Anxiety, panic and fear about the coronavirus, called coranxiety or coronavirus anxiety, is spreading among the general public all over the world. Matters are not being helped with new cases of coronavirus infection being reported from countries other than China, such as USA, France, Italy, India, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Tunisia, Mexico, New Zealand etc.
More than 90,000 people in over 40 countries globally have been infected with the coronavirus thus far and it has caused over 3,000 deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) has named the illness COVID-19, referring to its origin late last year and the coronavirus that causes it. The current outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was first reported from Wuhan, China, on 31 December 2019. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom said yesterday that, “In the last 24 hours there were almost nine times more COVID-19 cases reported outside China than inside China.”
As coronavirus is spreading, more and more people are becoming anxious. After all, entire cities have been quarantined in China. There are travel restrictions in place throughout the world. Mental health experts say that It’s perfectly normal to feel anxiety about this emerging health crisis.
Signs and Symptoms of Coranxiety (Coronavirus Anxiety)
Dr. KK Aggarwal lists the following possible common responses during an epidemic (Aggarwal, 2020):
- Fear of falling ill and dying
- Avoiding healthcare facilities due to fear of becoming infected
- Fear of losing livelihood or not being able to work during isolation
- Fear of stigma and social exclusion and/or quarantine
- Refusal to take care of disabled or elderly people because of their high-risk nature
- Feeling of helplessness and boredom
- Feeling depressed due to isolation
- Possible anger and aggression against government and lack of trust in its information
- Unnecessarily approaching the courts
- Relapses of mental illness in already mentally-ill patients
Coping with Coranxiety (Coronavirus Anxiety)
Here are some ways to cope with the inevitable anxiety you will feel regarding the threat of getting infected with coronavirus.
1. Get the Facts about Coronavirus
Gather information that will help you accurately determine your risk so that you can take precautions. Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak from a credible source you trust, such as the WHO website and national and local public health authority. Limit worry and agitation by lessening the time you spend watching media coverage that you perceive as upsetting.
WHO say that (WHO, n.d.) coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as MERS and SARS. The current coronavirus infection is by a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people.
Coronavirus spreads from person to person via cough droplets. It’s very unlikely it can be spread through things like packages or food. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long. Depending on how virulent the virus is, a cough, sneeze or handshake could cause exposure. The virus can also be transmitted by coming into contact with something an infected person has touched and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. Caregivers can sometimes be exposed by handling a patient’s waste.
The symptoms usually start between 2 to 14 days after you get infected. Common symptoms include runny nose, sore throat, headache, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. But these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
As per the CDC, “People are most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms.”
2. Don’t Inflate the Risk
As Psychcentral.com notes (Grohol, 2020), we take something that is made to sound scary and unknown, and inflate the risk of it actually happening to us. It’s a part of our brain’s intrinsic, built-in fight-or-flight response. So a new virus outbreak is scarier than an existing health epidemic. Many news outlets and other sources of information online and social media overemphasize the problem — and its accompanying risks.
The ordinary flu is so far responsible for 15 million infections, 140,000 hospitalizations, and 8,200 deaths in the United States just this season. In comparison, as of March 2, 2020, the coronavirus has only infected approximately 90,000 people around the world (the vast majority of them in China) with just over 3000 deaths. It is believed the coronavirus’s death rate may be around 2%. In short, the flu is far more common and so kills far more people every year. While the coronavirus may be more deadly, it’s not clear that it will infect as many people as the flu does.
So, remember, outbreaks like this do occur from time to time throughout the world. It’s normal. While they can be very scary — especially if you live in a highly-infected area — the actual chances of your becoming infected are very small if you take common-sense preventive precautions.
3. Learn about Its Prevention (WHO , n.d.)
Standard ways of preventing infection spread include wearing a facemask (specifically a respirator, as explained below), regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. These precautions can allay coranxiety (coronavirus anxiety).
Wear a facemask or respirator
Forbes says that (Haelle, 2020), the type of face covering that reduces exposure to airborne particles—including protecting the wearer from viruses and bacteria—is called a respirator. These medical respirators/masks must have an efficiency rating of “N95,” “FFP2,” or a similar rating that refers to how many particles—and of what size—can’t get through. If you are caring for someone with COVID in your home, it is wise to wear a mask when in close proximity to that person, who should also wear a mask.
Wash your hands frequently
As Tara Haelle notes in her Forbes article (Haelle, 2020), the best way to protect yourself from the coronavirus is to regularly wash your hands with soap and water. Coronavirus is an ‘enveloped’ virus, which means that it has an outer layer of fat. Washing your hands with soap and water has the ability to ‘dissolve’ this greasy fatty layer and kill the virus.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick. Wash your hands before and after eating and try to train yourself not to touch your face, “especially your mouth and nose”, without washing your hands first.
Maintain social distance
If you see someone coughing or sneezing or otherwise looking sick, stay at least three feet away from them since that’s as far as most droplets will travel. When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
Practice respiratory hygiene
Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. Do this because droplets spread virus.
If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early
Stay home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover. Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19 and other viruses. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention. Follow the directions of your local health authority. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.
4. Keep Connected
Maintaining social networks can foster a sense of normality and provide valuable outlets for sharing feelings and relieving stress. Hence, feel free to share useful information you find on governmental websites with your friends and family. It will help them deal with their own anxiety.
5. Use Your Past Coping Skills
Using what has worked in the past to help manage feelings of anxiety is usually a good bet. Maybe it’s correcting the irrational thoughts with rational, fact-based responses. It could be reaching out to a trusted friend or family member, just to talk through your anxiety. Or maybe it’s engaging in some mindfulness or some other meditation techniques. Whatever works to help relieve your stress and reduce your anxiety, try to do more of that in times like this, when you feel like the stress of this virus outbreak is getting to you.
6. Seek Professional Help, If Need Be
Individuals who feel nervous, anxious, or sad, or other prolonged reactions that adversely affect their job performance or interpersonal relationships should consult with a trained and experienced mental health professional. Psychologists and other appropriate mental health providers can help people deal with extreme stress.
Aggarwal, D. (2020, February 27). Coranxiety: Corona Anxiety. Retrieved Mar 3, 2020, from eMediNexus: https://www.emedinexus.com/post/16618/coranxiety:-corona-anxiety
Grohol, J. M. (2020, February 3). Coronavirus Anxiety: 4 Ways to Cope with Fear. Retrieved March 3, 2020, from PsychCentral: https://psychcentral.com/blog/coronavirus-anxiety-4-ways-to-cope-with-fear/
Haelle, T. (2020, February 29). No, You Do Not Need Face Masks To Prevent Coronavirus—They Might Increase Your Infection Risk. Retrieved March 3, 2020, from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/tarahaelle/2020/02/29/no-you-do-not-need-face-masks-for-coronavirus-they-might-increase-your-infection-risk/#591d880c676c
WHO . (n.d.). Basic protective measures against the new coronavirus. Retrieved March 3, 2020, from World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
WHO. (n.d.). Coronavirus. Retrieved March 3, 2020, from World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus