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Mental health professionals provide tips for dealing with coronavirus anxiety

Doctors advise clients to form a support group

San Antonio – Mental health professionals are reminding residents with increased anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic to utilize resources that will limit their stress levels.

One mental health organization, Jewish Family Service, said they have been seeing an increase in new clients over the past two weeks.

“We have seen close to 150 new clients this week because of the coronavirus,” said Talli Dolge, the chief executive officer. “I think right now it is the uncertainty. People don’t understand this virus. They don’t understand why they can’t go out of the house like they used to. This is a full change in a lifestyle in two weeks’ time.”

She said the organization has transitioned to keeping their operations going online despite being closed through at least April 9.

“We are now doing full tele-health, tele-therapy, tele-counseling; everything we are offering online now,” Dolge said. “There is a place where you can ask a question to a mental health professional on the ‘Ask a Therapist’ column. There is a social services line where you can talk to someone you need on our website at jfs-sa.org. You can all find resources and videos on dealing with anxiety.”

Psychiatrist Dr. Harry Croft said people are dealing with the pandemic in different ways.

“Some people are taking it in strides,” Croft said. “They are frustrated because they have to be inside and can’t go do things but others are just full of anxiety and depression and fear and even panic.”

He said he has even had calls of people dealing with panic attacks.

"People think they might go crazy or they might die or that they are having a heart attack and can’t breathe,” Croft said. “One of the symptoms for the coronavirus is difficulty with breathing so when they are experiencing a panic attack out of nowhere, they may mistake having a panic attack for experiencing symptoms.”

He said there is medication people can take, but he also recommends meditation, relaxation, speaking with a professional.

Dolge agrees, stating another important thing to do is find a support group.

“As long as you are connecting, your anxiety level will go down significantly and if you are able to talk about your anxiety,” Dolge said. “That is probably the best piece of advice I can give you.”

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

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