Managing COVID-19 Fears as Mental Health Professionals

Managing COVID-19 Fears as Mental Health Professionals

Eda Gorbis, PhD, LMFT

Member Since 2008

Dr. Eda Gorbis, PhD, LMFT is the Founder and Executive Director of the Westwood Institute for Anxiety Disorders in Los Angeles, California and a Clinical Assistant Professor (V) at the USC Keck School of Medicine. The Westwood Institute is often called an intensive center of 'last resort' for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), and other anxiety disorders. By integrating treatment methods with a multidisciplinary team of experts, Dr. Gorbis has brought hundreds of people with prior treatment failures to normal functioning. Her expertise was prominently featured on programs, such as "20/20," "60 Minutes," and "MTV's True Life.”  She has given over 170 conference presentations on topics related to her intensive treatment of OCD, BDD, and anxiety disorders around the world.

Dr. Gorbis and ADAA

"Back in 1994, I applied for a poster presentation for the ADAA annual conference based on my observations that there is a certain group of patients whose onset of OCD began after a certain level of trauma/PTSD. ADAA's committee accepted my presentation for a symposium which was supervised and led by one of the leading experts in the world on OCD and PTSD: Dr. Edna Foa (also an ADAA member). 

Once the poster was accepted, an unbelievable buzz went through the OCD and anxiety disorder community at UCLA. This incredible association not only accepted my paper but also found it to be important enough to be presented at the conference. Had it not been for that day at ADAA, my career could not have skyrocketed the way it did, and I would not have achieved the same levels of success. The acceptance that I felt at that conference and the sense of exuberance that rushed over me means more to me than any other peaks that I have experienced in my career. Not even the appearances on documentaries and TV shows nor the multiple awards I received could surpass the moment my supervisor passed a quiet remark that today marked the day I was accepted within the anxiety disorders community. Ever since then, I have given hundreds of presentations, and I have never missed one with the ADAA conference.

For me, ADAA was the first step in my professional journey and helped me gain the confidence to step onto other big and bright stages later in my career. I believe that ADAA can be that same stepping-stone for other young professionals. ADAA offers an incredible professional stage for anyone looking to begin their career."

Alexander Gorbis , M.A.

Alexander Gorbis obtained his master’s degree in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy from Pepperdine University and is a BBS registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT 123454). He received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Economics from the University of California, Davis. As a student, he volunteered at Sandy Segal Youth Health Center providing mental health services to youth and teens suffering from anxiety, depression, and grief. Concurrently, Mr. Gorbis worked with adults (18-55) with neurodevelopmental disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, etc. for three years. His main role as an independent living skills (ILS) instructor, was assisting clients in learning domains such as safety, nutrition, social & communication skills, housekeeping, community access and money management. Since graduating from Pepperdine, Mr. Gorbis is practicing exposure and response prevention therapy and gaining clinical experience with highly comorbid and extreme cases of OCD and related anxiety disorder. His experience has included administering supervised assessments to new patients, providing support in developing and executing exposures with patients, and assigning daily homework while maintaining a high standard of care. His current goal is to begin working toward his doctoral degree, while continuing to train, learn and grow as a clinician. Mr. Gorbis is currently providing clinical services under supervision at Renewed Freedom Center in Los Angeles.

Managing COVID-19 Fears as Mental Health Professionals

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In Office Therapy and COVID 19 Eda Gorbis

The widespread fear and mass psychosis surrounding COVID-19 may be causing more harm than good for everyone’s mental health. Some fear of contracting COVID and the possibility of spreading it to others can keep us healthy. However, intense, and long-term fear has led to significant increase in self isolation, as social contact with friends, family members, and coworkers has significantly decreased. The mass public fear of contracting the virus is above and beyond a healthy level and causing a tremendous increase in psychiatric illnesses, stress levels, depression, anxiety, and suicidality1. The disruption of our normal life has impacted people’s sleep-wake cycles and food intake as they confine themselves at home, and social isolation has led to a dramatic increase in drug and alcohol abuse 2

Many mental health professionals are now conducting patient visits virtually. I am one of the only psychologists left in my building who has stayed behind to continue in-person work while abiding by COVID protocols. Since our practice specializes in refractory OCD spectrum disorders and anxiety disorders a lot of the work done at our outpatient clinic requires in-vivo exposures, which cannot be replicated on Zoom.

