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New study finds rates of anxiety and depression have tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL)- Closed businesses and schools, lost jobs, and staying healthy are among the concerns weighing on people right now. With so much happening, it can be overwhelming.

A new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found reports of anxiety and depression among adults have surged since the pandemic began.

"A lot is going on in the world right now that has people are concerned and worried," Waverly Medical Center psychiatrist Dr. Ann Rathe said.

Between the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout, there are a lot of unknowns. For people with anxiety, that can be hard.

"They like to be able to plan and know what, what to expect coming down the road," Rathe said. "We just don't have that with this pandemic. So there's a lot of anxiety."

In 2019, the Kaiser Family Foundation survey found 11 percent of adults reported having symptoms of anxiety or depression.

This year, with everything going on, the survey found the number of adults who reported having symptoms of anxiety or depression increased to 36 percent.

"Not only are people worried about exposure to coronavirus for them and their families," Rathe said. "They're worried about if I do go back to work, especially if they have a job that involves travel, what are they going to be exposing themselves to?"

It can be challenging to recognize when you are over-stressed. Rathe said the signs might not be as obvious.

"They might be having a physical problem, headache, sleep disturbance, or stomach upset that they don't identify right away as anxiety," she said. "It can affect mood, so people who are stressed can be edgy, they can be sad they can be weepy."

Rathe said it is okay to be stressed, but you have to deal with it properly.

"I always tell people, it feels like there's very little that we can control when problems are global and overwhelming," she said. "It's important to just focus on what we can do each day to control our environment and take things a day.

Basic self care is an important part of relieving stress.

"So, trying to eat healthy trying to get rest at night, trying to get some daily exercise," she said. "Make sure that you do something every day that helps you relax or helps you healthily relieve stress."

While the demand for mental health resources has increased during the pandemic, there is a shortage of them in the state.

"One thing that has helped our reach is this pandemic has allowed us to make telehealth appointments," Rathe said. "So, patients who maybe have underlying health conditions or just don't feel comfortable coming out into the community, we can see them."

Earlier this month, Governor Kim Reynolds announced $50 million in federal CARES act funding would be set aside for mental health services.

Rathe said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how important the issue is.

"The only good part about this is that we're all in the same boat," she said. "Everybody's feeling stressed out. I see people who usually are go-getters who are struggling with motivation, especially if they're working from home."