All You Need to Know About Coronaphobia

In this blog post, we will talk about the fear of Coronavirus, what are its symptoms and effective ways of dealing with coronaphobia. 

What is Coronaphobia?

Coronaphobia is the fear of getting the human coronavirus.

This fear is expressed by various behaviours, considered excessive or not, such as: avoiding public places, wearing a surgical mask and gloves when you are in public, maintaining a social distance of at least 2 meters.

Uncertainty about a virus little known to us has created a huge wave of public anxiety.

The Internet is full of articles and information, your mother sends you desperate messages and your co-workers seem to talk nonstop about it (if you are still working in an office and not from home).

Therefore it is extremely easy to get into a state of hypervigilance that can lead to episodes of anxiety and panic.

Indeed, the circumstances in which we live are truly special, and coronavirus should, without a doubt, alert you, but not to the point of panic, but rather to a state of healthy vigilance.

Although this virus is unpredictable and the situation continues to evolve in an unpleasant direction, let’s focus on what we can control. 

It is natural to experience a wide range of emotions when it comes to coronavirus. You may feel:

  • Anger, anxiety, worry or panic
  • Troubles focusing
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive cleaning behaviours
  • Fear of people who are coughing or looking sick
  • Fear of crowded areas

What’s going on in our brains?

To understand what is going on in the brain, we need to first clarify the following terms:

Fear – is the emotion we feel when we face a different, external and unknown challenge.

Of course, this emotion creates a greater or lesser background of discomfort.

Adaptive anxiety – occurs in response to changes or stress in the form of an unpleasant, anticipatory sensation.

It is a common, healthy experience that prepares the individual and causes him to take the necessary steps to prevent a threat or to minimize its consequences.

Pathological anxiety – is an inadequate response by intensity and duration to a given or anticipated stimulus that can be real or imaginary.

It is intense, persistent and can become disabling.

In the case of the Coronavirus epidemic, we can talk about any of these emotional reactions.

In all three cases, the stress response begins in a region of the brain called the amygdala.

It is part of the limbic system, that set of structures responsible for emotions and memories. 

The amygdala also activates the areas involved in the control of motor functions (what do we do in the face of danger – do we run or stay?

Do we fight or freeze?). 

This is also the time when hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline are released.

All these reactions lead to bodily changes that prepare us to be effective in dangerous situations.

In the case of people prone to anxiety disorders, the response to fear is no longer effective but disrupted by changes in brain activity.

Then the anxious behaviours appear. 

What are phobias? 

Fear plays an important role in our survival. It signals dangerous situations, with fatal potential, and mobilizes us to move away from them.

The problem is when fear becomes irrational, exaggerated. Our survival instinct is activated in situations that are not really dangerous.

 Not every fear is a phobia, and the difference can be noticed by a psychiatrist.

According to the DSM (Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders), the diagnostic criteria for phobias are:

  • Marked fear or anxiety about a particular object or situation. In the case of children, they may not be able to verbalize the fear, but it comes to the surface through crying, seizures, freezing or hanging by their parents;
  • The phobic situation or object almost always causes an immediate reaction of fear or anxiety;
  • The phobic situation or object is intentionally avoided or endured with intense fear;
  • Fear or anxiety is disproportionate to the danger posed by the situation or object in the given context;
  • Fear, anxiety or avoidance of the trigger stimulus are persistent, and last more than 6 months;
  • Fear, anxiety or avoidance cause clinically significant stress or impair the proper functioning of social, occupational or other areas;
  • These manifestations cannot be explained by another mental illness, such as other phobias.

Symptoms of Coronaphobia

We all have fears, but phobias tend to be seen as unjustified or excessive compared to ordinary fears.

Anxiety caused by a phobia of bacteria is proportional to the damage they can cause.

Someone suffering from misophobia may end up taking extreme measures to avoid contamination.

The symptoms of virus phobia are the same as the symptoms of other specific phobias.

The emotional and psychological symptoms of germaphobia include:

  • intense terror or fear of Coronavirus disease
  • anxiety, worries or nervousness related to exposure to bacteria
  • excessive fear in situations when viruses or other bacteria are present
  • inability to control the fear of infection

Behavioural symptoms of germaphobia include difficulty concentrating on daily activities due to fear of infection (for example, the need to wash your hands excessively).

The fear of bacteria and viruses is persistent enough to affect your daily life.

People with this fear end up avoiding any activity that could lead to contamination, including having sex.

Sometimes anxiety caused by the phobia of illness leads to compulsive behaviours.

People with misophobia frequently wash their hands, shower and wipe clean surfaces.

Although these repeated activities could effectively reduce the risk of contamination, they make it difficult to focus on anything else.

 

Treatment of Coronaphobia

The goal for the treatment for germaphobia (misophobia or coronaphobia in our case) is to help you improve the quality of your life.

Phobias are treated with therapy, medications and self-help measures.

Therapy, also known as psychotherapy or counselling, can help you deal with the fear of viruses.

The most successful treatments for phobias are exposure therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Exposure therapy or desensitization involves gradual exposure to the triggers of misophobia.

The goal is to reduce anxiety and fear caused by viruses/bacteria. Over time, you regain control of your thoughts about microorganisms.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is usually used in combination with exposure therapy.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)

The cognitive-behavioural theory explains the mechanism of phobias and provides the solution.

The most effective method of treating flight phobia is exposure therapy.

