People following the ever-unfolding COVID-19 crisis are hearing a lot of different terms thrown around, which may be hard to distinguish from each other. For example, what difference does it make if the coronavirus is considered an epidemic vs. pandemic? There are specific criteria a disease must meet before being declared one or the other. Let\u2019s go over the differences between the two and what it takes to earn the label of epidemic or pandemic. What is an Epidemic? It\u2019s common for certain illnesses, like the common cold and the flu, to pop up during certain times of the year. When the disease spreads suddenly and more quickly than what would be expected in a geographical region, it ends up being called an epidemic. Remaining limited to an area is one way to distinguish an epidemic vs. pandemic. Some epidemics that made the news in recent years include the Zika virus and the Ebola outbreak. Zika popped up mainly in tropical climates. The most significant danger was to pregnant women whose babies might end up with a congenital disability called microcephaly. Ebola spread primarily throughout West Africa from 2014 to 2016 and had a high mortality rate in those afflicted with the illness. What is a Pandemic? A pandemic is an epidemic whose effects spread beyond one region. They start as epidemics that affect a specific area. It earns the pandemic label once it moves beyond an area and goes global. HIV was considered a West African epidemic before spreading around the world, starting in the 1980s. Here are some other ways to distinguish epidemics vs. pandemics: \tThey affect a much larger geographical area \tThey infect a lot more people \tThey\u2019re typically the result of new virus strains people to which people have no built-in immunity \tThey tend to be more lethal than common flu viruses \tThey disrupt economies and disrupt normal life The leading cause of pandemics has been flu viruses. They mutate from season to season, occasionally in unpredictable ways that alter their expected behavior. When that happens, researchers and scientists must work around the clock, trying to come up with a vaccine to counter its effects. The World Health Organization (WHO) typically makes the call on whether a disease should be elevated to pandemic status. Doing so helps nations around the world organize a wide-reaching response to combat the effects of the illness in their countries. How Should I Manage My Mental Health During This Time? The growing threat of COVID-19 prompted many local and state authorities to issue mandates limiting public gatherings and interactions to combat the spread of the virus. If you\u2019re currently battling depression or anxiety, you may find yourself overwhelmed with the non-ending flow of news around new outbreaks of coronavirus in your area and throughout the country. When you\u2019re worried about how a disease will affect you and your family, you may not be concerned whether it\u2019s an epidemic vs. pandemic. Make sure you continue utilizing any tools or exercises learned in therapy to manage stressful situations. Do not neglect self-care during this difficult period. It may be harder if you find yourself working from home and with children who can\u2019t go back to school. Here are a few ways you can support yourself while dealing with the COVID-19 crisis: \tDon't give in to the temptation to drink drugs or alcohol. \tGive yourself a break when it comes to keeping up with the news around the coronavirus, including social media. \tTake care of your physical self by eating healthy meals. Try doing yoga, practicing deep breathing, or meditating. It may also help to exercise outside if you\u2019re under a stay-at-home order in your state. \tKeep in contact with others to stay engaged with positive things and prevent yourself from being swallowed by dark thoughts due to anxiety and depression. Don\u2019t be afraid to ask for help if things get too overwhelming. Reach out to a mental health professional at the Right Step by calling if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed.