Pandemic causing confusion and stress: A psychiatrist weighs in on the mixed messaging

Oregon mask mandate
Posted at 8:46 PM, Sep 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-19 23:55:42-04

CLEVELAND — More than a year and a half into the pandemic, the rules and recommendations about what’s safe and appropriate have never been more varied.

Within the last week, an FDA panel struck down a plan for Pfizer booster shots to all Americans, while also recommending booster shots for those 65 and older as well as high risk Americans.

It comes as state leaders tiptoe around mask mandates indoors and in schools.

Experts told News 5 there is a rising part of the population who feel uncertain about what they should or shouldn’t do at this particular stage of the pandemic, where the rules vary, and the number of new cases continue to rise.

Dr. Patrick Runnels serves as the Vice chair of Psychiatry at University Hospitals, and sees firsthand how this COVID-19 confusion impacts Americans.

"It’s left people not only with a sense of not knowing what the right answer is, but also fearing that they’re getting it a bit wrong,” he said. “That kind of confusion, mixed messages, is actually very fatiguing. We are now seeing a major uptick in people seeking out services.”

He argues it’s not the uncertainty causing the most stress, but how others interpret and react that can impact you the most.

“The most important thing you can do to keep yourself even among these mixed messages, to avoid spending too much time with things such as social media, people who are focusing on the divide,” he added. “When you start living and breathing that all the time, it’s toxic to you and that actually creates a lot of stress that probably doesn’t need to be there.”