It is the method in which, with the guidance of the specialized therapist, the client is gradually exposed to the feared stimulus, in order to reduce his sensitivity to it.

Some studies show that 90% of people whose treatment included exposure to a real flight continued to fly even after a year or four years, when they were contacted again.

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (TERV)

This is actually the exposure therapy mentioned above, only a much more accessible and comfortable option for patients.

The patient has a virtual experience, with the help of a headset and a chair that transports him inside a simulated plane.

It is almost as real to the participant’s nervous system as the ones we usually fly with.

The effectiveness of this method has been proven and is comparable to that of the classical method.

In addition, it has many advantages:

  • low costs,
  • high accessibility
  • the option to program the conditions of the environment to which the patient is exposed.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

This form of therapy is mainly used to treat trauma. As mentioned above, phobias can be caused by traumatic experiences.

In addition, if a person has a phobia, any exposure to the phobic stimulus is in itself a traumatic experience.

Therefore, it makes sense for EMDR to work in these patients as well.

During therapy sessions, the patient is asked to think about negative memories that fuel the phobia, while also focusing on an external stimulus.

The most common stimulus is the sound of the therapist’s palms, which causes the eyes to move sideways. 

With the help of this technique, the emotional stress is reduced, the physiological response is diminished and the negative beliefs are reformulated.

An advantage of this method is that it only takes a few sessions for spectacular results.

Medication for Coronaphobia

Therapy is usually enough to treat a phobia.

In some cases, medications are used to relieve anxiety symptoms associated with short-term exposure to microorganisms. These drugs include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

How can you help yourself

Certain lifestyle changes and home remedies could help alleviate the fear of illness.

These include:

  • Practice mindfulness or meditation
  • Other relaxation or yoga techniques
  • Regular exercise
  • Get enough sleep
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Confront situations of fear when possible
  • Reduce caffeine or other stimulants

How to manage anxiety caused by Coronaphobia

  1. Be up to date with news, but not the fake news – it is important to be up to date with what is happening and to be informed by reliable sources (World Health Organization, National Center for Surveillance and Control of Communicable Diseases, Ministry Internal Affairs, Ministry of Health). Don’t consider social media articles and comments unless they are from an official and reliable source.
  1. Look ahead – while you are informed and up to date with everything that is happening, don’t forget to focus on what you can control. Take media breaks so as not to unnecessarily fuel your panic. If you are bothered by endless discussions about coronavirus, it is in your power to stop the wave of unsolicited information. 

Anxiety and panic can be kept under control by limiting the time spent watching the news and scrolling on social media.

The concept of availability bias is defined as a thinking error that predisposes us to give more importance to past events that we can easily remember.

This non-stop media cycle determines a state of hyper-vigilance that perpetuates itself, and the consecutive emotional state affects our ability to assess the risk. 

  1. Keep in touch with reality – not everyone you come in contact with has or is suspected of having coronavirus. Although you need to be careful and take preventative measures, it is important to know that not everyone who coughs suffers from coronavirus. 

It is good to keep in mind that symptoms such as fever and cough manifest in a multitude of other diseases and that unjustified assumption about others can lead to forms of stigmatization and marginalization. 

  1. Keep up with your routine as much as possible – it’s hard to stay normal when a state of emergency is in place; when you can’t travel, schools are closed and all events have been cancelled, while “social distance” is the phrase of the day, a kind of sinister mantra that it repeats itself in your head endlessly. 

BUT it is important not to give up your routine.

Routine makes people feel safe. Especially children need to keep a rhythm of the day.

So sleep as much as you need, eat at regular hours and do activities that you enjoy – such as reading a book, watching your favourite show, playing a family game.

You can even take a walk. As long as you are not in quarantine and avoid congestion, fresh air will do you good.

If none of these tips helps you stay sane, it is recommended to contact a mental health professional.

It will help you identify the elements that trigger your anxiety and panic episodes and will teach you how to manage them.

This type of consultation can also be done online.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Conclusions 

In this blog post, we found out that coronaphobia is the fear of getting the human coronavirus.

It can manifest as taking extreme measures to avoid contamination. 

Therapy, also known as psychotherapy or counselling, can help you deal with the fear of viruses.

The most successful treatments for phobias are exposure therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Certain lifestyle changes and home remedies could help alleviate the fear of illness.

Remember to practice self-care and ask for help if you feel you cannot manage coronaphobia by yourself.

Please feel free to ask any questions or to share your experience with the coronavirus epidemic. 

Recommendations

  1. Coronavirus – 50 Strategies to Manage Lockdown Anxiety
  2. Epidemic Anxiety and Social Distancing
  3. (Coronavirus) Mental Health Guide
  4. Coping With Coronavirus: How To Stay Calm and Protect your Mental Health A Psychological Toolkit
  5. Colouring Book for Healers: Stress Relieving Designs, Quotes and Affirmations 
  6. Living with OCD & coronavirus: Anxiety in a world of Coronavirus

What we recommend for Phobias

Professional counselling

  • If you are suffering from Phobias then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you address the fears you are facing.

Panic Courses

  • Phobias and anxiety go hand in hand and in the end they result in Panic. A panic course such as this may help you alleviate those feelings of fears as it has with over 50,000 people.

Weighted Blankets

Weighted Blankets may help you sleep better if your phobias are affecting your quality of sleep. Weighted blankets apply enough weight on you that they make you feel much more relaxed and calm at night

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