Many anxiety disorders, which are on par with major medical illnesses such as heart disease, are on the rise superseding medical illnesses at an alarming rate. Paranoia of contracting COVID-19 by those who have not contracted it is astonishing. Shockingly professionals and experts in the mental health field often succumb to this fear. I only have one other colleague, head of the PTSD clinic at the VA, who is not fearful of coming into the office to continue in-person work with his patients. Every other professional I know in the field has left their office spaces, opting for virtual visits. I can count on one hand the professionals I know that have continued with in-person visits. As mental health clinicians we must set a good example for our patients whose fear of COVID may be exacerbating their pre-existing mental health conditions. How can we help them lessen their anxieties when we are setting our own example of fear by refusing to meet in person? 

While historically people have always died from colds, upper-respiratory illnesses, and pneumonia, it has not been recorded or reported to the authorities to the extent it is recorded now. Self-tests purchased today require you to record results to the government, to keep track of all positive COVID-19 cases, even when these results are not always accurate. 

At some point if the uncertainty and doubts are entertained at such elevated levels, phobia of pandemic may become a separate mental health illness. People are already displaying compulsive behaviors of looking up death rates, watching and reading media excessively, and avoiding friends and families for increasingly extended periods of time. The diversity of fears related to the pandemic should be investigated further before it becomes a DSM-6 diagnosis. Some measures must be taken to increase awareness and work towards ensuring that our patients’ mental health needs are addressed in the most effective way. 



References

1 Quadros, S., Garg, S., Ranjan, R., Vijayasarathi, G., & Mamun, M. A. (2021). Fear of COVID 19 Infection Across Different Cohorts: A Scoping Review. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.708430.

2 Babicki, M., Bogudzińska, B., Kowalski, K., & Mastalerz-Migas, A. (2021). Anxiety and Depressive Disorders and Quality of Life Assessment of Poles—A Study Covering Two Waves of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12. 

Eda Gorbis, PhD, LMFT

Member Since 2008

Dr. Eda Gorbis, PhD, LMFT is the Founder and Executive Director of the Westwood Institute for Anxiety Disorders in Los Angeles, California and a Clinical Assistant Professor (V) at the USC Keck School of Medicine. The Westwood Institute is often called an intensive center of 'last resort' for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), and other anxiety disorders. By integrating treatment methods with a multidisciplinary team of experts, Dr. Gorbis has brought hundreds of people with prior treatment failures to normal functioning. Her expertise was prominently featured on programs, such as "20/20," "60 Minutes," and "MTV's True Life.”  She has given over 170 conference presentations on topics related to her intensive treatment of OCD, BDD, and anxiety disorders around the world.

Dr. Gorbis and ADAA

"Back in 1994, I applied for a poster presentation for the ADAA annual conference based on my observations that there is a certain group of patients whose onset of OCD began after a certain level of trauma/PTSD. ADAA's committee accepted my presentation for a symposium which was supervised and led by one of the leading experts in the world on OCD and PTSD: Dr. Edna Foa (also an ADAA member). 

Once the poster was accepted, an unbelievable buzz went through the OCD and anxiety disorder community at UCLA. This incredible association not only accepted my paper but also found it to be important enough to be presented at the conference. Had it not been for that day at ADAA, my career could not have skyrocketed the way it did, and I would not have achieved the same levels of success. The acceptance that I felt at that conference and the sense of exuberance that rushed over me means more to me than any other peaks that I have experienced in my career. Not even the appearances on documentaries and TV shows nor the multiple awards I received could surpass the moment my supervisor passed a quiet remark that today marked the day I was accepted within the anxiety disorders community. Ever since then, I have given hundreds of presentations, and I have never missed one with the ADAA conference.

For me, ADAA was the first step in my professional journey and helped me gain the confidence to step onto other big and bright stages later in my career. I believe that ADAA can be that same stepping-stone for other young professionals. ADAA offers an incredible professional stage for anyone looking to begin their career."

Alexander Gorbis , M.A.

Alexander Gorbis obtained his master’s degree in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy from Pepperdine University and is a BBS registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT 123454). He received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Economics from the University of California, Davis. As a student, he volunteered at Sandy Segal Youth Health Center providing mental health services to youth and teens suffering from anxiety, depression, and grief. Concurrently, Mr. Gorbis worked with adults (18-55) with neurodevelopmental disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, etc. for three years. His main role as an independent living skills (ILS) instructor, was assisting clients in learning domains such as safety, nutrition, social & communication skills, housekeeping, community access and money management. Since graduating from Pepperdine, Mr. Gorbis is practicing exposure and response prevention therapy and gaining clinical experience with highly comorbid and extreme cases of OCD and related anxiety disorder. His experience has included administering supervised assessments to new patients, providing support in developing and executing exposures with patients, and assigning daily homework while maintaining a high standard of care. His current goal is to begin working toward his doctoral degree, while continuing to train, learn and grow as a clinician. Mr. Gorbis is currently providing clinical services under supervision at Renewed Freedom Center in Los Angeles.

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