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How coronavirus infected my brain: anxiety, the internet, and keeping up to date (jborichevskiy.com)
158 points by karlicoss on April 9, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 137 comments

While I've been following all Covid-19 related news and keeping track of the numbers with near morbid fascination, I've found that being in lockdown has made me happier. It has also given me perspective on life.

As cliche as it might sound, I've realized that what truly makes us happy is family, friends and time to devote to hobbies. I've been chatting with my family everyday, calling friends, playing board games with my wife. I'm producing music again, learning new things again as opposed to just being "productive".

I used to order in food 3-5x a week. Now I'm making all meals from scratch and really diving into what makes good food taste, well, good.

I haven't bought anything except groceries in a month and honestly, I haven't even missed it.

I really don't know how I'll approach the world post-Covid-19. The thought of going back to the old life and routines seems a little absurd now.

I have exactly opposite feeling than you. I usually spent 7-8 hours at work and then do hobbies, visit friends and family and usually spent weekends away from home and computers. Now, I am locked at home and I can't visit anyone and I work way more and spent way more time on computer (at least I live with my girlfriend, so I am not completely alone). I am also way less productive as I am not happy and I am tired all the time from not being able to really relax my brain. Also I cook at home a lot normally so cooking everyday is not that big difference.

I prefer meeting people in real life so chatting and video calls are not enough for me. Many of my friends are not good at tech too so it is sometimes difficult to connect with them. I look forward to go back to my pre-covid life.

Yeah same, vidoeconferencing with friends is better than nothing but still doesn't hold a candle to actually hanging out for me.

Basically this whole exercise has lead me to discover that while I assumed I was pretty introverted because I'm not generally outgoing, I'm really not.

Also I'm a total night owl and being at home all the time has seriously messed up my sleep schedule. Last night I went to bed at 3AM.

It's funny, I've got almost the inverse of your inverse experience. An old group of friends, formed over IRC/TS2/MMOs, had in recent years traded a lot of that sort of thing for less-frequent IRL hangouts as lives and interests developed. Recently, all the old lines of communication have come back to life and it honestly feels like going home.

That said, I'd probably change my tune after a year or two. I think a lot of "quarantine is the best thing ever" floating around right now is driven by various forms of novelty/nostalgia bias.

I totally agree with you about the friends. I do not need to meet them often but it has to be in real life. I am not owl so I often wake up in 4am and go to sleep at 8 or 9 pm. It is really funny that when people start to connect to slack I have already worked 3 or 4 hours and I am ready for my "lunch" :-D

Yeah indeed, videoconferencing is super depressing. I completely stopped doing it (except for work), as it enforced my emptiness even more.

I agree with the general sentiment, but: I have two small kids and I spend a lot of time just dealing with the chaos that results having no preschool, and then I have to work because, yes we're all in the same boat, but many people either don't have kids or have older kids, or have been in lock for a shorter period of time than where I live (schools here are closed since 23 feb). On top of that I'm a bit workaholic too, and I'm having trouble letting go some projects dear to my heart. The net effect is that the my levels of stress have really gone up. Yes, in the evenings I do feel blessed I have a nice family and I have a general feeling of happiness resulting from it, but I think I had that before the lockdown too (I think? how can I know ... it feels like ages ago)

EDIT: I was working from home already; I now realize I was taking for granted things like lunches with the family

The stress level even goes up if someone from your family is ill or getting ill (anything non-Covid19, like still the majority of illnesses among broad population) and may be in need of medical assistance. Also, all the folks who are working in "system-relevant" jobs are under extremely heavy load, some of them facing inconceivable situations. So yes, if you are in the lucky situation that the lockdown is giving you unprecedented possibilities of self-improvement, lucky you and make the best out of it! But I am wondering how much is the percentage of those lucky people currently?

> I've found that being in lockdown has made me happier.

For how long have you been in lockdown? Given that in my country (Italy) I started doing that on March 3rd.

Even though I'm fairly privileged (part of the family in the same building, being able to work and earn money) and that I do not particularly long for social contact, the lockdown has been a very heavy hit on my mind.

This is the fifth week. Almost every morning I wake up with a feeling of dread, and a couple of times, before I stopped listening to the news altogether (save for a very short press roundup) this degenerated into full-scale anxiety attacks. Work is also pretty stressful and I realized how much my subway + train commute was useful to clear my mind when coming home, now every weekday is a constant struggle to keep focused or to do anything save the routine.

One family member has also the same problem, and another one said that it's getting really hard on them, too.

On weekends I end up playing online with a long time friend of mine, but as others said, it's not the same as meeting in person.

I end up talking sometimes to the porter (he's deemed essential as he also does the cleaning and trash collecting ,etc) just to have some extra conversation with someone who is not afraid of me (like all shopkeepers for the few times I go out to get stuff).

That's why I say this can't go on for too long. It's not a matter of money only. Long time withdrawal from social contacts, even superficial, can be potentially deleterious for one's mind.

I feel you man. I live in Spain and we have been in this since the 12th of March. I live alone and it's horrible.

It's a total nightmare. I'm not even sure what's the point of living anymore. The virus can't be that bad.

I really miss walking in nature, there's mountains nearby and I always walked there to clear my head. Now the walls are coming at me.

I really wish they would let us go out but with care (observing the 1,5m etc).. Like in other coutries with more sane politicians. This is extremely cruel. I'm sure it's very safe and all but this is killing me inside too.

Literally if this lasts a few more months I will not be able to live with it.

The first few weeks I spent time cleaning up and doing some online learning but the constant state of extreme anxiety makes this impossible now. I wish I could just go in a coma for a few months (or years, however long it takes).

> I feel you man. I live in Spain and we have been in this since the 12th of March. I live alone and it's horrible.

You have my honest sympathy. Having family (and a couple of pets) for me helps, but the constant shut-in can also cause some minor annoyances to become "major" and a source of attrition. That's why the rule is never to talk about SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19.

