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As we were beginning to go about our lives and navigate through ‘new normal’, a shocker entered our lives yet again — a new Covid-19 variant that goes by the name Omicron. The case count only seems to be on the rise. This has filled us with severe anxiety and panic due to thoughts like, “Is it more transmissible or will it not be as severe? Will it cause fatalities?” The questions are unending.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently announced that the existing vaccines will be effective against the new variant. But since more research needs to be done in this regard, our guards are still up. How do we deal with the fear psychosis, time and again?
In a chat with HealthShots, Dr Preeti Kochar, Counseling Psychologist, IWill tells us more. “The growing fear over the new variant Omicron has impacted several people at a psychological level. People had just started to get over Covid-19 fatigue, and this news is likely to cause severe panic among people of all age groups. Fear psychosis is basically accompanied with anxiety. The individual seems to relate to the traumatic experience for more than a while. However, it doesn’t last longer than two to three days,” she adds.
More often than not, people start getting anxious at such times. They try to avoid public areas, which in turn, also affects their social life.
“Some individuals face such incidents with minimal disruption to their daily life, while others experience extreme stress or even painful psychological problems, including anxiety and depression. This state of being is coined as ‘psychosis’, which basically affects an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours.” explains Kochar.
Paranoia, another name for fear psychosis is experienced with longstanding feelings and perceptions of being persecuted. It is an extreme emotional state combined with cognitions. This degree of fear is characterised by the transformation of an individual’s normal behavior into extreme or maladaptive ways.
“Such events and excessive media coverage of destruction, dead bodies, and weeping relatives etc. often results in traumatic stress that further affects even those who were not a direct part of the mishap. Sadly, during the second wave of the pandemic, people had faced loss of family members or relatives of close friends. The calamity was too close to home for it to not affect people. This is further compounded by the restricted movement outside the house which under other normal traumatic situations allows for distraction and healing over an experience,” explains Kochar.
Being closed within four walls and only having the same family members to echo each other’s fears and thoughts without being able to vent our fears and frustrations makes it worse. At times, an individual takes more time to come out of the shock and grief.
There is no perfect method to deal with the anxiety related to the news of the Omicron virus, says Kochar. But here are a few tips that she has shared that can help:
One thing that’s certain — there’s much that is outside our control, and that includes new Covid-19 variants. “There is the idea of how much this pandemic has taken from us and a really legitimate fear about what else it will take. There are so many things that people are looking forward to and it is really devastating to think we are back in the no-control zone. When will it all end is a common question in everyone’s mind?,” says Kochar.
Wear a mask when indoors, get vaccinated, and schedule a booster if you are eligible. These are things in your control!
Notice your reactions to triggers and make behavioral modifications that help you look out for yourself.
“One coping technique is to schedule a time to get updates on what’s happening with the pandemic. However, the catch is to be in control of the pandemic updates and not letting them control you and your mind. Endlessly reading “a million news articles” can interrupt sleep and lead to sleep deprivation, anxiety, and depression, and reduce the chances that you will do healthy things that reduce stress and anxiety,” says Kochar.
Rumination is an endless cycle of negative thoughts, a bit like a hamster running on a wheel. It can contribute to anxiety and depression, but you might not even be aware that you are doing it. That is why therapy is a great option, it can help you break the cycle of repetitive negative thoughts.
Kochar says that strategic distractions, like getting into work, reading, and exercising, are all helpful and healthy coping behaviors when it comes to halting rumination.
“Catastrophizing is imagining the most extreme and worst possible scenario in any given situation. A therapist can help structure your thoughts, face your fears, help give yourself reality checks rather than letting your thoughts go spiraling downwards, taking you with them,” explains Kochar.
“One should look for someone who has had the same fears as them and has overcome them. Having a mentor, who can push you and give you support is invaluable. This way you can use each other for support. It is easier to act confident when you have a group of supporters on your side,” she concludes.