The effects on people’s mental health are one of the most important consequences that the coronavirus pandemic has brought with it. This term encompasses a considerable number of psychological ailments that have appeared as a result of the health crisis. One of them is the excessive and permanent fear of contracting the virus, a difficult situation to delimit and define that has acquired the name of ‘coronaphobia’.
José Antonio Galiani, director of the Galiani Psychosanitary Center in Seville, explained in La Ventana that this phobia “is not different from the rest of specific phobias” In other words, it presents four sets of symptoms: “cognitive symptoms, which would include obsession by getting infected or thoughts of death; emotional symptoms, such as anguish, anxiety and stress from having this contagion; mood symptoms, when one has a degradation in their mood and even depressive symptoms; and psychosomatic symptoms, such as chest tightness, shortness of breath, or insomnia.”
Justified anxiety or coronaphobia?
But where is the line between the natural and logical concern for infection and obsession or phobia? In Galiani’s words, “psychopathology is not qualitative, but quantitative.” That is to say, “what is important is the intensity of the frequency and the duration of that symptomatology. When it generates a significant interference in my daily life, we would be talking about a psychopathological entity to which we must pay attention”.
On the other hand, not all people have the same propensity to suffer from this phobia. Something that Galiani sums up by saying that “hunger has to be combined with the desire to eat”. “Vulnerability factors, having a belief system prone to psychopathology, and other risk factors associated with a vulnerable personality” are, in his opinion, key. “The relationship between these factors and a phobia of this type is clear to end up feeling that sensation,” he explains.
The role of the media
Regarding the role of the media in promoting this type of obsession, Galiani brings up the term “infoxication”. That is to say, intoxication due to excess information that, according to his words “can undermine and weigh down the best-formed mind”, “It would be a good idea to give the news without always having the derivative of Covid. Other things are happening in life. It is important that the media play a role in the mental health of the population”, he adds.
In the same way that not all people are equally exposed to suffering from this type of ailment, those who suffer from it also belong mostly to specific social groups. “There are studies that have determined that this psychopathology affects more women between 20 and 40 years of age who go through this situation alone.” “Socio-affective relationships are very important,” he explains, “and it is a derivative to take into account when analyzing why we feel so bad.”