Dear Therapist:

Any suggestions with coping for the tremendous amount of stress that coronavirus is adding to our lives? The constant stream of contradictory information from doctors, the hysteria of the media, and the genuine concern regarding what seems to be a serious problem is undeniably taking up alot of emotional space in my life.  Any recommendations?

 

Response:

As far as specific information regarding COVID-19 is concerned, your best bet is to consult your physician. Although contradictory information is being disseminated, much of it is reported by, or gleaned from, unofficial sources. This is generally the case in this internet and social media age.

Most of us can usually discern between fake news and the real sort. There are a few reasons for this. One reason is the fact that we are able to slowly develop our sense of the accuracy of a particular news item. As information about an issue is spread, we form convictions about the issue. Then, as new information is obtained, we can integrate this into our understanding or discard it as untrue. Since coronavirus essentially erupted onto the global scene, and so much information is arriving so rapidly, our ability to develop a clear understanding of the facts is hampered.

Also, much of the information being circulated focuses on causes and precautions, rather than on the actual virus. The course, effects, and specific dangers of the virus are often being glossed over. Generalized fear without a clear basis can easily become a breeding ground for anxiety. We tend to be more anxious about ambiguous, uncertain concerns than about those that are well-defined.

Media sensationalism (both traditional and social) is likely adding to our fears. Traditional media often sensationalizes the news to improve readership. With regard to social media, in addition to the sheer bulk of information, people feed off of the traditional media…then add their own unsourced opinions and analysis.

When faced with a new concern, it is important for us to develop a clear understanding of the dangers involved—not just the causes and reactions. How problematic is COVID-19? Who is most likely to be affected?  In what specific ways can we be affected? In what ways can various types of people be differently affected? What are the symptoms? What is the normal course? How likely is it to become more dangerous than the average cold or virus—specifically for myself and for my loved ones? What precautions can we take, how will they protect us, and to what extent may they help us to safely surmount the virus should we be infected?

The more accurate, properly vetted information that we can obtain from official sources about the virus itself and the actual dangers that it presents, the better prepared we will be to navigate the vast amount of information and disinformation coming our way. This can help us to deal with what for many of us may be the most harmful aspect of this pandemic—the culture of fear that is being propagated. 

-Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW

  psychotherapist in private practice

 Brooklyn, NY   |   Far Rockaway, NY

 author of Self-Esteem: A Primer

 www.ylcsw.com / 718-258-5317