To be honest, neither the government or the press helps at least here. For the former I could say many things, but it would be OT, and I don't want to rant, at least not on HN. ;) For the latter, it's usually "you must endure suffering" or "we're all gonna die". This makes enduring this even harder.

Yeah for me the worst is not knowing how long this is for. And the complete refusal to relax even a little bit. If I could just go out for a walk on my own... This would give me so much stability and would compromise nobody.

There's mountains nearby where I can walk for hours without meeting anyone. But I need to walk a couple km through the city to get there and the chance of getting caught is too high.

I don't really have any annoyances to be honest. Just complete anxiety :'( I'm not worried about the virus at all. The solitude is literally much more life-threatening for me. The lockdown is hitting where it really hurts because I have a strong tendency for depression.

In Toronto, Ontario, we've been in a state of emergency since the 16th, so far we're only being requested to go out only when needed, and to not interact in close quarters unless you live with the person. People still go for walks, and such, but the penetration of infected people was still fairly low ( we're at under 600 people hospitalized). It's a softer approach, but it's still challenging even for introverted folk. The spread has stabilized, so maybe a lighter approach is okay once the urgency has set in.

Did Toronto learn from its experience with SARS-1 in 2002, or was it a panic with Covid-19 like the rest of the world?

(Toronto hospitals got hammered by SARS-1 in 2002, with newspapers printing panic stories, just like the US is doing now.)

It was the panic from the rest of the world, at the beginning of March it was business as usual. It became real when Italy locked down its people.

During SARS-1, I was in high school, and there was no major panic outside of downtown. I don't know about internally, so perhaps the hospitals were better prepared because of it this time.

Having a 1 hour break to have lunch with my wife and kids has been a very pleasant change. Not wasting two hours to commute and spending that time with my family has also been great.

And after a period of adaptation (and after buying a proper monitor, keyboard and chair), I can say that I'm back to being productive enough even when WFH.

I made sure to take the dual monitors, dock and office chair home with me when we were sent to work from home and I suspect my colleagues, who didn't do the same, regret that decision now.

Seeing them hunched over their laptop screens makes me cringe for their backs. My setup isn't ideal (I didn't get the monitor brackets!) but it's a lot better than it could have been.

There's an interesting article in NYTimes on how heart attacks are way down https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/06/well/live/coronavirus-doc... People just not wanting to go to the emergency rooms is not enough to explain it.

The article's comment section is full of people all saying how they're so much less stressed now, sleeping more etc. Work really is killing you! Mondays are well known to have the highest rate of heart attacks, and Saturdays the least.

How are you finding time to do all of this around work? I and many WFH people I know are working more than they were pre-corona, unfortunately.

I and many WFH people I know are working more than they were pre-corona, unfortunately.

This is common when people first start to work from home. You feel you have to do more in order to prove that you're working at all.

It's also common to feel that all of the time you were out of the house before is 'work time', so whatever you spent commuting before is now time you should be working.

It's worthwhile trying to fight those feelings and define scheduled hours that you work, otherwise you will find work takes over your home life.

The combination of working from home and having kids out of school is particularly rough. Either on its own would be enjoyable. Both at the same time is less so!

I appreciate the sentiments, but I'm in a line of work where we have to track billable hours. Similar to how lawyers have to do it. I have clearly defined my boundaries, and have none of the problems you have described. Really my main problem is that my higher ups are clearly not taking this seriously and are expecting people to put in the same amount of work pre-crisis. I'm thinking that is probably what a lot of my peers are going through too.

I'm with you. This crisis has also given me a certain impetus to complete projects I've always been interested in for surviving hardship, like growing food and various crafting in the garage.

I also don't feel so bad about not leaving my house.

It has been really wonderful at turning my roommates from people I maneuver around and occasionally socialize with to close allies and friends working through stuff together. With all the constant insistent pressure of the outside world removed the people you see everyday become way more special. Just my experience.

I feel completely different. I think I would be happy if I had free time, but my university is giving me more work to do now and finding the motivation to study is very difficult.

I am in the same boat, going back seems absurd. Nature is better, the air is cleaner, I am less stressed out. I don't want to buy crap and I stopped watching TV completely. I have time to talk with friends and family. I have more times for the kids, really enjoy home schooling. They are much happier too. I don't want to go back.

I don't care about getting sick of corona either.

Any advice for those being alone?

Do not watch TV and play computer games too much and stop drinking and using drugs (if you do it). It will make you depressed really fast which is big problem in isolation. Focus on positive things and try to contact your family as much as possible. This is also great opportunity to read or to learn new things like cooking or you can try to do something about current situation - sewing face covers, 3d printing face shields or whatever suits you. And the most important thing is to not pressure yourself too much. If you really are not in the mood to do something just postpone it.

* Listen to some instrumentals, if you like

* Read

* Write

* Avoid: News, Twitter

* Breath, exercise

I’ve been following the coronavirus news since mid January, spending hours a day on twitter and reddit looking at virus and financial news. There are days I take a break from it all, but overall I feel like I want to bear witness to the events as much as possible. I firmly believe the outbreak and the economic devastation are the most important events of my lifetime and it’s worth staying informed no matter how grim the news.

I don’t recommend everyone do the same, and I definitely don’t pass on all shear weight of all that’s going on to my wife, but someone’s got to try and keep up with the zeitgeist and make informed decision for the sake of my family. My hunch is we’re in for some bad socioeconomic times, worse than most are predicting, and I’m trying to do due diligence spotting trends as they start happening.

Ideally I’ll look back at this post and laugh at all the wasted energy chasing the impossibly fast news cycle...

One thing I’ve been doing is creating a list of predictions about where we are headed in order to be able to look back and evaluate whether I was able to process the firehouse of news into consequences. At least that part is fun.

