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As coronavirus takes emotional toll, mental health professionals brace for spike in demand

Psychologists and psychiatrists are beginning to report signs of distress among patients worried about the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected more than 11,500 nationwide, and over 242,000 globally, killing nearly 10,000.

For the last few days, unease and paranoia have followed Ann Ostberg like a black cloud, as the coronavirus swept through the United States, reaching all 50 states by this week.

With state and local governments urging isolation to stem the spread of the highly contagious and sometimes deadly respiratory illness, the 62-year-old Nebraska woman worries she will not be able to provide emotional support for her daughter, whose husband is paralyzed with Guillain-Barre syndrome.

If someone were to infect her son-in-law with his weakened immune system, “he’d be dead,” Ostberg said.

Chicagoan Mike Wisler was prescribed a sedative to help him sleep when the financial and emotional impact of the pandemic hit the 50-year-old bartender. “My mind won’t shut off,” Wisler said. “As soon as I wake up, it’s like, ‘How am I going to get by this month?’”

With public gatherings banned, his work tending bar at parties and private events has evaporated.

In North Carolina, 23-year-old Niko, who asked that his last name not be used, is in recovery for drug addiction, and fears a relapse.

The grocery store clerk is suffering nervous ticks and bouts of reticence while trying to put on a brave face to avoid alarming shoppers. “What I’m worrying about in my head, I’m only showing about 20 percent of it,” he said.

Six Psychologists interviewed by Reuters say the coronavirus has been the prime focus of virtually all recent therapy sessions.

Stress caused by fear of the disease is compounded by isolation, mental health experts say, as governments close schools and restaurants, and recommend that people limit social interaction.

Stress-reducing activities like exercise, watching sports and going to movies, are becoming nearly impossible after shutdowns of gyms, professional leagues and theaters.
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Meeta Ramnani
Meeta Ramnani
Meeta develops credible content about various markets based on deep research, opinions from experts and inputs from industry leaders. As the managing editor at Smart Industry News, she assures that every piece of news and article adds to the knowledge of decision makers. An avid bike rider, Meeta, is a postgraduate from Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media (IIJNM) Bangalore, where her specialization was Business Journalism. She carries experience from mainstream print media including The Times Group and Sakal Media Group.