On Hypochondriasis & Corona Phobia
The other day, just when Corona Virus was beginning to raise it’s ugly head, I had a couple in my clinic. Both of them looked hassled and anxious. The moment they entered my clinic, I knew what their problem were. Yes, they were under the spell of extreme fear of contracting Corona infection (which I call as Corona Phobia) and they were literally delusional as they thought they have already got the disease !There is nothing new about the condition of intense psychological fear of contracting a particular disease. We, psychiatrists, are noticing this condition for ages. So you have already understood by now that Corona Phobia is an Illness Phobia, which is otherwise, also known as Hypochondriasis.Historically, hypochondriasis as a psychological syndrome has been found to follow a certain pattern in its causation, trigger, disease progress, symptom manifestation, outcome and treatment.Diseases are an inalienable part of human life and society. Wherever there is any speck of life, there are diseases. It just cannot be otherwise. And everyone of us, right since our childhood days to our very last days, we are continually surrounded with talks about diseases and engulfed with all sorts of diseases, occuring within our family, in other families and amongst people we don’t even know personally. Disease reports are always there in the news and TV. So in essence, we grow up hand in hand, with all kinds of information about afflictions, news about diseases and often get to see our near and dear ones, suffering from one disease or the other.For very common diseases like Diabetes, Hypertension, Arthritis, Spondilitis and the rest, we seem to have developed an accepting indifference toward them. The reason is – Commonality. Well, there is another good reason, and that is, in comparison to diseases like Cancer, Alzheimer’s Dementia, Stroke, Heart Diseases, etc, diabetes and high blood pressure, aren’t immediately serious, even though, in neglected cases, things can go out of hand with serious complications. We are scared of diseases because it can be painful and it can eventually kill us. We are psychologically prone to anxiety in general and illnesses in particular. In my research, I have categorically found that if you have an inadequate personality and you grew up in a family where diseases and discussions about health and diseases were common, the chances are very high for you to develop illness phobia sooner or later.Illness Phobia is also notorious to develop in times of health crisis and pandemics, just as is the case with Corona Outbreak.In a situation like this, a major social panic sets in, which in its wake, percolates deep inside our collective psyche, this making us mentally weak and more vulnerable. There is an intersting aspect to this Corona Phobia. I am seeing many individuals now, who are either under extreme fear of contracting Corona infection, or they think that they have already got the disease and its only that the symptoms are not showing up as yet.In times like such pandemics, or for that matter, when a particular disease strikes our society, it invariably triggers a fear state. And this state is somewhat natural and unavoidable.So what to do during states of Hypochondriasis or specifically, Corona Phobia ?Here are the Do’s & Don’ts advisory for you all :1) Don’t get hyper and panicky : Get it drivelled into your head that you are only in the grip of a fear of getting a disease, which you, or for that matter, anyone can contract. The chances are 50 – 50. And if you do go on to develop the disease, it can’t be helped. You must understand and accept that most of things, good or bad, that happen in our lives, are actually beyond our control. 2) Accept that it is pointless to rack your brain and get jittery by thinking of getting the disease. It’s not going to take you to the Moon. On the contrary, it’s certain to throw you in a gutter of continual anxiety and fear, which can be unbearably crippling.3) Avoid talking about the disease. The more you talk about it, the more it’s going to get embedded into your mind.4) Face up to the reality. Corona is out there for real and indeed, the situation is worrisome. But what can I do, what can you do about it ? Just like you and me, there are millions of people all over the world who are not only ‘at risk’, but are obsessively frightened of contracting Corona. You are not here to be immortal.We are perennially under imperceptible constant threat of death. Even this scenario is entirely inescapable. The more you worry about it, you will feel more wearisome and fearful, which is not at all good for you. So refrain from getting affected by those morbid thoughts.5) Distract yourself into something you like : watch a feel – good movie. In fact, if you are confident enough, you may catch up with some movies with themes related to Pandemics and deadly diseases, namely, films like ‘ Virus’, ‘Contagion’, etc. 6) Meditate daily for half an hour, preferably, early in the morning. It’s really helpful.7) Tell yourself repeatedly that you got to be mentally stronger and tough. It pays. Mark my words.& 8) If you feel that things are bad, then get in touch with a psychiatrist or a psychologist. You are certain to get back on your feet if you do that !I am sure that you are already feeling better ! Ain’t it ?