> got to try and keep up with the zeitgeist and make informed decision for the sake of my family. My hunch is we’re in for some bad socioeconomic times, worse than most are predicting

This really resonated with me. While most seem to think that a return to normalcy is right around the corner, I can't shake this feeling that the world is in the early stages of multiple, massive (and potentually rapid) once-in-a lifetime paradigm shifts. Not knowing how to position myself and my family for the future (and not even knowing where to start) leaves me with this growing sense of urgency and desperation that ultimately manifests as a frantic, nonstop search for any and all information that might help.

There's got to be a better way to handle this, and I'm sure there are others out there that feel the same way. I wonder if its possible to get some sort of crowd-sourced intelligence platform built that can filter out the noise to help provide accurate, actionable information and extrapolation into trends without it devolving into some end-of-days prepper forum.

If anyone's interested in helping build such a thing, or if one already exists, please let me know!

I'm glad there are some people taking this approach, but I just can't do it. There's way too much, and the majority of it is fear based and predicated on incomplete models and assumptions. And it just feeds my anxiety with information that is rarely actionable. I also feel like there's a danger of getting so caught in the weeds of the day to day headlines that the bigger picture is somewhat lost, leading to less accurate personal predictions.

So I'm staying informed, but mainly through local news (because that's where the majority of actionable information will come from).

> There are days I take a break from it all, but overall I feel like I want to bear witness to the events as much as possible.

I've been an information junkie for most of my life, and over time I've taken the approach of taken (at most) a few topics that I 'stay on top of', and do my best to restrict going down too many other rabbit holes.

In the past I've tried to ration all my information intake, but I've come to the conclusion that there's definitely a value to 'experiencing' things as they happen, even if it's mostly the online information firehose. The coronavirus being possibly (and hopefully) a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing, makes it one of those topics.

The one reason why I sometimes shy away from the 'full experience' is when I notice the topic depresses me or causes anxiety. With the coronavirus, for some reason, I don't feel any of that (yet).

I'm so worried about what lockdown is doing to my mental state that I'm taking better care of myself than ever, and actually coming out ahead.

Running three days a week is now a delightful excuse to get outside, rather than a chore.

Strength training with bodyweight and exercise bands at requires less activation energy / admits fewer excuses than going to the gym.

Cooking at home is now the only real option, instead of something I just feel guilty about not doing.

Accidentally working 24x7 is such a real threat that I'm deliberately ending my day, switching to the other side of the kitchen table, and working on my own stuff. Usually I would get home and still be in a half on / half off state, surfing Reddit and work email at the same time.

I do find that media about the pandemic delivers a lot of anxiety and little signal. I'm keeping it down to a quick glance over NYT for anything urgent, and otherwise just bite-sized chunks of The Economist daily at breakfast, plus an episode of This Week In Virology on the weekends. It seems like a decent balance.

Yeah well at least you can go out to run. Here in Spain we're completely imprisoned :( It's a nightmare and really detrimental to our health (especially mental).

I'm actually trying to work 24/7 as much as possible because it keeps the anxiety at bay a bit.. But there's 4 days off from tomorrow which is going to be the hardest yet. And the government just announced they want to extend it until at least the 10th of May.

I assume that's coming for us too; want to use my freedom while I still have it.

You're right :'(

The day the lockdown was announced I was gearing up for a big walk in the mountains but people were already getting scared and my friends advised me not to go.. Which I followed. I soo regret not going now. Make the most of it while you can!

Sounds like you've got a pretty good routine established. Have also noticed runs becoming a highlight as well.

You're describing more or less a classic case of OCD, It's very good that you are able to identify the rituals/compulsive behavior that comes with it. You have to stop that immediately. Those compulsions are what's fueling your obsessions and causing your anxiety. You have to stop checking your news, disinfecting your phone, etc, and simultaneously stop avoiding your usual routine tasks (exercise, etc).

I have been suffering for 10 years from OCD (hypochondriasis) which has debilitated me almost a 1/3 of my life. Only recently I got it under control with meds and intensive CBT therapy.

Your advice is not good for people with health oriented OCD. The typical advice from health professionals there is to basically stop washing your hands for a period of time. Not recommended anymore.

Author here!

It's been a few weeks since I've written this and I'm pleased to say things have improved significantly with diligent focus on my healthy habits, consistent exercise and meditation, and less infinite scrolling.

Regarding the title: it was meant to be cheeky but I do apologize if it confused anyone given how little we know about the virus. I think a better one would've been `How Coronavirus Infected My Mind` but I didn't think of it then.

Stay safe and sane everyone!

Ya it is a kind of clickbaity title but I didn’t regret reading it.

My country's subreddit (france) was already difficult to bear with, but the pandemic really made things much worse.

It really got to me.

What I'm afraid of is people who spread panic and are negative. I'm really bothered by people who keep criticizing the government over anything they can. Government are not superhero daddies.

The news about the economy also seem unnecessary and irrelevant, in my view. I wish there was more focus on how third world countries are going to fight this, because I think it's going to be much uglier there.

The government of any nation, of all groups, should be designed and optimised to take criticism. Especially in times like this. If they aren't equipped to efficiently deal with criticism, then they aren't an ineffective government. It's literally part of the job description.

Also, sometimes things are negative. The idea is to not panic, assess the situation, and enact the tasks that are most likely to be beneficial to the most people. This is the theory behind triage, and a whole lot of other, unpleasant realities.

I agree with focussing more on third world countries. We're all in this together, and many countries just don't have the capacity to deal with what the next few months are going to deal out.

Sure, criticism will be handled, but governments can't lose face either. There is a lot of childish criticism. I think people should act like adults here. Governments are made of humans, and scientists don't have all the answers either.

Third world countries are at risk of becoming a new, worse migrant crisis.

A migrant crisis is the least important issue when it comes to third world countries. Massive death toll is the immediate worry.

