The Corona virus has spread throughout the world at high speed over the last few months. People's life has totally changed. Existence is no longer foreseeable; instead it is subject to constant change. Travels that had been planned have had to be cancelled; social gatherings and family celebrations have been postponed. The appearance on the street has changed, as a large number of people are walking about with masks covering their nose and mouth as predicted once upon a time in a future literature.
The virus causes both acute fear of being contaminated and fear of long lasting inability to provide for oneself. The impact of the virus on the economy causes unemployment and various and vast difficulties. Psychiatrists see changes in people's mental health that may be traced to the stress that follows this epidemic. The uncertainty is like a heavy weight upon the shoulders of society. Everyone, young and old, can become ill. Making long-term plans is not possible, which in turn people find to be terrifying.
Many have written about the impact of long-term stress and pending risks to people's mental health. The Austrian physician, Dr. Victor Frankl, survived Auschwitz and wrote about his experiences. He addressed, among other things, people's reaction to immediate danger that threatens their entire safety. Terror turns into long-term stress and immeasurable fright.
Usually, the first reaction is denial and shock. Such reaction was common at the beginning of the epidemic. People minimized the impact of such illness, blindly believing in their own health. Many refused to change their ways and believed that the epidemic was not spreading to any major extent. The more denial, the greater the blow when people realized the gravity of these illnesses.
People who have a difficult disposition find it hardest to adjust to the threat caused by the virus.
According to Dr. Frankl, the next phase of such reaction to a pending terror and difficulties is apathy. People face the fact that the virus exists, however, gradually learn to live with it. The terror remains, but life continues. People begin to abide by antisepsis rules and believe that this threat is here to stay. This is quite visible in the western part of the world where people accept the decisions of the antisepsis authorities; decisions that limit people's personal freedom. They allow themselves to be confined indoors for weeks on end and consent to all kinds of limitations to their freedom of travel and gathering.
The third phase is characterized by people losing their personality features and melt in with the situation. At this phase symptoms like anger, bitterness and accusations bloom. People lose their personal characteristics and everything evolves around the virus. All interests and conventional topics of discussion disappear when the virus takes over everything. This is quite visible in all news reporting, as the news media cease their reporting about the conflict in Syria or elections; instead they focus on the number of infected people and the mortality rate.
Dr. Frankl defines certain personal distinctive features that are helpful in getting through this kind of difficulties. The most important one is to have some goal or purpose in one's own existence. People who have goals find it easier to tackle various adversities. Those experiencing much lack of purpose in their existence find it more difficult to bear the stress caused by the Corona virus or by other related problems. This is particularly helpful at the third phase of reaction, i.e. at times when the virus appears to be literally taking over all normal existence.
The different reaction by individuals towards the virus illustrates this well. People who have a difficult disposition find it hardest to adjust to the threat caused by the virus. Individuals who suffer depression or compulsion – obsessive behavior, have difficulty tolerating the extensive changes caused by the virus. People with personality disorders with persecution or paranoia find it hard to tolerate such environment of uncertainty and soon withdraw into a world of conspiracy theories. Such individuals put the virus in context with attempts by evil forces for world domination; forces seeking to oppress mankind into obedience.
This latest epidemic clearly shows how the reaction of people to this kind of stimulus is always similar, irrespective of whether this involves serious illness, natural disasters or warfare and persecution. Any kind of stress thus causes changes in man in a foreseeable manner. □