Covid 19- fighting fear

By Maham Jazib Hussain
Fri, 07, 20

Stay calm, stay at home, wash hands, defeat the virus and eradicate depression....


With the outbreak of novel Coronavirus around the globe, people have been fretting over what needs to be done in order to stay protected, as the virus has impacted the health of people around the globe.

With the spread of a pandemic requiring people to stay indoors and socially isolated, a spike in mental disorders was inevitable. Declining economy around the world, unemployment, social distancing/isolation and the fear of contracting the disease vastly contributed to the onset of stress, anxiety, depression and a gradual rise in suicide rate. Prolonged exposure to unwanted news regarding the virus, social media posts, whatsapp messages are factors that led to the development of psychopathologies, majorly clinical depression and suicide ideation. One of the main psychopathologies regarding the contraction of disease is, “illness anxiety disorder” which is described as “preoccupation with high level of anxiety about having or acquiring a disease“ by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychological Disorders, 2013. Such people might show avoidance behaviours that are maladaptive and the preoccupation might last longer leading to massive relapses.

Unfortunately, if someone contracts the virus, the anxiety reaches its apex, which has been observed mostly in juveniles and those working on frontlines. Recent events of patients committing suicide on being tested positive for Covid-19 has been alarming and dreadful for the community in general. This is how the fear of pandemic could disrupt mental health and can cost lives even if there are chances of recovery.

Now the question is, what could be the worst that could happen? How should one stay calm to prevent falling in the abyss of mental turmoil? Besides the chaos this pandemic has brought, the first and foremost step to be taken by an individual is to ‘not panic.’ The least one can do is to stay calm while taking all the safety measures such as washing hands, staying at home, staying distant with one another and by practising religious coping.

Keep your mental health intact by being less pessimistic. Since the onset of anxiety and depression is triggered by cognitive factors mainly, ‘sustained negative beliefs about future,’ it is better to deal with the fear through cognitive approach.

Second, your ‘perceived control’ matters. How much control do you have over yourself and your environment? If you are socially distant and in isolation, you’re safe. There is less chance of contracting the disease when you’re following measures religiously.

Third, stop paying attention to the threat. Avoid watching news, reading articles discussing death tolls and scrolling through social media needlessly.

Even if by chance one contracts the virus, a ‘positive emotional style,’ leads to resistance towards the illness following exposure. Take the medications on time and follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Then practice ‘control-enhancing interventions,’ which is learning to relax; thinking differently about the outcome of the illness will enable one to defeat the adverse effects. Instead of thinking ‘I might die,’ think about ‘I will recover, I can fight this.’

Lastly, religious coping matters. Spirituality and religious beliefs have been found to incur more life satisfaction in a patient; and, a sense of social support along with better health practices lead to a speedy recovery. This is how our mind controls the body. It is in our hands to some extent as to how we keep our mind and body in harmony.

Stay calm, stay at home, wash hands, defeat the virus and eradicate depression.