> I'm really bothered by people who keep criticizing the government over anything they can.

Disagree. I don't want to give a blank check to a government because there is a crisis.

> The news about the economy also seem unnecessary and irrelevant

It's totally relevant. We may suffer much greater loss (even human lives) from a collapsing economy rather than from the virus.

I never talked about a blank check.

> We may suffer much greater loss

I don't think the economy is that much of a risk, when you consider the heath risk. As long as there's food, water and electricity, I don't see how the economy is a problem. If restaurants are closed, it's not such a big issue. I don't think there are problems of food security in modern, developed countries. And if there are, it means it was already being fragile in the first place.

I'm already contemplating the point of life and the company scaling down our jobs is also not helping. The economy is a huge problem. And the lockdown is literally killing me mentally.

I'd rather take a 1% chance of dying from the virus than a 25% chance of killing myself if this lasts a few months more. And I'm only 1 month in now.

How is the economy a huge problem? As long as there is water, shelter and food, you probably will be fine? I think it is a good thing it gets scaled back, that globalism is taking a good hit, that people are focusing on their own communities again. The idea that economy always has to grow was a silly idea to begin with. I learned in this crisis, I don't need to buy shit I don't need and also never will again.

I am living in Northern Europe btw, so perhaps my perspective is a bit different.

A lot of issues come with recessions. Hospitals get underfunded. Poverty generates problems such as addiction, health issues, depression. Crime raises. And so on...

Those are caused by inequality

The economy or money are not always relevant

Indeed the more socialist systems (look at northern europe) are way more resilient to economic downturns.

However a country absolutely needs to stay afloat in foreign trade, or secure domestic production of essential goods.

It's amazing how - for example - almost every country's press is managing to treat a global shortage of every single thing needed to test for coronavirus caused by massively increased demand as a unique political failing of their country's government that is literally killing people.

Treating it as a 'unique political failing' might be silly, but highlighting the problems of our JIT economies, and criticizing our governments about that, is in itself a good thing.

From cursory reading it seems many experts have been beating the drum about these types of events (global 'catastrophes') and instead of 'wasting' a bit of money to keep stockpiles up, or implement other types of policies 'just in case', many of our governments have led us here in the name of optimization, efficiency, etc. I think it's fair enough for the media to bring that up.

One of the things that amazes me is that the US press has also managed to take their government's attempts to prepare for a scenario like this and twist them around to attack the government. For example, it turns out the US government had a really long-term, forward-thinking program to develop and stockpile cheap, mass-producable ventilators for exactly this scenario - and we're talking really long-term, with the design contract signed in 2014, FDA licensing last year, and delivery in the next presidential term. This is how ProPublica titled their article about this program: "A Company Promised Cheap Ventilators to the Government, Never Delivered and Is Now Charging Quadruple the Price for New Ones". [1] They literally took the existence of this long-term, forward thinking program and used it - together with a more normally-priced rush order of less cost optimised ventilators - to create a narrative of corporate and government malfeasance.

[1] https://www.propublica.org/article/a-company-promised-cheap-...

Well look how the countries with decent healthcare are fairing, like Germany. Not many deaths per infected people. And the nordic countries.

Look how Spain, Italy and France are fucking up after spending year after year cutting funding to healthcare ever since the 2007 recession.

So yes it is their failure too. Maybe not totally as nobody could have prepared for this, but governments have been seeing healthcare as an 'indivual's problem' rather than a 'community problem' for far too long.

I very much agree about the last part. That is where the real catastrophe will likely happen, if there is no cure or vaccine found soon.

But there is little that can realistically be done about it.

>"I'm really bothered by people who keep criticizing the government over anything they can. Government are not superhero daddies."

But that's how they act, and how a lot of people expect them to be, so they have to. As a libertarian, it bothers me to no end that that's the case, but I don't think we should abstain from criticizing government. Especially when they also do have the ability and funding to solve a lot of the issues, but end up half-assing it (as the people you refer to are pointing out).

I don't think I'm ready to listen to a libertarian during a pandemic.

This sounds very relatable to me with other topics.

I have serious problems with obsessions in this vein that I believe to be pure-O (just the obsessive part of OCD) related, or in other words, an anxiety disorder. My mind latches onto things that are bad, and assumes that they will become way worse (as worse as possible), and it paralyzes me with anxiety to the point that I can't sleep some nights. I can't stop thinking about the worst possible case. Endless reading up on the subject, constantly trying to take steps to protect myself from the perceived threat.

I hate it so much. I tried to take medication to deal with it, and it helped me tremendously to stop worrying so much, but the medication caused quite bad tinnitus (it is ototoxic), and I had to stop.

I'm not discounting that coronavirus is scary, it definitely is. I wish I could take my own advice, but it would be far healthier if we could focus only on the present realities instead of fearing the worst case scenarios. If anyone knows how to do that, please advise!

My life is one long string of latching-ons, it sometimes feels like. Often at the expense of everything else.

I can't give any recommendations as far as medication goes, but for me personally this has helped:

1. therapy (or perhaps a coach) to help me jump out of my obsessions, reframe the way I see things, etc. 2. to some extent, leaning into it with a stoic/nihilistic/buddhist perspective. Basically, I get obsessed about things, sometimes these are worrying things, but instead of letting my obsession lead to depression, by reframing it as this thing that ultimately doesn't matter to me (even if it does, somehow), but also this thing I cannot stop obsessing over, it loses at least some of it's power and becomes just another obsessive 'hobby'.

So, for example, I'm obsessively following the current crisis. That is probably not very healthy to do, so I do try to not let it control my days. But practically speaking often that doesn't work. So I 'lean into it'.

I try to apply the stoic 'dichotomy of control' ("to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control"). I consider who in my surroundings I can legitimately worry about, and how I can help them (parents, calling them in their isolation, etc.).

