Lately, the number of Americans who Googled information relating to panic and anxiety attacks reached an uprising statistics, when the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 began spreading across the U.S from China and to other part of the world.
Searches for anxiety and panic attack symptoms first began dropping back to normal levels on April 15, and have been returning to more typical levels since then. The researchers suggest this could be because Americans have become more resilient, or adapted to the coronavirus’ disruptions on their everyday lives.
Probably, maybe because many people had already received whatever help they could get for their anxiety from searching the internet.
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Researchers tracked how often people looked up phrases including “panic attack,” “anxiety attack,” “am I having a panic attack?”, and “anxiety attack symptoms” using Google GOOG, +1.26% Trends data, and analyzed how often these phrases were searched for in the U.S. between January 2004 and May 2020.
After adjusting for variables such as population growth and increased internet use over the past 20 years, the researchers found that these anxiety and panic attack searches reached an all-time high between mid-March and mid-May.
Acute anxiety queries were 11% higher than expected during the 58-day period that began when President Trump declared that COVID-19 was a national emergency on March 13 and ending on May 9, which was the last date of data used in this analysis.
What’s more, spikes in searches for these anxiety symptoms correlated with key dates early in the pandemic, particularly those related to shutdowns and social distancing guidelines.
Searches surged when national social distancing guidelines were first rolled out on March 16, for example. Searches skyrocketed the most overall on March 28, the day before these social distancing guidelines were extended, when anxiety queries were 52% higher than expected.
There were also jumps when: the U.S. passed China for the most reported cases of COVID-19 on March 26; the CDC began telling everyone to wear face masks on April 3; and when the U.S. death toll surpassed Italy’s death toll on April 11.
Anxiety disorders were already the most common mental illnesses in the U.S. before the pandemic, affecting 40 million adults (or 18.1% of the population) each year. Signs of an anxiety attack can include chest pain, difficulty breathing, a rapid heart rate, sweating, dizziness, nausea, as well as a feeling of sudden, overwhelming fear.
So now this pandemic that has infected at least 5.74 million Americans and killed more than 177,000 — not to mention putting millions more out of work, and disrupting almost every aspect of every day life — is placing unprecedented amounts of stress on an already anxious population.