12, 2021

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Anxiety disorder strikes Puerto Ricans amid COVID-19

“Anxiety is a normal emotion and it has an evolutionary function. It helps us to be more aware of the environment and focused on what we have to do, ”explained the president of the Puerto Rico Academy of Psychiatry, Dr. Mario González.

However, in the midst of this pandemic there has been a notable increase in people who do not have control of this emotion. Its symptoms are known as anxiety disorder.

“It can be presented in different ways. Most of its presentations are physical: chest pain, sweating, palpitations, breathing difficulties, spasms, headache. They worry about everything at all times and cannot stop, ”explained the expert, who is also president of the Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists.

González recommended going to the family doctor for an initial evaluation. This will guide them if it is necessary to go to a psychiatrist or a psychologist to attend to the clinical picture that this anxiety disorder causes.

The doctor confirmed that in his office he has noticed this increase in patients with anxiety symptoms, as reported by the director of the Administration of Mental Health and Addiction Services (ASSMCA), Suzanne Roig.

He spoke that the increase is registered mainly in personnel who work in the health field or are linked to direct care of the coronavirus pandemic. However, it also affects the general population.

“A very interesting article came out that showed that as positive cases of COVID-19 increased, the incidence of depression and anxiety increased. It is well correlated with the pandemic, “he said.

If you are attacked by anxiety, the doctor recommended to “move to seek professional help.”

As a second instance, he asked to “reduce exposure to news. If you keep an eye on information, social networks and the media, that generates more anxiety. It is essential to establish a routine, exercise, eat healthy, try to get away from loneliness by having communication through Zoom, videoconference, and continue taking preventive measures, hand washing, ‘hand sinitizer’, mask. The sacrifice we are making now is to achieve the goal of resuming activities later on ”.

He added that “sometimes small daily changes can bring significant improvement. You have to understand that this is temporary ”.

On the other hand, the doctor reported that there are various anxiety disorders. But, the most common cases observed are generalized anxiety, which is combined with depression, panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder, linked to cleaning and disinfection.

Generalized anxiety is what causes palpitations, sweating, and excessive worry, among other things.

“It all comes together at the same time. It can be a long period, such as six months. It creates dysfunction in activities of daily living, work, university, interpersonal relationships ”, he commented.

Sometimes these symptoms are coupled with depression. He commented that many of these cases are due to how extensive the pandemic has been.

“Sometimes it can present itself as a panic attack, which is like an explosion of anxiety. Sometimes you feel like you are having a heart attack. There you see this combination of physical symptoms, sweating. It is a severe episode of five minutes, but its effect lasts much longer, ”explained González.

Likewise, the psychiatrist commented that as part of the anxiety there has also been an increase in insomnia.

“Sometimes these conditions go hand in hand,” he said.

The importance of treating anxiety early is that you may not have to use medications or use them for a short time. “Many of these cases of anxiety are treated with psychological therapy, guidance, support. More severe cases require pharmacological treatment, depending on the patient ”, said the expert.

González asked not to be afraid to seek help.

“Seeking help in time can make a difference … This is temporary and the time will come when we will be in a new normal,” he said.

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