I try to apply the stoic idea of negative visualization: what if I get infected, or a loved one does? how would I deal with it. like, in detail and practically. how would I feel about it in a few years? what, if anything, could result from that that is positive? Bittersweet at best?

I try to apply the zen/buddhist/(nihilist) thoughts: what does any of it matter anyways? what can I do today, or right now, that feels like a good thing to do, without the what-ifs and buts. I can do the dishes. I can listen to a corona-centered podcast while I do it if I feel like, but at least I can do the dishes. or send a message to a friend abroad and ask them how things are (just reminded myself and did this while I'm writing this comment).

None of this solves anything, but I find it can often help. And the better I can help myself deal with these obsessions and anxieties (or panic), the more useful I can be to others. or at least less pointlessly destructive to myself.

To prevent over-thinking at the time of sleep you can try a simple meditation technique I had shared a while ago which I've been following for several years https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17906598

Regarding how to be in the present reality: It is a natural tendency of conditioned mind to worry about the future and be guilty about the past. Ordinarily such a mind can only be in present moment when it's involved in doing something it likes. However, you can train your mind and learn the skill of being in present moment by following a simple technique. Ask yourself this question frequently throughout the day "What am I doing right now?" whenever you raise a question your mind is by its nature compelled to give you answer. SO asking this question will break whatever train of thoughts your mind has been riding through and bring you to the current moment. Now ask another question, what should I be doing at this moment? and then focus on the thing you should be doing (as in focus on eating food or sipping coffee). This technique is taken from mind full to mindful (https://amzn.to/2phvft7 )

Above all, in my personal opinion, it is important to realize that most of things that happen to us can't be controlled/managed by us. The universe is infinitely huge and I'm just a tiny spec of particle compared to its magnanimous size. A change in prospective is required which makes us focus on the deed (karma) we are supposed to do and stop focussing on the result/fruits (phal) thereof. Meditation/chanting can help in realizing this reality.

Have you previously tried joining a social group unrelated to the subject that creates the anxiety? Also, have you tried meditation, chanting or studying topics such as philosophy? Happy to connect and walkthrough my own personal experience and see if it helps you find your course? I don't believe there's 1 solution to fix everyone's problems but maybe it will give you ideas to find yours?

Have you considered other medications? I take 20mg of Lexapro a day for it and it’s no exaggeration to say my life has experienced a sea change for the better. There are many meds to try all with different side effect profiles and different efficacies in different people.

The one I tried that caused it was Zoloft. I assume the other SSRIs will also cause tinnitus by way of raising serotonin levels. But for the brief week before the tinnitus hit, it very much felt like a sea change for the better.

As I understand it, Buspirone might be worth asking your doctor about — it’s not an SSRI or a benzo, and appears in some studies to lower serotonin levels in animal brains. Anyway, worth bringing up with your doc if SSRIs are out.

Lexapro does pretty much nothing for me :(

But I'm only on 10... If I could talk to my doctor I would definitely ask for more (though I hate the side effects) but it's impossible to get an appointment now :(

Hey, here's a thing: I was on 10mg for a year, and it did almost nothing, and I went up to 15mg and literally everything changed overnight (which breaks my mental model for how that works, but fine). I was doing frequent mood check-ins and there's a dramatic effect from the day after I went to 15mg. Could be placebo, but I was super skeptical when the doctor suggested increasing the dose. Now I'm on 20mg 4 years later and it's perfect.

I am happy that I quitted all social networks before the corona crisis. I decided that contempt, destructive critic and all that were not the circuits in my neuronal network that I wanted to activate every day. Even if you have a very interesting timeline, you read a bunch of negativity mixed with the interesant bits.

With the crisis in China and Italy I got properly informed in meneame (Spanish reddit-like site). I could prepare me and my family in advance.

And the keywords are "in advance". It was very useful before the thing blowed up in our faces. There was a lot of important information about how the virus is transmitted, etc.

Now we are all full of dirt and social media is about who's fault it is. There is nothing in there that can be useful anymore. Moving on.

Well, I can't really blame the population for not taking it seriously. Even the Spanish government talked it down strongly.

And to be fair, it could have fizzled out like SARS version 1 did in the early 2000's. This is SARS version 2 after all.

>> ...at the fact that I get to safely work from home, taking on less risk but not actually being able to contribute anything useful to the larger situation

Please note and take comfort in the fact that by staying home and taking less risk, you ARE DEFINITELY CONTRIBUTING something very to the larger situation by that act alone -- you are actively reducing the risk for everyone else.

If we can also contribute other benefits, that would be a bonus for sure, but give yourself a break and don't add that unnecessary guilt to your burdens.

Stay well!

This is very true and I’m much more appreciative of that fact now. Thanks - you stay safe as well!

I keep reading from here, "Gosh I'm working so hard all the time because I'm so bored and locked in all day." Folks, I think I'm crazy, or very different from you. I'm much more, "Gosh, I can't even BEGIN my work for the day. I'm drowsy, spending two hours daily chasing delivery, talking to family overseas because I'm 6 hours behind and they're around during my work day, and WORK IS MEANINGLESS." And I like my job!

This is similar to what was happening with me too. Someone had to basically say "get to work now".

So maybe it will help you to hear too. Sit down, make a list, work through it.

Hello, fellow native Sacramentan (and the many HNers here finding this post relatable).

Addressing your items piecemeal might get things started in restoring some balance. Or, doing something more sweeping... who knows. Anyway, if I may share my take on one of those pieces:

> And of course, I’ve managed to mix in some guilt:

> at the fact that I get to safely work from home, taking on less risk but not actually being able to contribute anything useful to the larger situation

Understandably, one might very well be looking to do more.

In any case, may I suggest the idea that you are, in fact, diligently doing your part by trying to not unnecessarily put yourself out into public? That's already more than a start.

