CAVEAT: Polite, respectful comments are welcome. However, anti-vaxxer and anti-masker comments are not welcome in this discussion about Coronavirus Anxiety and will be deleted. We’re attempting to help calm people down, not get anyone riled up or more nervous. If you’re rude or obnoxious, you will be banned from commenting on RVTravel.com. BTW: “The First Amendment’s constitutional right of free speech, which is applicable to state and local governments under the incorporation doctrine, prevents only government restrictions on speech, not restrictions imposed by private individuals or businesses unless they are acting on behalf of the government.” [Dunn, Christopher (April 28, 2009). “Column: Applying the Constitution to Private Actors (New York Law Journal)”. New York Civil Liberties Union.]
By Mike Gast
OK, you’ve gotten your shots. The campgrounds are open. You can’t wait to get the RV out and hit the road, right? That’s the way you think you should feel, anyway. But what if you don’t?
The COVID-19 pandemic and the long series of start-and-stop lockdowns have given birth to a new disorder. It lies somewhere between a slight hesitancy to leave the house, and a full-blown case of agoraphobia.
The new malady, already recognized by many healthcare professionals, is called Coronavirus Anxiety. Doctors and psychologists first started talking about the condition last summer. But more people – especially those over 55 who are more likely to have spent a lot of time at home – are starting to show symptoms of Coronavirus Anxiety as more cities and states begin relaxing pandemic guidelines.
What is Coronavirus Anxiety?
Coronavirus Anxiety shouldn’t be confused with actual agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder in which people feel extreme immediate fear. It causes them to avoid places or situations that make them feel extremely helpless or seriously threatened. If you have a diagnosed case of agoraphobia, you likely weren’t comfortable with the RV lifestyle even before the pandemic.
Coronavirus Anxiety is much more subtle. However, it can make even the thought of hitting the road again comfortably tucked into your RV seem insurmountable.
COVID-19 has likely given everyone – me included – some level of Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Who’d have thought that, after more than 60 years on the planet, I really didn’t know the right way to wash my hands? Is it one mask, two masks, or no mask? My six-foot buffer zone just never feels like enough.
Psychiatrist Dr. Amit Anand of the Cleveland Clinic’s Neurological Institute says we’ve entered new territory with Coronavirus Anxiety. He likened it more to OCD than a phobia, since reentering society without the safeguards many of us have deployed for the past year seems risky and leads to at least a small level of anxiety. If you’re like me, even after receiving both doses of the vaccine you still think about getting contaminated every time you pass an unmasked group crowding you on the sidewalk. And for the rest of your natural life, you just know you’ll sing the Happy Birthday Song twice through while washing up.
Dr. Anand said the new virus-related anxieties have qualities of both OCD and agoraphobia. However, the new condition lies somewhere in the middle. “I don’t think people in psychiatry who would make a diagnosis (of acute anxiety) ever thought of this situation,” he said recently.
Take it slow
First, understand that your Coronavirus Anxiety is a real thing, and you’re not alone. There are likely going to be millions of folks of all ages who are going to be more than reticent to immediately rejoin life as it was at the very beginning of 2020. This summer, you’ll see a lot of RVers at campgrounds who are still sticking close to their rigs. If you’re one of those who enjoy making your campsite home base for Happy Hour, understand that some of your regular guests might not feel comfortable yet. Give them some time (and space).
If you think you may be suffering from a touch of Coronavirus Anxiety, take it slow. Expose yourself to the outside world – including your old RVing lifestyle – a little bit at a time. If it’s your spouse or travel companion who is feeling the angst, offer to be their understanding escort as they reenter the world. What they are feeling really isn’t much different than “guests of the state” feel when they are let out of jail after a long stretch of confinement.
Filter your information
We’ve all been inundated with tons of pretty scary stories in the media over the months. Now might be a good time to start cutting back on social media or other news sources you take in. Misinformation, and overloading yourself with information, will only add to the anxiety.
For those of you who aren’t feeling anxious and are itching to hit the road again, congratulations. I’m happy you’re emerging from 2020 relatively unscathed. For the rest of you, take a big, deep breath and visualize your past favorite RV trips. It might take some time, but you’ll get back there.
Mike Gast was the Vice President of Communications for Kampgrounds of America, Inc. for the past 20 years. Now, he’s on to new adventures, helping others tell their stories through his freelance company, ‘Imi Ola Group. You can reach Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Read Mike’s previous posts on RVtravel.com here.