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Blog COVID-19

Social Anxiety After COVID-19

written by Jennifer Nelson Written by Jennifer Nelson
Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer is a contributing health writer who has been researching and writing health content with PlushCare for 3 years. She is passionate about bringing accessible healthcare and mental health services to people everywhere.

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reviewBy Reviewed by: Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)
Reviewer

Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)

Melissa Dowd received her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Dominican University of CA and is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. In addition to her work as a clinical therapist, Melissa is passionate about promoting emotional wellness through leading workshops, guest appearances, and across social media platforms.

June 4, 2021 Read Time - 6 minutes

*NOTE: Due to a lack of scientific data at this time, PlushCare physicians do not prescribe ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, or azithromycin/other antibiotics to treat COVID-19.

How Can I Calm My Social Anxiety?

Whether or not you previously struggled with social anxiety, avoiding seeing people in person for more than a year can make it stressful to try to get used to socializing again. That’s especially true since COVID is likely to pose somewhat of a threat for quite a while, even as many people are building up immunity through vaccination or having had the virus.

Regardless of whether your social anxiety is a familiar problem or a new issue, there are things you can do to start overcoming that anxiety and start socializing again. Let’s look at social anxiety, especially how it relates to COVID-19, and what steps you can take to start overcoming it.

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What Is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder that causes extreme fear in social settings. More than just being shy, social anxiety causes people to fear being scrutinized or judged by others. Or, in the context of COVID, it could be an extreme fear of socializing with others due to worry about getting or spreading COVID.

Social anxiety can be crippling. It can affect people’s ability to go to work or school or develop close relationships with people outside their family.

COVID-19 and Anxiety

Nearly four times as many adults have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic than before it, with more than one-third (35.8%) of American adults reporting symptoms of an anxiety disorder, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, around one in five (19.1%) adults have an anxiety disorder in a typical year, so COVID-19 is clearly contributing significantly to signs of anxiety.

COVID-19 Social Anxiety

COVID social anxiety has a few different components.

Some people have a fear of going out due to COVID. They may fear getting the disease themselves, or they may be afraid of passing it to somebody vulnerable. It’s natural to be frightened, but you don’t have to stay locked up at home.

Fewer than 1% of COVID transmission occurs outdoors. The few exceptions seem to be crowded areas and close conversations. So going for an outdoor walk with a friend, especially if you both wear masks, presents virtually no chance of transmission – although it may still feel scary if you’re dealing with COVID-19 social anxiety.

Another issue is social anxiety after quarantine. After spending more than a year practicing social distancing, it’s natural to worry about interacting with people out in the “real world” again. If you’ve only been talking to people through video chats, phone calls, texting, or social media, you may feel anxious about carrying on a conversation in person again.

One other thing to consider is that socializing helps reduce social anxiety. Those who already dealt with social anxiety before COVID haven’t had opportunities to do exposure therapy and may have increased anxiety as a result.

How Can I Cope With Anxiety Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Now you’re probably wondering: How can I calm my social anxiety? Here are some tips:

  • Minimize social interactions, especially if you still aren’t vaccinated.
  • Start slowly by spending time with people you are close to.
  • Follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Form a “quarantine bubble,” where you gather a group of people who agree to only socialize with each other and nobody who is outside the “bubble.”
  • Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask people if they’re vaccinated, if they usually wear a mask, or if they’ve recently tested negative for COVID.
  • Allow yourself to be scared. Don’t feel guilty for having feelings of anxiety.
  • Plan ahead. Try to find out what you might expect before socializing in different environments.
  • Practice self-care.
  • Set boundaries. It’s OK to say “no” if you aren’t comfortable hanging out with somebody.
  • Get therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) could make a big difference in overcoming your anxiety.

Going Out After the COVID-19 Vaccine

Life after the COVID vaccine still isn’t “normal” and won’t be until a significant percentage of the population has immunity against COVID. Once you’ve been fully vaccinated, here are some things you can start to do:

  • Gather indoors with other vaccinated people without wearing masks or staying 6 feet apart.
  • Gather indoors with unvaccinated people of any age from one other household without wearing masks or staying 6 feet apart, unless any of those people have a high risk for severe COVID.
  • Socialize outdoors without wearing a mask, except in crowded places.

Even though you have been vaccinated, you may still be able to get COVID with mild or no symptoms and spread it to others. For that reason, it’s essential to do the following still, even after you’ve had your shot(s):

  • Wear a mask in indoor public settings, when you’re around others who are at high risk or live with somebody who is at high risk for severe COVID, and when you’re gathering with people from more than one household who have not been vaccinated.
  • Avoid large indoor gatherings.
  • Wear a mask when taking public transportation such as buses, planes, and trains.
  • Wear a mask anywhere it is required.

Managing Health Anxiety Once You Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine

If you’re fully vaccinated (you’re considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two weeks after your second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine) and still struggling with anxiety, you may benefit from a type of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

CBT helps you challenge negative ways of thinking and develop positive responses and behaviors instead. In short, CBT gives you the tools to tackle your social anxiety and stop letting it control your life.

  • Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  • Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

  • Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.

PlushCare-App-Steps

Online Therapy for Anxiety

If you’re struggling with social anxiety after COVID, online therapy from PlushCare may be able to help. Online therapy with PlushCare is easy and affordable. Our licensed therapists can guide you through CBT or other types of therapy to help you manage your anxiety.

Check to see whether PlushCare online therapy is available in your state by clicking here, or click here to schedule an appointment.

In some cases, medication can help reduce anxiety. While PlushCare doctors can’t prescribe controlled substances like Xanax or Valium, they can prescribe antidepressants, some of which can help with anxiety. To talk to one of our licensed doctors, click here.


Read More About Social Anxiety After COVID-19


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated. Accessed on May 12, 2021 at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html

Kaiser Family Foundation. The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use. Accessed on May 12, 2021 at https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/ 

National Institute of Mental Health. Any Anxiety Disorder. Accessed on May 12, 2021 at https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder 

The New York Times. A Misleading C.D.C. Number. Accessed on May 12, 2021 at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/11/briefing/outdoor-covid-transmission-cdc-number.html 

The Wall Street Journal. When the Pandemic’s End Means the Return of Anxiety. Accessed on May 12, 2021 at https://www.wsj.com/articles/when-the-pandemics-end-means-the-return-of-anxiety-11617299927

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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