Is the election stressing you out? Mental health expert suggests ways to cope

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As Election Day approaches, mental health experts are noticing an uptick in clients with high levels of stress.

Regardless of the election results, a newly published UCSF study says millions of Americans may expect a decline in their mental health if they live in states that favor the losing candidate.

"To be honest I have a lot of anxiety about it," said San Francisco resident, April Anderson.

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"Staying home more and avoiding public places. If there is civil unrest I don't want to participate and I don't want to become collateral," said San Francisco resident, John Goldsmith.

To understand the mental health impact of the 2020 election, UCSF's Dr. Renee Hsia says we need to look back to the last presidential election.

"We looked at that for 6 months before the November 2016 election and 6 months after. We were able to see using every month to look at people depressive symptoms," said Hsia, UCSF Professor and Associate Chair of Health Services Research of the Department of Emergency Medicine.

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If you've been feeling a little stressed since Election Day you're not alone. Psychologists say many Americans, particularly Democrats and Republicans in the Bay Area are suffering from trauma.



The study pointed to an increase of depression.

Luz Pena: "What are you projecting this time around?

Dr. Renee Hsia: "I think given this political climate would be considered perhaps even more polarizing than the one in 2016. It's possible that if their candidate doesn't win that they could experience mental health effects. We should perhaps be prepared for that as a health care system."

That anxiety has a name: "Election Stress Syndrome."

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On Twitter Luz Pena posted a poll asking: Is the election stressing you out?

Over 73% of people voted "yes" and 24% voted "no."


Clinical Psychologist Andrea Zorbas is seeing an uptick of these cases.

"They've talked about panic attacks, they've talked about feeling very depressed," said Andrea Zorbas, Psy.D. Clinical psychologist, founder therapy now sf, and professor at University of San Francisco.

Instead of solely waiting for election results, Zorbas recommends to have a plan.

"That can look like what's my plan for election night. How can I take care of myself? Make sure that you eat. Make sure that if you choose to be around friends or family safely or virtual as some people may want to be alone," said Zorbas.

Another tip is to take a day off from social media after the election, "Social media is going to be a huge thing to monitor and to be mindful of. For some people that will be to cut off social media completely and to other is to try to avoid doom scrolling," said Zorbas.

Get the latest stories and videos about the 2020 election here.
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