I'm not a particularly patriotic person. In fact, I'm also intentionally unregistered to vote. But, the whole distancing exercise thing is one of probably a few opportunities I'll ever have to feel like I am meaningfully serving my country. (Never mind for a moment that I'm running dry and have been trying to rejoin the workforce :)

There are quite a lot of informal reports out there of the healthcare sector being slammed.

Hello! (author here)

Great point you bring up about doing my part -- I've definitely come to that perspective in the time since writing this. There are people much more skilled dealing with things and my job is to get out of the way and not make their job harder.

Stay safe. I'd love to grab a coffee/drink once this all blows over if you're still in Sacramento!

Of course.

Pulled an all-nighter; I'll reach out later to the listed email.

And you, as well. Cheers.

I know people like this. While it's good to stay informed about some very significant events, but some people just get sucked in by its gravity (pun intended). They obsess over every detail, especially numbers and projections. They can't get anything else done. Probably sleep and eat too much, exercise not enough. All signs of classic depression, and pretty much expected TBH.

The advice I've seen from the therapeutic community is to check news a couple of times a day for new information and safety recommendations. Otherwise, do things that help you and those around you remain calm. For some people that might be productive work, and good for them, but for most it's a mix of that with other things. Don't feel guilty about being at less than full strength. And practice "anxiety distancing" to avoid making others feel more worried than they probably already are by themselves.

If you needed more anxiety: COVID-19 can do that in rare cases:

COVID-19–associated Acute Hemorrhagic Necrotizing Encephalopathy: CT and MRI Features


I felt this way around mid-March: I was spending hours checking the news and Twitter and I felt unable to concentrate on work.

After a week of constantly feeling worried and overwhelmed by the situation, I changed some things.

I now check news online news once a day and watch the local evening news on TV. I managed to dive again into my work routine and stopped checking twitter every 10 minutes.

I feel much better now. Of course I'm still worried, especially about the consequences of this on the economy (because it will affect a lot of people, obviously).

My CEO keeps repeating a sentence that might sound dumb but which actually helps a lot: "Focus on the things that are in your control and be thankful for the things you have".

You may like the old Serenity prayer, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_Prayer and with music by Sinead O'Connor - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LoZqvMryMs

Yup, and this is why it is a necessary evil that a website like HN penalizes the subject. I got cured from my obsession after I got the disease [and got cured] (supposedly, NL government does not have enough tests).

Just pointing out the irony of you being one of the first comments on a Coronavirus post, and claiming to be cured of the obsession :-)

Fair enough, but its relative. I was spending hours upon hours on COVID-19. Now I don't. 15 minutes a day, perhaps.

I really enjoy the lock down, I walk in nature, have time for the kids. The air is cleaner and there are a shitload of birds. I dunno, I am not anxious at all. I don't want to go back to the previous state either. I also stopped buying crap I don't need anyway. Stopped drinking.

EDIT: I have to state, we are not in full lockdown. We are allowed to walk around outside, as long as we don't have close contact with others. We have been in lockdown for 3 weeks now.

Had a similar experience 2-3 weeks ago when Italy, which is right next to my country, started blowing up. Going into "lockdown" and starting a new routine working from home actually calmed me down, just the notion of doing everything I can to keep safe and keep others safe.

That first week I couldn't sleep and lost like 10 pounds in 5 days, most of my working day was refreshing the number of cases in my country and smoking e-cigarettes on the balcony.

This title is clickbait. Some viruses _can_ actually infect your brain, as I first-hand witnessed by having half my face paralyzed for a month last year. Being obsessed with the news has nothing to do with that. In times where there is already a lot of panic-spreading of medical nonsense, please just keep the headlines accurate.

Since you're American, I believe that your root problem is that you have bought into the notion that it is good and desirable to be productive all the time. People then extend this to trying to better themselves by amassing more knowledge.

Have you tried sitting alone in a room with no music, no TV, and no phone for an hour? It's actually quite liberating.

And if you call it digital-detox meditation, it's fashionable, too.

> Since you're American, I believe that your root problem is

Please keep nationalistic flamebait out of HN comments. I'm sure you didn't mean it in a bad way, but intent doesn't communicate itself on the internet, and the track record of little pokes like that is that they lead to flamewars.


Your comment would be fine without that first bit. It would be more accurate, too. Many Americans are well aware of the problems with productivity worship. Many have "tried sitting alone in a room". Some have even read Pascal's maxim about it.

> Have you tried sitting alone in a room with no music, no TV, and no phone for an hour? It's actually quite liberating.

Deprivation is always liberating when it is voluntary, otherwise it is like any other prison.

While true, there can be a possibility to bend your thinking to treat it as if it is voluntary. Maybe difficult or impossible for some, but it's worked for me, at times.

I was in semi-voluntary seclusion since the end of last year, and it's been odd to notice how much worse it feels now that it is 'strongly suggested' or even enforced to a degree.

So I don't disagree with you. But after a week or two, the realization kicked in that it shouldn't feel that different for me personally, and that in an odd way I'm lucky that the thing I was already doing is now not just me being a 'sad hermit freak'. While I'm still less happy than when it was more voluntary, it's helped me a ton to reframe it like that. YMMV, of course.

This has nothing to do with nationality. I work for a global company, and EVERYONE feels the same stuff no matter where they live.

Well, panicking co-workers are bad. I have quite opposite. My manager keeps repeating, that this is just another flue.

Personally I don’t care. Isolation isn’t nice, but as long as I sit home, nothing bad will happen. I am not cashier at understaffed grocery store, not nurse in failing hospital. Life is good, keep calm!

> as long as I sit home, nothing bad will happen.

As long as food comes on your table.

I'm not worried about the virus (because I'm lucky enough to be able to work from home). I'm worried about the economic consequence.

Trust me, food will come. The riches and puppet governments do not need revolts. Seasonal field workers will get 10€/hour or even 15€/hr instead of 5€/hr like earlier and it will be all good.

