The major part of negative effects come from the imposition of restrictions to freedom: voluntary quarantine is associated with less psychological discomfort.
Article published by dr. Connie Capdevila Brophy in El Periódico de Catalunya – Tribuna
See translation below.
If each crisis, as they say, brings its own opportunity, the coronavirus one offers something from the psychological point of view. To begin with, it will help in finishing with the social stigma that psychological care has had for a long time. This crisis also has a handful of collateral effects over the mental health of the population. While there have been previous investigations of the psychological consequences of quarantine during other infectious disease outbreaks, such as SARS, Ebola and MERS, we find ourselves, and this cannot be over-exaggerated, in an unprecedented situation. These investigations, conducted in small groups, special installations and a self-isolation environment, show us that symptoms of post-traumatic stress, confusion and anger are usually the first to appear. The intensity of these manifestations depend largely on: the duration of the quarantine; the fear of being infected; the frustration and the boredom; the fear of not having sufficient medical material or adequate information; the danger of suffering economic losses; and the possible stigmatization of those that suffer the disease. Some investigators found that these effects usually end up being long-term.
The majority of the adverse effects come from the imposition of restrictions on freedom: a voluntary quarantine is associated with less psychological discomfort and fewer complications in the long term. Obviously, it’s still too early to count on conclusive studies on the coronavirus case, but if we apply the lessons of the existing investigations, it is wise to potentiate the solidarity inside communities during the confinement and to extract the positive aspects of the experience.
For everyone it will be important to be conscious of how we are perceiving the situation of confinement and uncertainty. Particularly people who suffer from phobias, panic attacks or generalized anxiety, tend to have repetitive thoughts. Put simply, sentences that start with a “what if …” and contain ideas of catastrophic scenarios, such as illness, death, misfortune, economic or job loss… These are sentences that anticipate what is yet to happen for which there is no evidence that this will be the outcome. We are talking about a tendency to worry obsessively ahead of time. These thoughts generate anxiety, as do thoughts that start with “I should …” which promote stress and should be changed for “I want to …”. Furthermore, the act of ignoring the physical and psychological signs of stress, believing they will disappear by themselves, contributes to increasing the anxiety.
This kind of emotional uneasiness causes a physical and psychological deterioration, that can end up taking people to the threshold of mental disorders. In the light of this difficult situation, the Junta del Col·legi Oficial de Psicologia de Catalunya (COPC), has published in their web a set of recommendations to promote the mental well-being of citizens.
Today, it makes sense to remember the words of doctor Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO: “The world is accepting the concept of universal health coverage. Mental health must be an integral part of universal health assistance. Nobody should be denied access to mental health care because she or he is poor or lives in a remote place.” During the crisis, this point must be emphasized. Consequently, it is necessary to normalize and broaden access to psychological care, underutilized in our country. While the majority of European countries broadly have a higher ratio of professionals per inhabitant (in short, Europe has triple the number of professionals in psychology), in Catalonia, and the rest of the state, we still have a long way to go.
Connie Capdevila Brophy, PhD. Clinical psychologist. Board member of the Col·legi Oficial de Psicologia de Catalunya.