Reducing anxiety during a world-wide health scare

By John Grohol, Psy.D.
March 23rd, 2020

CoronavirusThe novel coronavirus, COVID-19 , is sweeping the world. With documented cases in more than 70 countries, people are understandably concerned about their risk and exposure to the virus.

Like the seasonal flu, COVID-19 is spread through contact with someone who has the coronavirus via coughing, sneezing, or touching a germ-infected surface. Symptoms appear two to 14 days after infection and include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Most people who get the coronavirus experience only mild symptoms and recover quickly. People who are already immuno-compromised are at much greater risk. The fatality rate appears to be between one and three percent. While this is 20 times higher than the seasonal flu, it is much less than SARS (whose fatality rate was 9.6 percent).

Social distancing is an important part of helping to keep the damage of COVID-19 to a minimum in our country. Now is the time to practice telehealth with your clients, through whatever platform is appropriate to you and your clients’ needs. Together, we can fight to keep our irrational fears at bay.

You can help your clients by actively and empathetically listening to their concerns and fears. Then, help them respond to the most insistent irrational fears with rational responses, based upon the existing scientific knowledge about the outbreak. Following up with practice of relaxation, meditation, or mindfulness exercises can also be helpful.

In short, while unknown health scares like COVID-19 appeal to our worst fears, as a psychologist, you can help others understand what the science and data actually show. Help others put things into perspective. And keep up-to-date with the latest information at the CDC:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/

or WHO:

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/

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