It definitely does vary by location. Within a company it may not, but that company's culture will most likely be influenced by its founders/executives background.

Here in the UK there's a really noticeable difference between London and the rest of the country. In London it is considered normal to stay at work late until 6pm/7pm or later. In the rest of the UK it's considered normal to leave at 5pm/5:30pm.

I hear talk of 70+ hour weeks in the US for tech workers in the US. That isn't too much of a thing here in the UK. Especially outside of London.

> Have you tried sitting alone in a room with no music, no TV, and no phone for an hour? It's actually quite liberating.

I'd love to be able to do that. But then, instead of hearing the music, I hear the neighbours, their dogs and their kids, their TVs and their music. It's awful. I would very much like to experience silence, but the modern world denies me this possibility.

When I was living in Vietnam, I bought Bose QuietComfort. It's amazing how much they block and you don't even need to connect any player for noise compensation to work.

I usually don't watch the news, but after covid-19 I've started to follow a similar pattern as you. But in the second week, I felt very anxious and too much worried, imaging many outcomes that this disease could bring to my family and me.

So I decided to stop to consume news and to try to put in practice a knowledge that is very difficult to practice: "don't care about things that are out of your control."

So since then, I am avoiding the news, practicing social distance, and helping my family to do the same and trying to keep my work and studies. The only thing about the pandemia that every day I search on google is: "coronavirus cure". To know about new vaccines and medications that are under test.

I’ve been tempted to do a week long phone and news fast while I am stuck here. Maybe I’ll hide my browser and make myself only go online from a computer like the old days.

Even a period of a few hours of being unplugged has been so relaxing, particularly if done in the evening before bed.

That level of anxiety the author feels is what a poor person feels daily about how the next rent and food money gonna come from. That stuff takes a toll.

Are you me? Jokes aside, taking a break from the media helped a lot. I've come to a conclusion that no comment on reddit can be trusted because I wouldn't be surprised if the foreign countries spreading misinformation, trying to create more chaos in the States.

This, well, this except for the US Exceptionalism bit (other countries are also affected by this).

All I need to do is stay at home and keep myself uninfected (washing hands, avoiding contact with others, keeping myself healthy, etc). I am not needed to pass on urgent information to friends or family. I do not need to understand the science, or how it spreads (though I did enjoy Plague Inc). I'm not part of the solution, and I can avoid being part of the problem by taking sensible precautions. I don't need daily updates on the progress of the virus to do that.

To the OP: I know it's tough, but you need less information, not more. The product you describe sounds great, but it's not going to solve your problem. Solving your problem will mean redefining your relationship to social media so it becomes healthy. That's not going to be something the social media apps will do for you. That's something you're going to have to work out for yourself.

sars-cov2 has actually infected some people’s brains, making this title a bit... awkward

I try to minimize my exposure to non-actionable news. Once we went into total lockdown almost all news became non actionable so I’ve insulated myself from pretty much all of it. Just working through the $2000 of food we stocked up.

Why all this negativity? It is normal to feel anxious in this situation, to try to stay informed and to be confused about the consequences and necessary actions. You're mostly built to act on known facts and there are a lot of new unknowns right now.

Refreshing HN and Reddit all day isn't any worse than gossiping with the neighbours (which is what they would have done 80 years ago), considering the circumstances it's actually much healthier.

You will probably get used to the new situation quickly, like humans do, and find comfort in small things, like painting.

This is a good time to learn to practice meditation.

I recommend the Waking Up app by Sam Harris. It's a good guide for someone trying to learn.

it's been pretty rough. I'm currently part of a software engineering immersive program for the sake of a career change. In three weeks, I'll be job hunting to get a job to support my wife and I. The job market has my feeling pretty anxious right now.

so much stress, so little productivity despite optimizing my life around Not Going In To An Office, definitely relatable.

hey yankee, just chill ;)

being improductive is also good. why are you being so anxious about productivity in the first place? survival, more money, glory?

all fine. just take your measures and whatever makes you feel ok, life is very very very very short.

a sneeze and you are 60 years old.


Now, please leave my head.

Inaccurate title. This person is not infected.

The post is about anxiety causing them to slip into old bad habits, not about a brain infection.

It's really more like "How a global pandemic is affecting my mind and personal habits."

It's click bait. HN guidelines suggest the title should be changed in such cases.

Your handle is plenty old enough to understand that much about HN.

The title is a metaphor (or, more strictly, rhetorical hyperbole.) It's not meant to be taken literally.

Yes. I know that.

There is also absolutely no way to tell that until you click into it.

"Rhetorical hyperbole" is a fancy way of saying "click bait."


To be clear, I only read it because I was expecting a medical piece, not the usual whining about First World Problems where so many people don't know how to stop wringing their hands about our 24/7 news cycle (which isn't remotely unique to the current crisis) and then don't actually want reassurances that "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine."

It was a waste of my time.

My father fought in WW2. My mother grew up in Germany during WW2 and its aftermath. The world has been on the brink before and come through it.

The same world that was all "Meh, not my problem" when I was homeless also doesn't want to hear "The world can, in fact, get through this." So I find it hugely personally grating to read this overwrought nonsense, frankly.

> The same world that was all "Meh, not my problem" when I was homeless also doesn't want to hear "The world can, in fact, get through this." So I find it hugely personally grating to read this overwrought nonsense, frankly.

I know this was somewhat of a rant, but I still found this statement thought provoking and it clicked with me.

It can be exhausting to deal with this type of neglect and self limitation at times.

Being consistently empathic and positive is challenging to say the least.

It's not a rant. It's a very restrained statement of fact.

Given how monstrously callous the world was to me when it was just my world in the toilet and on the brink and there were adequate resources for me to be helped but I couldn't access them because fuck me, no, I don't have any empathy for some privileged person who has remote work and a lot of protection from the pandemic whining about how they are back to checking the news constantly and, oh, there isn't even any good discussion anymore on effin Twitter.

