Coronavirus Scare and the Anxious Mind

How worried should we be about the novel Coronavirus?

This is the question that none of the articles I have read were able to answer. And I will not give an answer to this question in today’s post. The internet is a dangerous place if you’re suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety or any other mental illness.

So, I’d rather write about things that help me keep my anxiety under control. I will never forget the 2009 swine flu pandemic, even though it was eleven years ago (time flies, does it not?). The first few days of the outbreak were hell on earth for me: I spent most of my days worrying, googling and doing rituals for protecting myself from the virus. And at that time, I was not able to defeat my anxiety – the only thing that could put an end to it was actually catching the virus. Pretty ironic, is it not?

At the time of the swine flu pandemic, I was 16 years old – now I am 27. And I have changed a lot over the years: I haven’t been able to fully overcome my OCD and my GAD, but I’ve learnt how to keep them under control. – Note: I initially posted this article at the end of January and since then the situation has gotten a lot worse – which means it is now having a much higher impact on my OCD: OCD & Coronavirus: Confessions of An Anxious Mind

So, do I spend most of my days worrying about the Coronavirus? No!

Most of the articles about the Coronavirus will scare you to death and I really do not want to say that it is something that we should not care about or that it is not a dangerous thing. But let’s be honest: the mainstream media is far from being OCD friendly and I really hope that I can help some people by sharing my thoughts and experiences.

Stop Googling!

I am addicted to Google – I just love it and I could not imagine my life without it . And by “stop googling” I do not mean that you should totally stop using it, but I think using it for seeking reassurance is definitely a bad idea.

Why?

Because OCD does not like uncertainty. And because if you’re suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, it’s very likely that you’ll always think of the worst case scenario. So Google will not be able to give you the answers that you need: and even if it did, would you be satisfied with it or would you just keep googling? If you have OCD, the answer is that you’ll keep googling! And the worst thing about spending hours on the internet reading about the symptoms and dangers of a new virus is that you will find very scary things and you will not be able to decide what is true and what is not.

Of course, you should not put your head in the sand and it is very important to know what is going on in the world – but if you see that your googling is going out of control, just go out for a walk, call a friend or do something else.

The mainstream media is not OCD friendly

People with OCD tend to worry about a lot of things. Every OCD sufferer is different and some of us do not obsess over contamination and viruses but a lot of us do! Which means that we should not be told to be very careful because we are already chronic worriers.

I do not have cleaning OCD but I have always been scared of germs, bacteria and viruses. So I love washing my hands – to be honest, I do not think that it is a compulsion because I will not be anxious when I can not wash my hands.

But there are a lot of people who do not worry that much about hand washing, touching handrails or coughing on someone. And this is why I do not think that it is a bad thing that the media is full of scary headlines – but it does not necessarily mean that you should spend your days worrying about a new virus.

Try not to seek reassurance from your loved ones

Sometimes we need reassurance. But we should not overdo it.

Let’s say you ask one of your loved ones if they think this new virus was something dangerous. Now, if they tell you that it was nothing to worry about, will you feel better? Probably yes, but only for a couple of minutes/hours. Then your OCD will force you to seek reassurance again and if there’s nobody you can talk to, you will feel much more worried than before!

And then, what if someone tells you that they thought this was a terribly dangerous virus and the apocalypse was on the way? You wouldn’t like to hear this answer, would you?

