The Psychology Behind Corona Virus Fear

Corona Virus has entered our lives and changed it drastically. It came in as a very unexpected and unwanted guest tearing apart all our plans. All your plans were put down the drain. It did give us the freedom that we always wanted. No deadlines, no meetings, no worry about the schedule next day; but it wasn’t all merry. 

The virus travelled from China to Italy to other parts of the world disrupting lives of all. Nations went under lockdown. There was no idea when people will be able to step out. In case they did, the essentials were always out of stock. Then started the madness of panic buying! Tissues, toilet papers, sanitizers, hand washes, insulins and what not. Those who needed just 5 got 50 for themselves. Those who drained their stock didn’t even get 1. The prime-time news each day told us how many new cases were found. How many people Kanika Kapoor met and partied with. How the Tablighi Jamaat followers gathered for their Markaz and then spread around India. The rapid spread of virus in Dharavi and other parts and other such news. 

One constant thing that comes out of this is FEAR. The fear that was there as we moved from 20 cases per day to those in 100’s to now where we have more than 10k cases each day. So, lets decode the psychology behind the corona virus fear. 

WHAT IS FEAR? 

Fear is the unpleasant emotion that is caused by a potential threat of pain, danger or harm. It is also related to the amount of information available at hand.

Considering the potential harm of contracting COVID 19 and the insufficient information at hand, fear finds its way.

WHY DOES FEAR ARISE?

  • There is a potential harm of contracting the corona virus. 
  • There are a few countries today that are untouched by the corona virus fear. 
  • There is no vaccine known for battling the virus. 
  • No definitive precaution known. 
  • Number of Asymptomatic cases are on a rise.
  • Spreading of fear and miscommunication about the virus. 
  • Exaggerated news headlines. 
  • Fear of the Virus affecting our loved ones.
  • Uncertainty involved in the present situation. 

In conclusion, we have no idea how dangerous the virus actually is. 

REASONS BEHIND THE FEAR

There are many reasons why fear spreads among individuals. However, the prominent reasons behind the fear among people during pandemic are: 

  1. Availability Bias or Availability Heuristic
  2. False Claims and Misinformation
  3. Anxiety 

Availability Bias 

Availability Bias is the phenomena where one makes decisions based on the information that is available at hand. That is, the information which is recent, frequent, vivid, extreme or negative leaves a mark. Out of all the information available, our brain uses only this information while taking decisions and coming to conclusions. 

Since the outbreak of Pandemic, we are only being exposed to extreme reports of corona. Therefore, we are placed in a state of hyper-vigilance. We cannot rely on our risk assessment as the information we rely on is limited and newer information is added to it every day. 

Thus, comes out the natural reaction to uncertainty which is Fear. Poor reactions to this fear promote panic buying, blaming certain people for the spread and stocking essentials more than what is needed. 

False Claims and Misinformation

“From a mystery to pandemic in 93 days.”

“Outbreak could leave one in ten in hospital.” – The Daily Telegraph

“Healthy boy of 13 dies of the virus”- Daily Mirror

“As global death toll tops 200,000, WHO warns there’s no evidence of coronavirus immunity.” -NBC News

“Corona Virus does not spread in very hot temperatures”

Almost all of us have read and somewhere even believed this without checking our facts. But with the situation now, even in hot temperature we are getting ten thousand plus cases each day. This was about false claims. 

Talking about miscommunication, the media channels are constantly telling us how the number of corona virus cases each day. But it took the CM of Maharashtra to connect with the public in a live session to tell us that thought the number of cases has crossed the mark of 1 lakh, in reality, 50 % of them have already recovered. That was when the media channels also started telling us how many recovered. 

False claims and misinformation do nothing more than adding up to fear. 

Anxiety 

Anxiety is majorly spread from the word of mouth. In addition, there are news and media reports that spread fear. The circulation of newly added cases is more than the circulation of precautionary measures and positive stories of survivors. Therefore, a general sense of anxiety is produced. 

WHAT CAN BE DONE OF THIS FEAR? 

To tackle the fear, 

  • Go to reliable sources for any COVID-19 related information. For instance, the WHO Official Website or Government of India Websites. 
  • Take the necessary precautions like consuming hot liquids regularly, washing hands from time to time. 
  • Maintaining social distancing norms 
  • Try different breathing exercises of Yoga. 
  • In case you have any symptoms, seek medical care. 
  • Most importantly, use these simple steps to keep fear away. 

Anuya Patil 

Christ (Deemed to be) University, 

Delhi- NCR