COVID-19: How to avoid panic. Some guidelines from psychologists.

The spread of COVID-19 has thrown most of the world's population into a state of anxiety. There are numerous pronouncements and online psychological support. Among many, we point out the guidelines "to manage fear" of Italian psychologists (for adults) and American psychologists (to support children and adolescents).

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected the whole world, many people have found themselves in a state of uncertainty never experienced before, seeing themselves forced to change their habits in the face of a fundamentally unknown phenomenon.

To come to the rescue of these individuals, the Italian National Council of the Order of Psychologists has provided a vademecum to learn how to manage fear and rationalize the problem, which is not easy in a period characterized by such upheaval.

  1. Avoid the compulsive search for information. We have seen that it is normal and functional, in a preventive key, to be afraid in front of a new risk, such as the coronavirus epidemic: anxiety for oneself and loved ones, search for reassurance, continuous control of information are understandable and frequent behaviors these days. And yet fear is reduced if you reflect on your relationship with objective dangers and therefore know clearly what happens and what to do.

  2. Use and spread reliable information sources. It is good to stick to what is known and documented. Therefore: rely only on official, up-to-date and accredited information sources.

  3. COVID-19 is a collective and not a personal phenomenon. Coronavirus is not a phenomenon that affects us individually. As with vaccines, we must protect ourselves as a responsible community. The media produce information that can have distorting effects because it focuses on news in rapid and disturbing sequence on individual cases rather than on the overall and objective data of the phenomenon. It is important to take this effect into account.

American psychologists have also drawn up guidelines for the management of emotional states during this crisis. Interesting are the indications for families offered by the National Association of School Psychologists on how to explain the situation to their children, dividing the strategies by age groups.

  • Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should balance COVID-19 facts with appropriate reassurances that their schools and homes are safe and that adults are there to help keep them healthy and to take care of them if they do get sick. Give simple examples of the steps people take every day to stop germs and stay healthy, such as washing hands. Use language such as “adults are working hard to keep you safe.”

  • Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what will happen if COVID-19 comes to their school or community. They may need assistance separating reality from rumor and fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to prevent germs from spreading.

  • Upper middle school and high school students are able to discuss the issue in a more in-depth (adult-like) fashion and can be referred directly to appropriate sources of COVID-19 facts. Provide honest, accurate, and factual information about the current status of COVID-19. Having such knowledge can help them feel a sense of control.