Accept Uncertainty

Accepting uncertainty is a very difficult thing to do – especially if you have OCD. But we can not exercise full control over everything. Religion helped me a lot to accept uncertainty but I know that not all my readers are religious, so if you have any useful techniques that help with accepting uncertainty, please share them in the comment section! 🙂

Educate yourself on OCD

OCD is a vicious cycle of doubt and guilt. It is never a good idea to start an argument with your inner OCD voice, because believe me: you will lose. The little OCD monster will always be able to come up with new “what if” questions:
“They said this new virus was not dangerous, but what if it is? And what if I already have it? Like they said in our country we did not have it, but what if they were not telling the truth? “

Want to learn more about OCD? Please check:
OCD & Coronavirus: Confessions of An Anxious Mind
6 types of OCD
What is it like to live with OCD? A day in my life.
OCD: a vicious cycle of doubt and guilt
Magical thinking OCD
OCD: Living a lie
12 things that will help you overcome OCD
Set yourself free: How to break the vicious cycle?
Demons are real: stop Negative Self Talk

Escape from the prison of your own intrusive thoughts

I do not want to be a hypocrite. Sometimes OCD takes over you. And in those moments, one thing that really helps is literary escaping your thoughts. We can not always run away from our problems but when I feel that I can not handle my own worries anymore, I will just go out for a walk, go running or meet a friend – and it always helps! 🙂

Final thoughts: Be Alert

The reason why I published this article was not telling people that they should not care about the new coronavirus or that we should just ignore the news. Of course, it’s important to stay alert and to protect yourself. But I perfectly know what it is like to obsess over a new disease and I thought it’d help some of you if I shared my own experience and ideas.

And as you know, there’s one thing that I love more than writing my own stories: reading yours. So please share your thoughts in the comment section! 🙂

Mark Wester

6 thoughts on “Coronavirus Scare and the Anxious Mind

  1. These are great tips, thank you for sharing. An acquaintance of mine lives with health anxiety, and before meeting her, I had little understanding of the extreme and debilitating panic that can be felt by sufferers at even the slightest chance of contracting an illness. It’s difficult, because their fear isn’t necessarily completely unwarranted – it’s true that coronavirus has spread. However it’s important to keep things in perspective; the risk is still classified as low. I think even those of us without health anxiety/OCD (etc) can sometimes become over-anxious about contracting illnesses, especially when the media hypes up the tension. So, it’s important to do our own research on the actual risks, and try to keep our efforts to avoid the illness in proportion with the true risk of getting it. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey there 🙂 apologies for the late reply! And thank you very much for reading my post and for the encouraging feedback.
      Yes! Health anxiety can actually make one’s life a living hell. I really hope that your acquaintance is doing better nowadays.
      I agree with you: I guess most of the people can become over-anxious about illnesses and with the new coronavirus its actually pretty understandable to be honest because we do not know too much about it at the moment, but what I normally tell myself is that these things are out of my control: so it will not help if I worry about them. And obviously, I have significantly cut down my Google usage.

      Blessings

      Mark

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “It is never a good idea to start an argument with your inner OCD voice, because believe me: you will lose”

    —So true, and I learn and re-learn this all over again! I mostly have this problem with the rumination/time OCD, where I try to argue with myself that I need to analyse this thing quickly, or that I DON’T need to analyse it. The only way out of it for me is to realise that ANY kind of reasoning is nonsensical and just leads to more pain and frustration!

    I was actually hopeful that you were going to talk about the Coronavirus then! Thankfully I don’t find those things sources of OCD anxiety. Do you ever get people trying to argue with you that you SHOULD be reading these things because you need to be informed?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Robin

      Apologies for the late reply – currently in Georgia with no mobile internet.

      Thank you 🙂 I too felt that I had to write about it. Thanks for God, I do not have people telling me that I should be reading these things but it is almost impossible to check your Facebook feed without noticing any post about the new coronavirus. Do people tell you that you should read the news?

      Honestly, I think it is important to be well-informed but people who tend to worry a lot about their health and different illnesses are very likely to take all precautions against any possible infection. Like for example i do not have to be told to carefully wash my hands because I do that already 😀

      And thats true! Arguing with your inner voice is ALWAYS the worst idea. I like your method: thank you for sharing! 🙂 for me its either telling myself that I would always lose the argument or just finding something else to do – which sounds pretty much like escaping from my own thoughts, thats why I do not like doing it that much

      Blessings

      Mark

      Liked by 1 person

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