09. March 2022
Never before have so many people been affected by anxiety disorders as today. It is estimated that every fourth person experiences at least one anxiety episode in his or her life, and current world events in particular are accelerating the number of sufferers enormously. The Corona crisis is not over yet, severe weather disasters like storms and floods are going through our country and now the war in Ukraine is already announcing the next crisis. All these events trigger feelings of fear in many people combined with a sense of powerlessness, helplessness and worry about the consequences. The mental resilience of many people is gradually being exhausted by the ongoing crisis mode.
Important: Symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression have increased since spring 2020. (German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, 2020). The number of people seeking help with mental suffering is also on the rise, according to health insurers. (Techniker Krankenkasse, 2021)
A crisis is generally defined as a difficult situation or the high point or turning point of a situation. In the psychosocial sense, events that cannot be overcome, conflicts or life-changing circumstances can also cause a mental imbalance and lead to a crisis. Psychological crises are exceptional states in which the usual solution strategies no longer work. Often thoughts turn in circles, are scattered and cannot be brought to a meaningful conclusion. Feelings such as loneliness, aggressiveness, hopelessness or sadness are either difficult to perceive or so intense that they hardly seem to be controllable. Mental imbalance is often associated with anxiety, which blocks cognitive functions, restricts perception and makes it difficult to find new strategies for coping with situations.
Many people experience a number of psychological stress factors as a result of the current overturning events in the world:
Another major challenge lies in living in different realities. For many people, everything seems relatively normal on the surface, despite many limitations. In their environment, neither houses nor stores are destroyed, most people encountered are healthy and there is enough food. The brain reports: No immediate danger! So, on one hand, there is everyday life, which feels calm and harmless, and on the other hand, there is a plethora of threats that flood in every day through the media. Pictures and reports of suffering, destruction and escalation, which are hardly tangible, because this does not correspond to our picture of reality from the last decades
Sensations such as panic, worry and caution are experienced by all of us, depending on how strongly our fear system is activated. Although the spectrum is present in each of us, the sensitivity of the fear system, as well as the ability to repress and cope, varies greatly among individuals. If the anxiety system is very sensitive, it is an anxiety disorder. The cause here lies in genetics as well as in past experiences. Disease patterns such as generalized anxiety disorder, specific health-related anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder are particularly activated by current world events. The regulation of, for example, fear of infection is no longer possible in the course of this. How strong the anxiety is now in the crisis depends on the following factors:
Basically, a medium level of anxiety is optimal in a crisis and ensures the ability to act. Too much fear makes it difficult to think and act in a solution-oriented manner, and too little fear does not generate any motivation to take action.
Fear, although unpleasant, is biologically and sociologically a very important emotion. It protects us from danger and animates us to change as well as social behavior. Every demonstration currently for freedom and peace, donations for refugees and those in need, and people providing shelter all weld society together. Fear also has a significant physical function: increased heartbeat, breathing, blood pressure and muscle tension make us more ready to act. Blood clotting is also increased somewhat, so that we bleed less in the event of an injury. Consequently, the physical response in fear can be lifesaving. Both for people currently fleeing war in their country and for all helping hands in the wake of it, fear can be a motivation for change in a crisis.
In our current daily lives, we have to live with many uncertainties; it will not be possible to eliminate all threats or predict what the future will bring. Although a retreat into the private sphere can be relieving in the short term, the high sensitivity of the anxiety system does not improve as a result – on the contrary, it increases with less confrontation with reality. To ensure that life is not characterized by excessive anxiety on a daily basis, even in crisis situations, the following coping strategies can be helpful:
Maintain social contacts: whether virtually or during a walk – talking about fears can have an immense influence on coping.
Create structure: Getting up and going to bed at fixed times, as well as eating meals or exercising, can provide support in times of crisis.
Take time out: Don’t update the news app all day and also talk about other topics with those around you.
Finding relaxation: Meditation, yoga or sports can quiet the mind.
Strengthen resources: Becoming aware of one’s own strengths and abilities can provide security.
If all this does not bring about an improvement, it makes sense to seek support. Doctors, psychotherapists or counseling centers can offer a wide range of support during the crisis.
Categories: Anxiety disorders