All non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen in England on Monday, but as various lockdown measures start to lift, we are seeing reports of 'post-lockdown anxiety' and fear of going out (FOGO).
What is ‘fear of going out’ and post-lockdown anxiety?
‘Fear of going out’ is quite simply the fear of leaving the house. In a pre-lockdown world, many experienced ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO), on social events for example, now many of us are experiencing the opposite.
‘Post-lockdown anxiety', as it was recently dubbed by mental-health charity Anxiety UK , is the fear or worry of returning to normal life and lockdown measures relaxing.
Despite the easing of the lockdown, a survey by Ipsos Mori showed that more than 60% of Britons are uncomfortable with the prospect of returning to bars and restaurants, using public transport or going to a large gathering, such as a sporting event.
Even once lockdown measures loosen, it has been reported that over 40% would still be reluctant to go to the shops or send their children to school and over 30% would be worried about going to work or meeting friends. The survey data found that the vast majority of Britons have been complying with the lockdown not because they had been ordered to by the government, but because they do not want to catch or spread the virus.
Anxiety UK has also reported that simply the idea of lifting or easing of COVID-19 restrictions has led to an increase in anxiety for almost 67% of the participants of their recent survey. Ultimately, mental health professionals are noticing that anxiety about leaving the house and life after lockdown has increased.
What is causing fear of going out during the pandemic?
Away from uncertainty and from the outside world, houses with disinfected surfaces have become a haven for many.
According to the CEO of Anxiety UK , “after you've been inside for a long time, it can feel very strange to go outside and people could perhaps lose confidence in things they haven't done in a while”.
Examples of using cramped public transport, face-to-face work meetings, have been suggested to be situations that might have people worried or stressed even before they're to consider the risk of infection. Many have adjusted to working from home, as discussed in our recent article on the mental health benefits of working from home .
What are some ways of relieving fear of going out?
According to a representative at Anxiety UK, we should try to 'focus on positive coping strategies such as exercise, meditation, walking outside and fresh air rather than food, drink or smoking.' They also highlighted that we should monitor our inner dialogue and ask ourselves whether our thoughts are helpful or if they're contributing to our feelings of anxiety. One of our leading psychologists also gave some tips on how to combat anxiety during the pandemic recently.
If you've been dealing with increased anxiety when leaving the house, there are a number of steps you can take to deal with those feelings, including limiting the amount of coronavirus news you're consuming and by focusing on the simple pleasures in life.
Many of our leading psychologists here at Top Doctors also highlight the importance of breathing exercises. It’s helpful in preventing a full-blown panic attack, which is often exacerbated by hyperventilation.
When does FOGO become a problem?
If your fear of going out can be defined as the medical term agoraphobia , it may be advised to seek professional help. Agoraphobia is the overwhelming fear of being in a place or situation where you feel that escape would be difficult, or where you are worried about having a panic attack.
Some of the places and situations that can trigger agoraphobia are as follows:
- Using public transportation.
- Being in enclosed spaces, like the shops.
- Being in open spaces.
- Standing in line or being in a crowd.
What are some of the main symptoms of agoraphobia?
The major symptoms are:
- A rapid heart rate.
- Difficulty breathing.
- An upset stomach which could result in diarrhoea.
- The fear of panic or anxiety attacks.
How can agoraphobia be treated?
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or other psychotherapy techniques, such as applied relaxation, may be recommended. In some cases, medication may be prescribed.
If you'd like to see a medical specialist regarding agoraphobia or ‘fear of going out’, feel free to book an appointment with one of our leading psychologists who will be able to offer guidance and treatment options.