“Phobia” refers to an anxiety disorder in which a person has persistent, excessive, unrealistic fear of an object, person, or situation, or activity. This phobia makes the person constantly avoid the object of fear, leading to anxiety and distress.
Recent data show that fear of the Covid-19 has led to hopelessness, anxiety, depression, difficulties in coping with the “new normal,” association of Covid-19 with death, and suicidal ideas.
The term “coronaphobia” refers to an excessive fear of contracting the virus causing the Covid-19 and this fear leads to excessive concern over its effects on the body and stress over personal and job loss. It also is characterized by constant search for reassurance. These lead to marked impairment in one’s daily functions.
Constant worry causes palpitations, tremors, shortness of breath, dizziness, change in appetite, and disturbed sleep. Fear of the virus leads to preoccupation with threat-provoking ideas of death, unemployment, and danger to the family. Sadness, guilt, anger, and hopelessness ensue. Avoidance behaviors lead to excessive fear of using public transportations, touching surfaces, gatherings, and public places like markets. One may then resort to constant handwashing or constantly cleaning up or sanitizing. To have reassurance, a person constantly checks his or her temperature or vital signs, self-medicates, or uses megadoses of multivitamins. These behaviors could affect the quality of life and daily functioning of the person. Considering that the virus causing the pandemic is new, it has high transmission rate, fear of the unknown prevails.
What factors contribute to coronaphobia? There are lots of uncertainties about the new virus. Its origin and transmission is still an issue: natural or engineered in a laboratory? Its clinical effects range from mild/asymptomatic to rapidly fatal ones. We are still anxious about the vaccine’s efficacy, safety, and availability. The virus also mutates and its incubation period ranges from two days to as long as 19 to 27 days.
Labeling the Covid-19 as the worst global crisis ever since the Great Depression of the 1930s creates an environment of hopelessness, sadness, uncertainty. The World Health Organization has also warned that the worst is yet to unravel. News of celebrities, politicians, wealthy and powerful icons, sports legends, and other famous personalities worsen our fear. Likewise, constant bombardment with news of fatalities and latest statistics on the virus do contribute to the feelings of fear and doom.
Some studies have shown that these predisposing factors make it more likely that more likely that a person will develop coronaphobia: previous history of depression, coexisting medical condition, previous bout with coronavirus infection, and lack of meaningful social or family support.
It is normal or physiologic to experience anxiety and fear as we cope with changes brought about by the pandemic, but when fear of the Covid-19 becomes excessive and prolonged and it affects our daily functioning, professional help should be sought.