These are objectively unprecedented and uncertain times for everyone. But could it be that some who suffer anxiety and depression actually feel better during this pandemic? 

In this piece for The Daily Beast, Laura Bradley explains how, counter-intuitively, our current state of panic can in fact help alleviate symptoms for some: “My mood has stabilized after years of oscillating between paralyzing anxiety and debilitating, at times suicidal, depression. Despite everything, I realize, I am OK. More OK than I have been in years.”

And she is not the only one. Grace Weinstein, who has a diagnosed panic disorder, told her she has found herself becoming a stabilizer for panicking friends. “To some degree I feel like I’m conditioned for this based on things I’ve experienced in the past.”

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Bradley quotes anxiety specialist Elizabeth Cohen, who says 20% of her patients have felt the same, explaining the current scenario frees some from the worry something bad will happen: “A lot of people are saying, ‘The terrible thing happened.’ So in a lot of ways you’re not in the anticipating state.”

Dissociation which normally negatively drags you away from your present, suddenly becomes your ally. For those who might feel loneliness and isolation in normal life, everyone around them also now feeling those things brings a certain level of validation. For introverts, being able to fully immerse themselves in digital communication is a Godsend.

As someone who themselves has suffered bouts of depression and anxiety, I too can recognise elements of truth in Bradley’s perspective. The perennial need to be achieving, to be social – or indeed, to appear to be – has totally fallen away to allow room instead for contentment with simplicity and routine.

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I spend far less time wondering how my life stacks up against others, and far more time enjoying my hours each day, in the reassuring knowledge everyone is also ultimately bored inside, even if learning Arabic or baking sourdough 🙄.

My mind is paradoxically far less existentially and narcissistically-obsessed but rather firmly rooted in the moment, taking each day step-by-step.

Goodbye chronic FOMO, hello self-isolation bubble where the biggest decisions of my day are what to eat, where to walk, what to watch on telly. It’s obviously a shitter of time to be living through, but mentally, it can be strangely calming.

What the TMIK community said:

@mira.rhmh: “My (debilitating) social anxiety is not as bad; social distancing means I’m avoiding most of the situations that provoke anxiety.

At my lowest point of anxiety in my teens I didn’t leave the house, so know what it’s like – but this time I’m not ‘missing out’ on life any more than others are, so in many ways it’s not as isolating. Also, I think a lot of MH stigma can be self-imposed, as in subconsciously thinking you’re sensitive /weak, but in this crisis, many people are in survival mode, so it almost feels more valid to feel anxious at something more tangible!

But that doesn’t mean I feel better overall because obviously it’s rubbish – worrying about family’s health, the future, finances etc.!

And we know that avoiding things that make us anxious relieve us in the short run, but aren’t good in the long-run as it makes it harder to face up to our fears & in turn can result in depression. I don’t know what my mental health will be like on the other end … Basically it’s complex 😂.”

By Sarah Bradbury. Published on #ThisMuchIKnow on 15th April 2020.