Coping with stress is an essential aspect of self-management of systemic rheumatic disorders. For a study, researchers sought to assess anxiety and coping during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Patients receiving disease-modifying antirheumatic medicines in New York City during the pandemic answered open-ended questions regarding the pandemic’s influence on everyday life and their rheumatic condition. Voluntary replies revealed themes of stress and coping. Patients also filled out the usual Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7) scale/PROMIS Anxiety questionnaires. Anxiety levels were independent variables in multivariate analyses, whereas stress and coping themes were combined dependent factors.

The COVID-19–related stress on their rheumatic health, household, employment, and money was volunteered by 72 of the 112 patients questioned (86% women; mean age, 50). Patients volunteering for stress were younger, had more than one medication, had lower GAD-7 scores and a positive anxiety screen, and had PROMIS scores that were considerably lower than population norms (all comparisons, P<0.01; all factors remained linked in multivariable analysis). About 41 patients reported coping methods such as peer support, participation in activities, and resilience in dealing with rheumatic conditions that they had already established. Around 18 of them volunteered for both coping and stress, whereas the remaining 23 volunteered for coping but not stress. Patients in the latter (coping-only) group were older, used just one medication, and scored higher on the GAD-7 and PROMIS (all comparisons, P<0.02). In multivariable analysis, older age (P=0.02) and lower GAD-7 (P=0.03) or PROMIS (P=0.03) scores remained linked. As a result of the COVID-19 epidemic, patients experienced stress and anxiety. Analyses using common anxiety measures revealed that patients who reported coping methods experienced less distress.