Coronaphobia is Happening
The COVID-19 pandemic has been life altering in a variety of ways. Now, after about a year of dealing with the effects of COVID-19, researchers have coined the term and confirmed coronaphobia is happening. While it is only natural to feel some anxiety living through a global pandemic, coronaphobia refers to extreme health anxiety specific to the fear of contracting COVID-19. All the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, and when it will get better, has made it easy for many people to catastrophize and spiral into overwhelming dread and fear. As we continue to deal with the effects of COVID-19, it is important to understand the difference between a normal, healthy anxious reaction and coronaphobia. If you are struggling with coronaphobia, you are not alone. Follow along as we dive into the essential components of coronaphobia and how therapy is helping.
Essential Components of Coronaphobia
Again, most people are feeling some anxiety from the pandemic. Anxiety is a normal response to the increased levels of stress during this time. Many people, however, wonder if their anxiety level about COVID-19 is normal, or if they are too worried about the virus.
COVID-19 is a disease that affects us physically. Although, it is becoming more apparent that there are multiple socioeconomic and psychological ramifications. Amongst these ramifications is the emergence of coronaphobia. Coronaphobia is defined as an, “excessive triggered response of fear of contracting the virus causing COVID-19.” Additionally, those dealing with coronaphobia may experience: excessive concern over psychological symptoms, stress about personal and occupational loss, increased safety seeking and avoidance behaviors. Essentially, the symptoms of coronaphobia impair your ability to function day-to-day. The definition of coronaphobia provided by researchers implies three essential components:
The three components discussed below reinforce the process of fear. First, there is the psychological component. To begin, the fight or flight response of fear is triggered. Triggers include situations and contact with people that then causes you to question your probability of virus contraction. Some examples of triggers include, going to a store, meeting up with friends, going to work, traveling, leaving the house, reading the news, or falling ill. Once the fight or flight response is triggered, constant fear and worry sets in. You may experience physical symptoms such as, palpitations, tremors, difficulty breathing, dizziness, change in appetite, and sleep.
Next, the cognitive component kicks in. Coronaphobia causes you to become preoccupied with fear of the virus. Moreover, the constant fear causes threat provoking cognitions. For example, “I will die if I contract the virus,” or “I will lose my job if I get sick and then I will have no money to support my family”. The cognitions you have may trigger further emotional responses. You may feel angry, guilty, or sad.
Lastly, there is the behavioral component. The triggered fear you have of contracting the virus will cause you to change your behavior. To prevent the consequences of a situation, an individual may engage in extreme avoidance behaviors. Some may go as far as avoiding all public places and situations, including grocery stores and public transportation. Over-indulgence in health-related safety behaviors like washing hands or sanitizing surfaces may occur. An increase in reassurance behaviors is also likely to occur. Reassurance behaviors include constantly checking body vitals, confirming absence of illness, self-medicating, or rechecking sanitation. These reassurance behaviors may make you feel better in the moment, but they perpetuate fear which ultimately leads to phobia.
How Therapy is Helping
The good news is therapy is helping many people manage their coronaphobia. The treatment of choice for specific phobias is exposure-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The focus of exposure therapy is to change your response to the object or situation you fear. In the case of coronaphobia, the fear is contracting COVID-19. The thought is through gradual, repeated exposure to the source of your specific phobia and the related thoughts, feelings, and sensations may help you learn to manage your anxiety. Obviously, those with coronaphobia cannot be repeatedly exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. However, they can be gradually and repeatedly be exposed to the triggers of coronaphobia, thus evoking the related thoughts, feelings, and sensations. For example, your exposure therapy may progress from looking at pictures of a grocery store, to going near a grocery store, to eventually being able to enter a grocery store.
CBT combines exposure therapy and other techniques to learn new ways to view and cope with the feared situation differently. CBT is based on the interconnectedness of thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors. When someone struggles with a phobia, they have developed automatic negative thought patterns that kick in as soon as the feared situation is encountered. The idea is through CBT sessions, you can counteract these negative thought patterns by replacing them with more realistic interpretations and predictions regarding the situation you fear. Learning to develop a sense of mastery and confidence over your thoughts and feelings, rather than letting them overwhelm you, is the emphasis of CBT treatment. The goal of therapy treatment for phobias is to improve your quality of life so that you are no longer restrained by your phobias. Contact a therapist today to gain control of your coronaphobia and your life.
Get Help Now
You may be under the impression that you do not need to treat your coronaphobia because Covid-19 will be gone soon enough. This could not be further from the truth, especially if your coronaphobia is interfering with your daily functioning. It is important to take the steps to manage your health anxiety before it becomes entrenched, causing a more long-term problem. The skills you will learn in therapy to manage your coronaphobia and correct anxiety-evoking thought patterns will be invaluable and applicable for the rest of your life.
Chriselda Santos, licensed psychotherapist and certified life coach, is passionate about helping people face their anxiety and phobias head on. She believes in confronting life’s inevitable difficulties and equipping you with the skills to better handle and overcome those challenges. Chriselda compassionately provides both in-person and online therapy options where she will help you cope, reframe your way of thinking, and help you feel hopeful again. For more information, or to book an appointment, visit Chriselda’s website.