Fear of COVID-19 can cause mental stress, says expert

A flutist plays 'By loving forces silently surrounded...' by Dietrich Bonhoeffer on her balcony, as people practice social distancing due to coronavirus in Erfurt, central Germany, Sunday, March 29, 2020. (AP Photo)

A Turkish psychiatrist on Monday said that while social isolation was the best answer to stem the spread of coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic, it has the potential to create psychological issues.

"Social isolation can create a feeling of restriction and helplessness, therefore, people can get depressed," said Emre Tolun Arıcı, a psychiatrist, who teaches at the Istanbul-based Uskudar University.

He said that fear of coronavirus can cause mental and psychological disorders, which may lead to panic attacks. He suggested that those getting psychiatric treatments should attend to therapies and take prescribed medicine.

Arıcı also noted that intra-family communication and socializing through technology with friends can be helpful to keep people out of depression.

"It is natural for people to have this concern due to the process that we are in now. However, it is important to keep this anxiety at a certain level," he said.

He said people should take their measures, especially anxiety patients should take extra care and not miss their treatments.

On the effects of the virus on the panic attack patients, Arıcı said the coronavirus outbreak may increase the severity of their psychiatric illnesses and it can cause anxiety symptoms.

"If people are too focused on the physical symptoms of the virus, symptoms of anxiety, such as shortness of breath, a feeling of suffocation, fever, can be understood as the symptoms of COVID-19. This situation can trigger panic attacks," he said.

Further, to prevent extreme and needless worry, he said it is necessary to sleep regularly, to eat healthily, to pay attention to experts' suggestions, and not get exposed to excessive news about the virus.

The coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China last December and has spread to at least 177 countries and territories.

The number of confirmed cases worldwide has now surpassed 737,000, while the death toll is more than 35,000, and over 156,500 have recovered, according to data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

Despite the rising number of cases, most who become infected suffer only mild symptoms and recover.

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