The consequences of this fear can lead to isolation or loss of friendships.
It is normal and legal that we are afraid of getting sick from COVID-19; well, to get sick in general. All emotions are legal, they are not subject to judgment. We all experience all emotions, and living them is not bad, but natural and adaptive.
This is how the health psychologist Silvia González del Valle, a member of the Psychology Clinic ‘In Mental Balance’ in Madrid, defends it in an interview, who also clarifies that “emotions are reactions of the body to the interpretation of a certain situation”.
Given that fear has the function of alerting us to the perception of danger or threat, and makes the body prepare to flee or escape, it is normal for us to be afraid of COVID-19, according to it, ” a new, unknown disease, of which we have few studies of how it affects humans, or how it is transmitted or whether it leaves long-term sequelae. “
What we know about COVID-19 we are discovering as we are living with it, as the neuropsychologist also recalls, and as more data becomes available. “This means that we are facing something uncertain, unknown and unpredictable, so the feeling of danger increases,” he says.
In addition, it underlines that the fear of getting sick is a normal reaction, of survival, especially at times like this when we are experiencing a pandemic and, as with any fear, the main symptoms being: Acceleration of the heart rate, difficulty in taking air, hyperventilating, sweating, stomach discomfort, or feeling of a knot in the stomach, difficulty sleeping, as well as difficulty concentrating and being relaxed.
“In fear of getting sick from COVID-19, these symptoms will appear when we are thinking about something related to the infection, or when we are in a situation where it is possible to contract the disease,” he adds.
González del Valle also believes that, as in any fear, avoidance and flight will be very present: “In the case of fear of getting sick from COVID-19, these reactions of avoidance or flight from public places can be shown, bars, restaurants, cinemas, social situations, or means of transport, among others “.
We should consult a specialist if our life begins to revolve around this fear and we have a deterioration in our social, work or personal areas
Therefore, it warns that the consequences of this extreme fear of getting sick could range from isolation to the loss of friends, to the loss of routines and pleasure in the activities that we used to like to do. “This would lead to a significant decrease in mood, and as we limit activities and give in to fear, an increase in symptoms of anxiety and worries, as well as difficulty sleeping or being relaxed, or difficulties concentrating,” he stresses.
Thus, the expert from the Psychology Clinic ‘In Mental Balance’ in Madrid stresses that we should consult a specialist if our life begins to revolve around this fear and if we also have a deterioration in our social, work or personal areas. “Also if we present very high levels of anxiety and with great frequency in our day to day, even panic attacks due to the possibility of contracting the disease,” he adds.
Starting from the idea that fear is healthy because it allows us to protect ourselves from the dangers we detect, and to be in control of situations, the health psychologist emphasizes that it is not about not being afraid, but about knowing that there is a danger and taking the necessary precautions to keep us safe, without losing our way of life. “Unfortunately, no one is safe from getting sick, not from COVID-19, or from other pathologies, but just as we do not stop driving because of the fear of having an accident, we cannot stop living because of the fear of getting sick,” he warns.
Like any phobia, the neuropsychologist maintains that we will be able to work with the extreme fear of getting sick from the knowledge of how anxiety problems are worked: “You can work at a cognitive level, using strategies for changing thoughts identifying irrational thoughts related to the disease and generating other alternatives; at a physiological level, enhancing relaxation techniques to reduce the state of general nervousness; and above all, exposing ourselves to those situations that are generating us so much anguish, both in imagination and live. “
Guidelines for our day-to-day
If we feel more concerned about our health than usual, if it is difficult for us to focus on something other than COVID-19 if we have stopped paying attention to other areas of our life, the health psychologist Silvia González del Valle advises putting the implementation of the following strategies:
1) Find clear and truthful information and from official sources.
2) Do not abuse the news, or restrict its use to once a day, because although we believe that keeping ourselves informed gives a feeling of control, being so exposed to unpleasant news, it generates a greater sense of vulnerability.
3) Ask the doctor in case of symptoms but without examining ourselves compulsively.
4) Dedicate time to other activities, social, sports, distracting, that allow us to have a busy mind, either indoors or outdoors.
“You have to know that anxiety, as a physiological response to fear, is a sensation that we can all experience, that it is something normal in people’s lives, that it prepares us for action or flight, that it is necessary and good to adapt to the problems of life and overcome them but that sometimes, high levels of anxiety make it maladaptive and harmful “, concludes the neuropsychologist and expert at the Mental Equilibrium Clinic in Madrid.