Misinformation Is Rampant: Here’s How to Stay Calm During the Coronavirus Outbreak
Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 or 2019-nCoV, has officially been declared a pandemic, and you can’t escape its effects. Your local grocery store is out of toilet tissue, hand sanitizer, and cleaning wipes. The concerts, conferences, and sporting events you were looking forward to have been canceled. And on Facebook, you’re reading about conspiracy theories, homemade remedies, cruise ship horror stories, and memes blaming Corona beer or bats for the epidemic.
At this point, it’s probably hard to know what or who to believe. You may be confused about what you should be doing to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic properly. This sort of uncertainty and fear can easily cause stress and anxiety and worsen existing mental illnesses like anxiety disorder, depressive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, and schizophrenia. So what is the best way to manage your mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak when misinformation is running rampant, and people around you are panicking? Here are a few tips.
Seek Out facts From Reliable Sources
The United States has seen only a handful of infectious disease epidemics within the last 100 years, and even fewer since the advent of the internet and social media. These days, when we want to learn about something, we “Google” it — and boy, are we ever doing that. In early March, all but three of the top 20 search terms on Google were related to coronavirus. These searches lead to a wide variety of news sources — some more reliable than others.
The best sites for the latest information about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are those run by reputable news sources and leading health authorities. Here are a few we recommend for timely updates on the number of coronavirus cases, preventive measures taken in the U.S., as well as what precautions you and your family members can take:
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 site
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) COVID-19 site
- World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 site
- Your state’s department of public health (DPH) or county’s local health department websites
- In the District of Columbia: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/
- In Maryland: https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/
- In Virginia: http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/
- Reuters Media coronavirus live events page
- Washington Post coronavirus live news updates
- Local news channels
Many of these sites offer you the opportunity to sign up for daily situation reports or announcements to keep you in the loop. Remember, though, that too much exposure to even accurate news can be stressful. If possible, limit your searches to just a few times a day.
Don’t Take Posts on Social Platforms As Truth
Amid quarantine, home isolation, social distancing, and limits on travel, staying in close contact with friends and loved ones is especially important — even if you can’t see them in person. In this situation, social media can be a blessing. However, you should be wary of coronavirus-related information that’s being shared by your social connections.
Many people will share information believing that they’re being helpful. Others will purposely post misinformation to garner attention or create controversy. It’s here that the adage “don’t believe everything you read” holds — even it purports to be from a medical professional. If a post concerns you, fact-check it with the CDC, WHO, or FDA websites, public health authorities, or one of the other reputable sources listed above.
Also, be careful about engaging in social media discussions concerning symptoms of COVID-19, the spread of the virus, risk factors, preventive measures, or how President Trump or the U.S. government are handling the epidemic. Even an innocuous comment can escalate into an emotional debate, which does not contribute to good mental health.
Take Care of Yourself to Reduce Your Risk
For the majority of the general public in the United States, this is the first time you’ve been through a pandemic, thought about self-quarantine, or worried about contracting a severe illness from public spaces. It’s perfectly natural for you to be concerned, confused, scared, worried, nervous, or any variety of emotions during the coronavirus outbreak.
Now, more than ever, you need to take care of both your physical health and your mental health, particularly if you’re caring for children, adolescents, or older people. Be sure to maintain a healthy diet, exercise, and get plenty of sleep.
You can also reduce your anxiety by reducing your risk for contracting coronavirus disease and incorporating the preventive measures approved by CDC, FDA, and WHO into your daily life. These recommendations include:
- frequently wash hands for 20 seconds at a time,
- keep your hands away from your face,
- maintain a six-foot distance from others to avoid inadvertently intercepting fluid droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes,
- protect others by coughing and sneezing into a tissue or your bent elbow, and
- stay home if you don’t feel well.
Do not go to the Emergency Room unless it is a real emergency. If you believe you have any symptoms of coronavirus, which include shortness of breath, coughing, or fever, seek medical attention by calling your doctor or using their telehealth options as soon as possible, but don’t panic. Some of your respiratory symptoms could be caused by a common cold, influenza, or pneumonia instead of the novel coronavirus. Remember, too, that at this point, most cases of COVID-19 are not fatal. According to still-evolving statistics, 97-98.5% of people who are diagnosed with coronavirus disease recover.
Tend to Your Mental Health
These are extraordinarily trying and unprecedented times in the modern U.S., and Therapy Group of D.C. is here to help. If you have existing mental health concerns, have worries about the effect of the novel coronavirus on your mental health, or want to talk to someone about how you’re feeling, reach out to our mental health professionals today. Whatever your challenge, whether it’s anxiety, fear, uncertainty, or a combination of concerns, our personalized therapy approach can help you cope. To keep you and our community safe we currently provide only teletherapy.