What is coronaphobia, the new mental health problem caused by the pandemic? – financial

By 2030, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that mental health problems will be leading cause of disability in the world, according to a Report of the Spanish Ministry of HealthAnxiety disorder occurs most often: it affects 6.7 percent of the population (8.8 percent in women, 4.5 percent in men). If signs or symptoms of anxiety are included, this figure jumps to 10.4 percent.

Within this spectrum of mental problems, one of the most common diagnoses is phobic anxiety disorder or specific phobia, The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines these disorders as: presence of intense fear or anxiety, immediate (almost always) and proportionate to specific objects or situations that would not ordinarily be considered dangerous and in addition, the patient actively tries to avoid or resist.

‘Malicious’ fear that doesn’t protect us

The starting point of the phobia is basic feeling of fear, Normally, it has a major adaptive function for survival. This allows it to detect real imminent threats and generate an appropriate response to them.


However, when such fear interferes negatively daily operation The person loses his adaptive character by being persistent, disproportionate, irrational and baseless in any area of ​​his life.

Actually, DSM V Considers the following diagnostic criteria for a phobia: Fear, anxiety, or avoidance causing clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. And this is the fundamental characteristic that makes phobias a mental health problem.

Epidemics, breeding ground for phobias

The COVID pandemic has destroyed the mental health of a large section of the society. Similarly, it has led to an alarming increase in mental disorders in vulnerable or more vulnerable people. The most prevalent are depression and anxiety.

More specifically, any dangerous or catastrophic situation (such as an epidemic) is the perfect breeding ground for the emergence of related disorders. extreme fear,


Thus, various studies that have been evaluated past outbreaks of infectious diseases Such as the Spanish flu of 1918 or the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, have associated these with cognitive, affective or behavioral responses that are inconsistent with any aspect associated with them.

Factors such as the risk of infection are noteworthy through physical contact or closed spaces; death or infection of loved ones; preventive measures; social isolation and loneliness; Mass job losses or financial instability, among others.

In this context, we know that not everyone is equally likely to develop a phobia when faced with a certain triggering event. This will depend on the presence of genetic and environmental factors, in addition to other specific factors. all kinds of phobias,

For example, in the case of phobias associated with pandemics (such as COVID-19), it has been observed that individual difference variable such as a lack of tolerance for uncertainty; A perceived susceptibility to illness or a tendency to worry plays an important role.

phobia associated with imprisonment

The confinement measures imposed in practically all countries at the start of the pandemic led to isolation. This has resulted in a drastic reduction in physical and social interaction and mental health impairment, Restrictions on leisure and free time also participated in this process.

Its results have been varied with regard to the mental health of people, On the one hand, most directly linked to social isolation is phobias, a phobic anxiety disorder in which a person experiences an intense fear of places or situations from which it will be difficult to escape or to seek help in an emergency.

On the other hand, isolation can also be linked to negative effects on social skills, along with a greater propensity for social phobia. The population groups most affected are teen, In this case, fear arises in social situations in which the individual is exposed to possible examination by other people.

‘Coronaphobia’ and other contagion phobias

On the one hand, the current pandemic has specifically generated what is known as one of the phobias’coronaphobia, Extreme concern for contracting COVID.

Thus, individuals with this extreme fear experience a set of unpleasant physical symptoms, leading to ideas or information relating to this disease,

This fear is truly disabling as it is strongly related to functional impairment and psychological distress and therefore has a significant impact. mental health,

Similarly, related to extreme fear of infection, it is notable obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), another anxiety-related disorder whose symptoms may be aggravated in the context of COVID.

DSM V Defines OCD as the presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both. First, obsessions are unwanted recurring and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images. For example, in the context of a pandemic, the idea of ​​capturing or infecting loved ones.

Second, compulsions may manifest in the form of repetitive behaviors that a person rigidly enforces in order to cope with the discomfort caused by the obsession. For example, frequent hand washing has been proposed as another preventive measure against infection. However, this behavior is a frequent compulsion of OCD usually associated with pollution. Thus, the action that is appropriate and healthy (not only in times of pandemic but in general) can be the basis of OCD increasing prevalence related to COVID.

evaluation of coronaphobia

Coronaphobia is a relatively new problem as it is a phobia specifically linked to COVID. However, as discussed above, there are studies on phobias related to other infectious diseases.

Because of this, and following the recommendations of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), they are developing Instruments with valid psychometric properties For the correct diagnosis of this growing disorder.

An example of this type of assessment tool is COVID-19 Phobia Scale, It has demonstrated convergent and differential validity as well as internal consistency. In addition, it has been validated in populations from different parts of the world: we, Korea And Iran,

Given the alarming situation associated with the pandemic, which remains more or less a secret for a long time, such equipment is essential. They are important not only for the diagnosis of new specific cases of coronaphobia, but also for the possible exacerbation of symptoms of patients under treatment. or even come again Which can present former patients who were already discharged.

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the author is Arranzazu Duke Moreno, Doctor in Neurosciences; Basilio Blanco Nez, director of the degree in psychology and the president of the Humanization of Healthcare, and Basilio Blanco Nez,
Research teaching staff of the Faculty of Health Sciences of the International University of Valencia, International University of Valencia

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