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This COVID Side Effect Anyone Can Catch, Says Study

This new disorder is wreaking damage on even those who have never been infected with the virus.

Over the last several months, researchers have identified a bevy of long-term health complications that can arise as a result of COVID-19. While most of them involve individuals who have directly suffered from an infection, there are also people who are experiencing chronic health complications due to the impact of the pandemic itself. "Coronaphobia" is a new term researchers are using to define the long-term mental maladies — including fear and the emotional and social strain — associated with the pandemic. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

The Mental Manifestations Can Be Harmful

According to a new report courtesy of Medscape, "obsessive behaviors, distress, avoidance reaction, panic, anxiety, hoarding, paranoia, and depression" are just a few of the mental manifestations of the pandemic, which can be "distinctly maladaptive and harmful" to those suffering from the condition. 

"Simply put, I think what we are looking at is adjustment disorder,"  Gregory Scott Brown, MD, founder and director of the Center for Green Psychiatry in West Lake Hills, Texas, revealed to them. "That is probably how the DSM would define it."

Per the NIH, an adjustment disorder is a group of symptoms — including stress, feeling sad or hopeless, and physical symptoms — that can occur after you go through a stressful life event, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, illness, or other life changes. The symptoms arise due to a difficulty coping. "Your reaction is stronger than expected for the type of event that occurred," they explain. 

According to NIH published research, coronaphobia may be likely to occur in those who feel more vulnerable to the virus, suffer from general anxiety, or have preexisting mental health conditions.

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They Come Due to "Uncertainty"

Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., author of Fragile Power: Why Having It All Is Never Enough explains to Eat This, Not That! Health that he has treated an increasing number of patients who fit the bill. 

"While the bulk of the medical and media's attention has focused on the physical aspects of COVID-19, those of us in the mental and behavioral health field have been struggling to manage the raft of psychological issues the pandemic has brought into the lives of the patients and families we treat," Dr. Hokemeyer says. "These issues are for the most part manifest from the fear, uncertainty, and eternal nature of the virus." 

Dr. Hokemeyer reveals that one of his patients, a mother of three young children, describes the virus as "an invisible molester who lives in my attic. I know he's up there waiting to harm my family, but I can't take any action to have him arrested." Another, a professional man in New York City, described the pandemic as a "slow moving 9/11." He explains that at the core of both these patients' experience is, "a sense of impending doom over which they are powerless to escape." 

From his experience, the symptoms related to these feelings of "coronaphobia" are just as extreme as other severe phobias, including disrupted sleep patterns, a host of compulsive behaviors — such as spending money, eating, doomscrolling, sexual acting out and drug and alcohol abuse. "Many communities are experiencing an uptick in suicides and other self harming behaviors like cutting," he adds.

He points out that relationally, the stress of COVID-19 is causing an uptick in physical and emotional abuse, infidelity and the magnification of personality disorders such as narcissistic and borderline personality disorders. According to recent reports, the divorce rate is significantly higher than years before. 

Dr. Hokemyer suggests that the most effective treatment for the most of these disorders occurs from relational interventions and traditional psychotherapeutic modalities that are highly effective in treating mood disorders, including DBT, CBT, and REBT. 

"These modalities address the thought patterns that give rise to the emotional reactions," he explains. If the symptoms become extreme, psychopharmacological interventions such as SSRI's can be effective in reducing the intensity of the mood dysregulation and negative emotional states.

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How to Deal With This Trauma

"It's also critically important that people seek help in their primary relationships," he adds. Asking for help and providing support for others during these highly stressful and uncertain times is critically important. 

Finally, he notes that it is important to remember that while it feels as if COVID-19 is unprecedented, it isn't. "The precedent in the pandemic is in the healing that comes from the highly adaptive and tribal nature of the human race," he explains. "We instinctively come together to fight a common foe and heal in supportive and nurturing relationships with other human beings.  These instincts will enable us to transcend the challenges presented by the pandemic and move ourselves, our relationships and our world to a more elevated and healthier state of being."

And do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Get your flu shot, wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah
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