And this makes the front page and then people have the gall to defend the click bait title.

Meanwhile, when I posted about actual solutions to help less privileged people try to access remote work during this crisis, it was dismissed as content marketing for the service I work for and sometimes write about.

I also spent some time criticizing the emphasis on ventilators and being attacked for talking about my firsthand experience with lung clearance techniques. Yesterday, I posted a piece about how some doctors are concerned with the 80 percent death rate for people on ventilators and trying to do other things, some of which are very similar to things I talked about. That got three upvotes and the only discussion was someone letting me know the link was broken and someone asking me how the pandemic is impacting the homeless population.

I'm downright disgusted with quite a lot of things. But I also know from being on HN for more than a decade that people here literally don't care if I'm in danger of dying and they certainly don't care about my feelings about the whiny oversensitive BS that very privileged people have ridiculously big feelings about because they are too fragile to face a real problem, good god.

But I also know from being on HN for more than a decade that people here literally don't care if I'm in danger of dying and they certainly don't care about my feelings about the whiny oversensitive BS that very privileged people have ridiculously big feelings about because they are too fragile to face a real problem, good god.

You seem happy to denigrate other people's problems as trivial compared to your own while at literally the same time you're complaining about the title of a link on HN. I hope you understand irony.

> (...) I don't have any empathy for some privileged person who has remote work and a lot of protection (...)

What I meant is that I think it is self-limiting to be pessimistic about our future in the way you described. I think we agree on this point. As you said here:

> The same world that was all "Meh, not my problem" when I was homeless also doesn't want to hear "The world can, in fact, get through this."

There are two underlying problems here: lack of empathy / neglect and pessimism.

Being optimistic, empathic and looking for solutions is challenging. It is far easier to self-loathe but also destructive.

> But I also know from being on HN for more than a decade that people here literally don't care if I'm in danger of dying and they certainly don't care about my feelings about the whiny oversensitive BS that very privileged people have ridiculously big feelings about because they are too fragile to face a real problem, good god.

It saddens me that you experienced this. In the other hand you seem to have developed an immunity against BS through this hardship. I think many people crave for this kind of clarity on some level, especially privileged ones. I don't mean this in a cynical way. I think there is a real, acute need for people to free themselves of self-induced BS problems.

It isn't meant to be, but it is written by the author with the understanding that it will be misconstrued until reading the article. As such it is written to bait the reader into clicking. Even if it also works as a metaphor, it seems bad taste.

How can you tell it's a metaphor without clicking through? Since this is a "novel" virus, I thought it would be about some heretofore unheard of symptom.

This is a rationalization of lying for attention.

This is a case where we can disambiguate the title by appending the subtitle which interprets the metaphor.

Thank you. Just as a meme is a non-physical analog of a gene, this "infection" is a non-physical analog of a virus. We talk about ideas going "viral" all the time and very few seem to mind. The metaphor is apt. This anxiety is contagious in the way that matters. Apparently some work it out by going online and dumping all over other people for no reason. I've seen it in other forums too, but nowhere as much as here.

I find article more clickbait rather than metaphoric

On this note, i've noticed a surprising lack of any kind of personal stories or experiences being told about personally experiencing the consequences of this pandemic other than economic, being trapped in their home or the frustrations of pandemic life. The few people that have talked about having it, the NBA player comes to mind, have been criticised for talking about their experiences.

I've really yet to hear any actual accounts of anyone or their family being impacted directly by being sick. Which seems kind of odd for something that's supposedly ravaging the world horribly. With previous pandemics, the news loved to get the personal accounts of people. Every day there'd be new footage of hospital beds full of patients, stories about family members and their struggles etc. With this, nothing. Just some numbers being told every day, with no real verification as an excuse to enact some of the most fucked measures and legislation across the world.

For some reason it didn't even occur to me that the title might've been taken literally, but in hindsight that seems odd. I suppose if this is odd, the title can be considered clickbait.

The original title is "How Coronavirus Infected My Brain", and Hackernews stripped "how" (apparently [0] it does it automatically). I think with "How" it definitely feels like a metaphor, not like a claim about some symptom (I'm not a native speaker though!)

In hindsight, I guess, I should have edited it straightaway, but thought it wasn't a big deal at the time of posting.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19054830

The "how" doesn't make as much difference as you imagine. That still sounds like "The exact medical pathway by which I acquired an honest to God brain infection." It really doesn't clear it up.

(I'm only replying because you say you aren't a native speaker. The word doesn't really add clarity in this case.)

I'd say it makes a very slight difference to me, but you're probably right.

"Slight difference" isn't very different from "it doesn't make as much difference as you imagine."

I'm not claiming it makes absolutely no difference to anyone ever.

I've been caught by the fact that HN strips out "how" at the start of a title, stopped and thought about it and, in most cases, concluded it didn't really add anything of value to the title.

do smart people really have this sort of problem partitioning their brains?

It doesn't matter what sort of horrifying stressful shit i read before going to bed... when I lay down, that stuff gets turned off and I focus on going to sleep. its never really a problem for me.

Assuming 'smart people' have a higher incidence of ADHD and Asperger's, you'll find the comorbids of depression and OCD etc following them.

I learned meditation in my teens, so I can switch a lot of stuff off, but when I'm particularly stressed - it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid being overwhelmed.

Imagine trying to go to sleep after being mugged or being in a car accident and having to deal with that adrenaline rush, then being asked to sleep. It's that kind of level of stress. Some people are just more susceptible to being overwhelmed that way.

It's one reason why I avoid TV news, and Twitter ... Too many monkeys screaming panic

ok didn't think of the ADHA / Aspergers/ Autism side of things... yeah those with conditions that make it hard to control input would be a problem.

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