Dr James Arkell features in Vogue India on ‘re-entry’ syndrome

Nightingale Hospital consultant psychiatrist, Dr James Arkell, features in a recent article in Vogue India on ‘re-entry’ syndrome.

The article explores how psychological distress produced by major life re-adjustments, known as ‘re-entry syndrome’, is being commonly felt in individuals following COVID-19 lockdowns.

Journalist Rachel Kelly highlights that despite the many positives of lockdowns easing, such as reuniting with friends and returning to the workplace; it can be marred with very tangible anxiety for most people.

“First, there is a general feeling that we have been changed by COVID-19 and that we are navigating a new and foreign land. Second, some people are anxious because they experience a lurking worry of catching or spreading the virus. This is especially true of those with a fear of germs, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Finally, we have fallen out of the practice of socialising. We can find it difficult to reconnect. This is particularly true for those with social anxiety.

Until now, psychological distress about this kind of readjustment has affected relatively few of us. Now it is something with which we are all grappling to a greater or lesser extent,” explains Kelly.

For those experiencing anxiety surrounding leaving the house, socialising, and generally ‘re-emerging’ into society, Dr Arkell points to exposure therapy to combat this psychological stress.

“Exposure therapy taps into a basic function of the human brain. We quickly make associations between things. This is called classical conditioning,” he explains.

By exposing ourselves little by little to the ideas and actions that scare us, Dr Arkell explains that this therapy will start to soften the anxiety being felt around the issue.

For those fearing leaving the house post-lockdown, Dr Arkell suggests “you need to stay out of the house long enough for the anxiety to fade so that you can make a new positive association between relaxation and being out of the house.”

Dr Arkell explains that the opposite of exposure therapy is avoidance. Avoiding what one fears may cause temporary relief, however, it might dramatically increase the anxiety the next time they are faced with it.

The full article can be read over at Vogue India.

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