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COVID-19 Pandemic or Fear of the Pandemic: Which is Worse?

The unknown is at the core of the COVID-19 pandemic and with the unknown comes a natural, inbred fear.

Over the last few months, we’ve become hyperaware of our bodies and the symptoms associated with coronavirus. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic is the closest that many people will come to understanding what it means to be a hypochondriac.

Coronavirus has spread rapidly across the world in the space of several months. However, this is not all that’s spreading.

Ever since COVID-19 became public knowledge, there’s been a stark realization that illness can’t always be brushed aside. Those who have never been seriously ill are frightened that this isn’t a virus they can necessarily fight with the right medication.

The unknown is at the core of this pandemic and with the unknown comes a natural, inbred fear.

COVID-19 Pandemic and the Unknown

Now that we understand more about coronavirus, we know what symptoms to look out for. Unfortunately, there are many people who are asymptomatic altogether. Many people are also discovering underlying health conditions for the first time.

In essence, as much as we understand about COVID-19, there is still a lot that’s unknown. And, it’s this uncertainty that is instilling fear.

We’re faced with information and news about the COVID-19 pandemic daily. People are far more focused on slight feelings of discomfort and illness that they would usually brush aside.

It’s also only natural for this hyper-focus on our pending mortality and the unpredictability to cause us to fall into fear. Fear of losing our lives, leaving behind the ones we love, losing our homes and careers, and of getting others sick. For many people, their psyches have never experienced this level of fear.

The Fear Virus

How often have you feared something, only for it not to happen or be far less severe than you thought? Consider how you felt during these moments. The ongoing panic and anxiety have a severe effect on your mental state, as well as your quality of life.

Is it possible that the fear of contracting COVID and the effects it would have could be more harmful than the virus itself?

A study by the Neuroscience Education Institute highlights some of the long-term effects of fear and stress on the body and brain. After a prolonged period of living in a state of fear and anxiety, the immune system is weakened, and sleep cycles are disrupted. In terms of mental health, phobias and eating disorders can develop and people can start to disassociate from themselves.

What happens if you become a COVID-19 pandemic statistic though? Chances are, if you are healthy and don’t have any underlying conditions, the symptoms are going to be far less distressing than you’re imagining. The reality of what the healthy average person experiences is far removed from what most people are picturing.

The fear of the unknown is at the heart of this pandemic. It’s natural to be afraid of getting sick. More often than not, it’s not knowing what happens when we do that makes things far worse.

Finding Normality During Uncertain Times

We need to quell our fears if we want to navigate this pandemic as safely and calmly as possible. We need to understand that the fear of getting sick is probably much worse than the actual virus.

On the plus side, this pandemic is making people more aware of the importance of mental health. This is something that will have a positive long-term impact on society.

So, how do you stop yourself from getting wrapped up in a fear pandemic?

It starts with focusing on controlling what you can control. This will be key in facing our fears in a healthy way until we know where coronavirus will lead us. Finding out more about any underlying health conditions you might have is also in your control. As is understanding how to stay safe and taking a break from the media.

One of the effects of prolonged periods of stress and fear is a desire to isolate. Having governments implement forced isolation and the new ‘online’ everything trend also doesn’t help. However, it’s never been more important to stay connected to friends and loved ones. Focusing on the stable support systems that you currently have in place can also automatically make life less stressful.

Once you start opening up to people you trust, you will discover just how many people are feeling exactly the same way you are. This alone can make navigating difficult emotions and unpredictability that much easier.

Uncertainty is a Part of Life

Lastly, realise that uncertainty has always been a part of life. Unfortunately, the feelings associated with uncertainty have been heightened due to the mass panic and fear surrounding COVID-19. Leaning into the fact that nothing has ever been certain can help put the pandemic into perspective.

Fear can become a deadly virus if we let it get out of control. Small doses of fear are healthy, but we need to be aware of when we are crossing that fine line between surviving and letting fear affect our health.

Creating a new normal as we move through an uncertain time is possible – we are in this together after all.


Jenny Cohen Drefler

Jenny Cohen Derfler

Air Dr CEO & Co-Founder

Jenny is the CEO and one of the Co-Founders at Air Doctor. She spent more than 20 years at Intel, most recently as general manager of its manufacturing facility in Israel and before that in various engineering and manufacturing roles in Silicon Valley. Air Doctor is her second startup having previously founded electric vehicle company ElectRoad.