Psychological Aspect of COVID 19 Outbreak
Today the whole world is fighting a battle against a small bug, which is the Coronavirus. Although the Outbreak started in the Wuhan of China, it was, later on, declared as a Pandemic by the World Health Organization. According to the data provided by WHO, nearly 8,50,000 confirmed cases have been reported globally with about 42000 deaths till April 02, 2020. The numbers are expected to rise in the future. Currently, the main focus of the world is rightly on the economic effect and the Transmission of COVID 19. But the virus is also going to take a psychological toll from people.
This COVID 19 outbreak has led to the emergence of Stress and Anxiety among the populations. The reason for the anxiety may be the fear of getting infected, concern about the infected people, or lack of resources. The Corona outbreak has changed the situation around us very rapidly. Schools, offices, public gathering places are shut down; the social lives of people are ruined. Also in future younger people may have to face problems related to haphazard of daily routine and extended periods of stay at home.
Many more people die from road accidents and seasonal flu globally. But why this outbreak has led to the development of anxiety among people? One of the reasons may be the media. A study conducted after the Bombings of 2013 Boston Marathon found that Media Coverage of collective traumas may trigger psychological distress outside the directly affected community.
(1) Studies have also found that Social Media may escalate anxiety more than traditional media and too much media of any kind can affect mental health. One of the studies conducted by Pew Research Centre reported that women, people with lower income, persons who have lost their job or had their income cut were more prone to high-stress levels than others. The study also reported that dealing with child care responsibilities in these days of school closure is also a kind of stressor for many people. Fear of personal threat (of getting infected or of the financial crisis) was found to be associated with higher levels of distress. Health Care workers are on the frontline in this war against COVID 19. They are at high risk of developing stress and other mental health symptoms. The increasing workload, deprivation of personal protective equipment, increasing number of cases may be the potential stressors for them.
(2) McAlonan et al.
(3) examined the immediate effects of emerging infectious diseases on healthcare staff and found that people who were directly at the risk for SARS reported high rates of depression and anxiety in addition to chronic stress. A study was recently published which reviewed the Psychological effect of Quarantine. First of all, it is necessary to know the difference between quarantine and isolation. Quarantine is basically a restriction of movement of people who are at potential risk of developing a contagious disease to prevent its transmission to other people while isolation is the separation of people who are suffering from a contagious disease from other non-sick people. The study identified the duration of quarantine, fears of infection, inadequate supplies, frustration and boredom, inadequate information as the primary stressors during the quarantine period. Financial loss and social stigma were identified as the main stressors in the post quarantine period.
(4) In this outbreak, Children are exposed to lots of new information and high levels of stress and anxiety in adults around them. The psychological needs of children are compromised during this pandemic. However, ignoring the immediate and long-term psychological effects of this global situation would be unconscionable, especially for children and young people, who account for 42% of our world’s population.
(5) Providing children with authentic information and setting the communication with children as priority is very essential to deal with this.
How to reduce stress and anxiety during this period?
- Consume media in a healthy way- Our Body has a fight and flight response mechanism which operates in response to some sort of physical or emotional stress. This fight or flight response is important to take the necessary steps for our protection. This response is mediated by Adrenaline which is also correctly referred to as Stress hormone. Whenever we hear a piece of bad news then our body releases Adrenaline in response to this emotional stress. News Channels take advantage of this, as people are more likely to watch bad news (the ones that would cause harm to them) than something good. In these days of lockdown, people tend to watch news channels most of the time throughout the day. These make people more stressed and anxious. This does not mean that people should stop watching news channels because it is very essential to be informed about the disease. But the media consumption should be in a healthy way. Set a particular time for watching the news.
- Limit the information source- It is not necessary that we read each and every article or watch every news related to this outbreak. The source of information should be limited but authentic. Beware of myths and fake news that become popular these days as they can increase the anxiety level.
- Collaborate with others but without Physical contact- Boredom and frustration can make a person more anxious. So try to collaborate with others on the social media platforms. Make use of video conferencing, texts, and telephones if possible.
- Try to pay attention to a physical manifestation of stress- Physical manifestation of stress differs from person to person. This may be a headache, back pain, drowsiness, etc.
- Try to share your feelings with your loved ones- Try to talk to your loved ones. Share your feelings. Tell them how much you love them. All this will reduce stress and anxiety.
- Choose a healthy routine and a regular bedtime- Do not compromise your sleep in this outbreak. Studies have proved that lack of sleep is associated with higher levels of stress and anxiety among people.
- Don’t be anxious about the things that you can’t change- You should accept the things that you cannot change while show courage to change the things that are under your control. Develop wisdom to differentiate between the two. You cannot control the ever-increasing number of cases or develop a vaccine, so don’t be anxious about such issues. Instead, you can contribute to maintaining social distancing and following government orders.
- Holman EA, Garfin DR, Silver RC. Media's role in broadcasting acute stress following the Boston Marathon bombings. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014;111(1):93–98. doi:10.1073/pnas.1316265110
- Lai J et al. Factors associated with mental health outcomes among health care workers exposed to coronavirus disease 2019. JAMA Netw Open 2020 Mar 23; 3:e203976.
- McAlonan GM, Lee AM, Cheung V, Cheung C, Tsang KW, Sham PC, et al. Immediate and sustained psychological impact of an emerging infectious disease outbreak on health care workers. Can J Psychiatry. 2007;52(4):241-7. doi: 10.1177/070674370705200406. [PubMed: 17500305].
- Samantha K Brooks, Rebecca K Webster, Louise E Smith, Lisa Woodland, Simon Wessely, Neil Greenberg, Gideon James Rubin. The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. Lancet 2020; 395: 912–20 Published Online February 26, 2020 https://doi.org/10.1016/ S0140-6736(20)30460-8
- Coming of age: adolescent health. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/health-topics/adolescents/coming-of-age-adolescenthealth (accessed March 11, 2020).
- How to talk to your child about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/how-talk-your-childabout-coronavirus-covid-19 (accessed March 11, 2020).