Mental health practitioners say reactions to the spread of the pandemic can range from feelings of helplessness and anger to fear and sadness.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already acknowledged that the outbreak is causing the public increased levels of anxiety.
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In recently published guidance, the health body advised people who were feeling stressed to avoid reading, watching and listening to news excessively.
“If you already have a mental health problem, it’s possible that the worries of coronavirus may be affecting how you’re coping.”
Amy Hughes, a 20-year-old teaching assistant, who lives with anxiety and has OCD tendencies, told the Independent the outbreak was causing her increasing distress.
“I’m feeling anxious because I’m scared I’ll catch it and pass it on to my loved ones,” she explained.
“I work with children and am with people all the time. It’s a real worry.”
“I’m seeing for some of those people their OCD is intensifying, there is lots of avoidance going on and lots more washing than is recommended by the government – for some people their OCD is being triggered to the point where they’re [hand] washing for 20 minutes or longer,” he said.
According to Fulwood, around 25 per cent of people living with OCD experience compulsive cleaning such as hand washing.
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A study conducted in February this year concluded that quarantine or self-isolation would also have a negative impact on wellbeing.
In the study, published in The Lancet journal, the authors noted: “Quarantine is often an unpleasant experience for those who undergo it.
“Separation from loved ones, the loss of freedom, uncertainty over disease status, and boredom can, on occasion, create dramatic effects.
“The potential benefits of mandatory mass quarantine need to be weighed carefully against the possible psychological costs.”
Official guidance posted on Mind’s website for those have specific hygiene behaviour problems states: “Don’t keep re-reading the same advice if this is unhelpful for you.
“Let other people know you’re struggling. For example, you could ask them not to remind you to wash your hands.
“Breathing exercises can help you cope and feel more in control. You can find a simple breathing exercise on the NHS website.”
As of Friday morning, there were 798 confirmed cases of covid-19 in the UK and 10 deaths. Public Health England’s advice remains that the best way to avoid catching covid-19 is to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
You can contact mental health charity Mind by calling the infoline on 0300 123 3393. The phone line is open from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (except on bank holidays).
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