Psychiatrists warn people against coronavirus phobia

25 Mar 2020


Suggest adopting precautionary measures without getting panicked. — AFP/File
Suggest adopting precautionary measures without getting panicked. — AFP/File

PESHAWAR: The psychiatrists have warned against coronavirus phobia among the people as it is resulting in self-testing and self-medication.

“Do not panic,” they advised people and urged them to stay home and adopt social distancing approach till the pandemic was over. They said that people continued to throng laboratories to get tested, which was against medical advice.

“One aspect is that people are underestimating the intensity of pandemic of coronavirus severe virulent infection as they don’t take necessary measures to prevent its spread while some have developed severe phobia of getting the virus despite not having any signs and symptoms,” Dr Mian Iftikhar Hussain, a consultant psychiatrist, told Dawn.

Suggest adopting precautionary measures without getting panicked

He said that people had developed severe panicky state and got palpitation, dryness of mouth and numbness of whole body besides interrupted sleep and waking up during midnight with panic attacks.

“Such people get worrying thoughts as to what will happen to their families, wives and children if they die. They rush to hospitals with suffocating and respiratory distress, psychological in nature, for investigations and treatment,” said Dr Iftikhar.

He said that people thought that their family members were going to die.

He said that even well-educated persons left cities for their villages because of the fear of getting infection. “People are also getting panicky and have started unnecessarily buying food stuff, tissue papers, toilet papers and sanitisers. Masks and sanitisers have disappeared from markets,” he added.

The psychiatrist said that people having phobic anxiety disorder about the infection could give auto suggestions to themselves.

“They have fever, cough, throat or chest infections. Nothing will happen to them. They should lie down, take deep breaths and hold on as long as they can. Then they should release it slowly and repeat this thrice a day,” he added.

Dr Iftikhar said that they could do relaxation and desensitisation therapy by that practice and through imagination by taking themselves to a comfortable place of choice. He said that 95 per cent coronavirus infection passed uneventfully and body got immunity against it.

“Only five per cent infected people get lungs and respiratory complications entailed complications. The person having severe phobia should contact psychiatrists,” he said.

Prof Bashir Ahmed at psychiatry ward of Khyber Teaching Hospital said that people were generally frightened. He said that anyone having common cold, cough or fever, believed he might have developed coronavirus infection.

He said that some psychiatric patients, who suffered from hypochondriasis, were prone to develop the phobia as they feared the worst all the time. Some rush to hospital, seeking treatment and others start self medication.

“One must take all precautions including social distancing, avoid unnecessary visits to hospital where chances of getting infections are much higher than other places and frequently wash hands with soap,” said Prof Bashir. He said that self medication, especially with ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, was dangerous and must be avoided.

“I want to clarify that not every cough or flue like symptoms are due to corona. In such cases one must not panic, just stay home, check fever randomly and you should be fine. Even if someone develops corona, in majority of the cases symptoms are mild and they improve spontaneously without requiring hospital treatment, however, if there is difficulty in breathing then they may go to hospital,” he said.

Prof Bashir said that presently there was no treatment for corona infection and treatment was only symptomatic and for complications such as breathing difficulties and high-grade fever. “Seek medical help only if symptoms are marked or there is clear contact with a confirmed corona patient,” he suggested to people.

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2020