A news study shows that COVID-19 prompted many to turn to Google for some self-diagnosis during lockdown.
Mental health has been one of this year’s most popular topics, for an abundance of reasons. The pandemic, the fact that it’s an election year, global warming and the overall state of the world are topics that affect even the most laidback of folks. These events have triggered a lot of mental health fluctuations, from anxiety and depression to thousands of people Googling the symptoms of panic attacks.
A new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, says that there was a record high number of Google searches for panic and anxiety attacks during the peak of the pandemic. These conditions are known for the ways in which they trigger instant “fight or flight” responses in our bodies, making people feel like they’re having a stare off with a wild bear instead of simply reading emails in their house, which is what they’re most likely doing. These panic and anxiety spikes produce physical responses, triggering uncomfortable symptoms like rapid breathing, increased heart rate, sweating and more.
The study reports that some of the most popular queries entered in Google were “am I having a panic attack,” “signs of having a panic attack,” and “anxiety attack symptoms.”
Searches peaked when national guidelines were rolled out in the U.S. between March 16 and April 14. There was a similar trend globally, with people searching for panic and anxiety attacks during the months when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.
The Huffington Post spoke with psychotherapist Joshua Fletcher, who also claims he saw a spike in COVID-19 related questions from clients. He says that more questions came when lockdown measures were lifted compared to when they were enforced. People became more anxious as people “didn’t have the rigid guidelines to fall back on,” he said, telling HuffPo he’d get as many as 40 queries a week in April and May compared to the 5-10 he’d get pre-lockdown.
Panic attacks are not all that common, usually affecting people once or twice in their lives, making it unlikely that everyone who’s Googling symptoms is experiencing actual panic or anxiety attacks. Still, the rise of mental health issues during the pandemic is one that should be kept under close surveillance. Perhaps for many years to come.