Here are 7 reasons why ‘coronavirus anxiety’ is so difficult to control

Here are 7 reasons why ‘coronavirus anxiety’ is so difficult to control

During the coronavirus pandemic, many health officials have been stressing the importance of looking after not only one’s physical health, but one’s mental health as well. Being overcome with anxiety, worry and pessimism, many have noted, only wears down a person’s resistance. But science writer Sharon Begley, in a listicle for Stat News, lays out seven reasons why controlling one’s “coronavirus anxiety” is much easier said than done.


Begley notes that on March 31, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued guidelines on protecting one’s mental health: “Avoid watching, reading or listening to news that cause you to feel anxious or distressed. Seek information mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones.” The journalist adds, however, that there are substantial reasons why it is difficult to control “coronavirus anxiety.”

One is “medical uncertainty.” Begley quotes Vaile Wright, director of clinical research and quality for the American Psychological Association as saying, “What we know from the psychological science is: it’s uncertainty that drives anxiety.”

Other reasons include “unfamiliarity” and “leadership failures.” According to Wright, “People in charge, especially in an environment of uncertainty, are supposed to have accurate information. When they don’t, people will doubt any reassuring statements they make in the future.”

COVID-19 is a new disease; medical experts haven’t been studying it for generations the way they’ve been studying everything from the flu to heart disease to diabetes to asthma for generations. And the fact that there is still much to learn about COVID-19 creates anxiety.

Other reasons cited by Begley range from “expert gaffes” (gaffes from those considered health experts) to “beyond control” to “personal v. community risk.”

“Uncertainty encompasses more than medical issues,” Begley explains. “People don’t know if their children’s school will close, if their jobs will disappear, if a planned trip will be scrubbed, even if their city will be put on lockdown.”

The seventh and final reason that Begley cites is “non-medical anxiety” — and she points to financial worries specifically. Although coronavirus has brought considerable misery to European countries such as Italy, Spain and France, at least residents of those countries don’t fear medical bankruptcy if they are infected with coronavirus. In her article, Begley doesn’t use the words “universal health care” — but she reminds readers that many Americans are associating COVID-19 with fears of financial ruin.

“In a survey last week by HealthCare.com of nearly 2500 people in the U.S., 48% of respondents said they are not very or not at all confident they could deal with the costs of developing COVID-19,” Begley notes. “Only 31% said they had sufficient savings to pay for the anticipated medical costs.”

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