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Coronaphobia is a term that emerged in a pandemic, used to designate a type of specific phobia of contracting Covid. As explained by the graduate in Psychology Diego Gomez, is characterized by excessive fear of going out, traveling (including going to a hospital or clinic), meeting other people, being in closed places. Although he clarifies that the term does not appear – for the moment – ​​in psychiatry manuals, “the fear and anxiety caused by the possible spread of coronavirus are palpable.”

In this context, he maintains that it is important to visualize the thin line that separates ‘what is healthy’ from ‘what is pathological’, what takes care of health and what harms it.

“The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated many of humanity’s great fears: to loneliness, death, poverty, illness, pain, etc. Since the beginning of the pandemic, millions of people have lost loved ones (without even being able to fire them), lost their job or the possibility of going out to earn a living, lost their previous routine, rhythm and living conditions (isolation, lack of of physical contact, the state of constant alertness, the fear of being infected or of infecting others). This seriously affected the mental health of thousands of people of all ages and latitudes”, lists the professional.

According to WHO, Anxiety disorders are the ones that have grown the most worldwide in the context of the pandemic, and they are expected to increase by a further 20% in the next 10 years.

“Although there are real fears and risks, there are also other illusory ones, created by our mind –or by social spread–, which are just as frightening. From different sectors, the opinion of the population (as well as emotion and action) is manipulated, both from fear and from recklessness (the ‘non-fear’), according to the interests at stake. All the war narrative used at the beginning of the pandemic, far from reassuring, it increased fear, concern and mistrust. The omnipresence of the subject on the screens, which report deaths and infections, collaborated in the spread of panic”, explains the psychologist, responsible for Live healthy.

Gómez clarifies that fear, like all emotions, is not in itself something “bad” or necessarily harmful. Within certain limits it is also healthy and necessary for survival. But excessive fear, he maintains, can immobilize us, weaken us, damage us, and even kill us.

As specified, fear, as well as panic, anxiety, anguish, etc. cause a deterioration of the immune system, which favors the appearance of diseases (both mentally and physically). Extreme fear (or terror) provokes feelings of “helplessness”, of “helplessness”, of “impotence”. In other words, it leaves us without resources or tools, without confidence, only despair.

With each new wave of Covid comes a new wave of fears and phobias
With each new wave of Covid comes a new wave of fears and phobiasGetty/BBC Mundo

“Our mind is so powerful that our body reacts and behaves as if that were real,” he says. It lists that the manifestations can be physical, psychological, and/or behavioral: the heart rate accelerates, the temperature rises, we sweat, we become agitated, our breathing is difficult, the stomach tenses, we tremble, we get dizzy, we can feel pain in the chest, feeling nauseous or choking, etc.

He refers that thoughts affect the body, self-esteem, mood. “Becoming aware of our emotions and thoughts is important to the extent that these are the basis of our actions,” he adds.

Phobia is defined as an intense fear of an object, space or situation unrealistically perceived as dangerous. “The Contagious phobias usually cancel the social life of the person who suffers from it: avoid contact with the world outside your own home, the time and energy involved in cleaning and other forms of control are exhausting”, mentions the consulted psychologist.

And he specifies that, due to its impact, “the fear of contagion is a serious phobia.” It is feared that some external, imperceptible object could enter the body: dust, society, viruses, bacteria, etc. “The person is prevented from performing any action that could end up infecting them. This phobia is linked to an emotion perceived as dangerous and the person is not able to stop it.

The phobia of money requires therapy when it affects the normal development of life
The phobia of money requires therapy when it affects the normal development of lifeGETTY IMAGES

He mentions that the work in therapy to attack this problem revolves around the definition of borders, the recognition of feared emotions, and exploration of catastrophic fantasies. “The growing trust with the person of the therapist will give support to the person’s body so that, progressively, it can face the feared experiences,” says Gómez.

Just as fear can be our worst enemy, it can also be our best teacher. The neuropsychiatrist and psychoanalyst Fritz Perls said that “emotions are not a burden to be emptied, they are the true engine of life.” “The steering wheel to be able to handle them is in our hands, but for that we need to encourage ourselves to feel them, and to go through them”, concludes the psychologist.

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