How COVID-19 has affected my health anxiety
Katie, 16, had been struggling with health anxiety for a few years before the coronavirus pandemic begun. Here she shares how COVID-19 has affected her health anxiety.
Over the last few weeks, I have been hearing a lot about how the pandemic is affecting young people’s mental health. I’ve seen many discussions in articles and broadcasts of how Covid-19 is affecting people mentally, not just physically.
As a young person who has had health anxiety since a few years before the pandemic, I want to share my story on how this is affecting my life during these troubling times.
Before the pandemic, I was doing OK. I was a little stressed about revising for my GCSE exams (which were meant to go ahead this summer), but I was managing my mental health and getting the support that I needed through school. But being in lockdown for me has been hard. I relied on my school as a distraction from my constant thoughts about my health, but since school closed, I have been struggling with my anxiety more.
The threat of COVID-19 has also created more anxiety about my health. This has made me feel more cautious during the pandemic and made me feel much more stressed. During this pandemic, I have been a lot more worried not just with my health anxiety but also about what my future holds; everything is uncertain and it makes me feel constantly on edge.
I’d been waiting just over a year for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which I finally started in May. Being in therapy during the pandemic has also been difficult. I have to admit I felt a little frustrated having to do it over video call because I found it much harder to develop a relationship with my therapist and to learn CBT without meeting face-to-face. I was also a little annoyed that the already limited sessions I received over the phone counted, as I have been waiting over a year for this face-to-face therapy. However, I’m still grateful for the support that I have, because I know many people don’t have any.
I’m currently waiting to hear what more support is available to me after I complete my CBT course. I’m really hoping that I can have more support as I don’t feel quite ready to become my ‘own therapist’ yet.
For me, this lockdown has made me feel trapped in my own thoughts. I feel like I was getting somewhere with my anxiety before lockdown but now it’s just gone all downhill. I'm trying to remember that I'm not alone in all this, and that there are many other people who are in my position who are having the same difficulties with their mental health. I know that there is a lot of support out there, but I find it difficult to know what will help me the most.
I have found it helpful to keep myself busy with other things to distract from my anxiety. I’ve taken up a few new hobbies, such as photography and learning sign language. This has helped me to focus on other things. I’ve also been practising mindfulness, which helps me to relax. Talking to my family about my worries has also been really helpful – they’ve supported me a lot during the pandemic and I’m really grateful to have them in my life.
At the moment I’m getting ready to start college in September, so I’m going through the activity pack my college sent, which has been a good distraction.
I’m trying to stay positive, because I know I'm not helping myself by being withdrawn. I don't want to waste my life on worry and I don’t want to let my mental health define me. I hope you won't let it define you either!
Author: Katie, 16
Where to get help
For tips, advice and suggestions on where to get help during the COVID-19 pandemic - including on coping with the easing of lockdown - have a look at our page on coronavirus and mental health.