COVID-19 Phobias

COVID-19+Phobias

Lindsay Uba, Dedicated Writer

Fear is universal and a natural emotion we humans have. It makes us afraid and scared of psychological or realistic situations or objects. In this article, we’ll be dipping our toes into some phobias related to the ongoing pandemic. 

Fears vs Phobias

Okay. First of all, what is fear? Is it just an emotion that we just flip on every time we see something scary? Well… kind of. Research states that fear is in our nervous system, the thing that controls our body, and works on instinct. When we feel endangered, our neurons send hey-I-feel-unsafe signals throughout our body to react to that danger. This causes our physical responses such as sweating and a higher heart rate. It’s an engrained mechanism to prevent us from getting hurt — mentally, and physically. Think of it as a warning, an alert that we might be in danger and tells us to be careful.

Now, what is the difference between a fear and a phobia? Well, a fear is something someone is afraid of. Some common fears are of flying, spiders, and dogs.  The simplest way to think about it is by taking that fear and multiplying it by 100. It’s now a phobia. Research explains that phobias are more likely to develop when the individual has anxiety or depression running in their family.

COVID-19 Phobias

Okay — onto some corona related phobias. We’ll talk about three: maskaphobia, mysophobia, and coronaphobia.

First off, maskaphobia, the fear of masks. While researching, most sources were about the festive and colorful masks so please take everything with a grain of salt, since some information may not be towards the blue hospital masks we see today.  The source, Verywell Mind, says, “Some think that maskaphobia is related to automatonophobia, or fear of humanoid figures” while “experts believe that these phobias (maskaphobia and automatonophobia) may be rooted in our expectations of human appearance and behavior.” They go on, saying that some religions and cultures create a bad stereotype with masks — as shown in The Phantom of the Opera or Friday the 13th — thus adding to the fear of masks.  Verywell Mind states that treatment for maskaphobia is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), an intervention that helps the individual slowly change the way they think. 

Now, mysophobia. This phobia, also known as germophobia, verminophobia, and bacillophobia is one in which the individual is extremely afraid of germs, contamination, diseases, and other unhygienic things. In short, it’s a phobia of uncleanliness. It’s common and is often linked with OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. (If you’re interested, there’s more information about OCD in the link below.) The mysophobia page on Psycom states that “Some people may develop mysophobia after experiencing a traumatic event, whereas others may start focusing on germs as a result of their anxiety” along with people who have OCD, as they may obsess over germs. They continue, saying that experts believe that the increased use of hygiene tools may contribute to the rising number of mysophobia individuals in the U.S. Some signs of mysophobia are experiencing physical reactions like sweating, nausea, higher heart rate, etc. when exposed to contamination or potential contamination. They also might avoid germ-filled places and contact with objects and/or others. Treatment options are usually therapy and/or medication. 

A phobia connected to mysophobia is coronaphobia. And as you may have guessed, coronaphobia is the extreme fear of the coronavirus. Though phobia was heavily researched, not much was found, considering that the coronavirus is a very new thing.  Based on Psychology Today’s article, “Why Are We So Afraid of the COVID-19 Virus?”, I’m assuming that the causes of the coronaphobia are groundlessness, loneliness, and death. I’m also not sure about the treatment options because, again, the virus is new so not much information is found. 

Wrapping up, fear and phobias are world-wide things — so is the contagious virus. We went over three phobias related to COVID-19 but there’s plenty more waiting to be discovered. If you’re worried about having any of these phobias, please consult your parents/guardians, therapists, and doctors. The information above may not be perfect so it’d be best to talk to someone before self-diagnosing or treating.  Also, if you’re interested in any of the topics stated above, please check the links below! They’ll send you to some sources used in this article as well as some additional readings. 

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/fear

https://www.verywellmind.com/maskaphobia-or-fear-of-masks-2671868

https://www.psycom.net/mysophobia-germophobia

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-courage-suffer/202003/why-are-we-so-afraid-the-covid-19-virus

Additional Information:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-dance-connection/201807/is-it-fear-thats-stopping-you-or-genuine-phobia

https://www.verywellmind.com/automatonophobia-2671847

https://www.psycom.net/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hope-resilience/202007/how-you-can-measure-your-coronaphobia