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COVID-19: Panic is the most devastating symptom

Extreme situations trigger intense emotions, and the new coronavirus has set off a wave of chaotic behaviour.

The last few days have been overwhelming with information, half-information and pseudo-information. Some are striving to build a reasoned opinion and trying to behave in the circumstances. There are also those who avoid dealing with the situation, devalue the alarms and justify with ignorant arguments. There are also those who are dominated by their own fears and prepare themselves for doomsday, making huge stocks of toilet paper.

Times like these are a threat to menta health because they challenge our capacity to deal with emotions of fear and loss of control. These are circumstances that require us to act as rational adults who seek reliable information and make personal sacrifices for the general good. Mental health is, above all, consequence of the maturity of the personality, and is revealed in the way we behave when we are challenged by life.

Understanding Panic

We all have a natural tendency to fight for survival. Our brain is programmed with instincts that urge us to act and to avoid dangers. The impulsiveness of instincts was useful for mankind’s survival for many centuries when we lived in the jungle and could be the prey of a hungry animal! But being impulsive is rarely effective in the long run. For this reason, throughout evolution species, there was the need to develop a much more effective tool: thinking!

We have to stop to think before acting!

Naturally, you are experiencing stress from this pandemic. The confrontation with a new and threatening situation is alarming, even more so if the solution does not depend only on our effort because it confronts us with lack of control over our own lives. But it is important not to confuse the intensity of these feelings with the seriousness of the situation.

If you are afraid of dying and have no symptoms, or if you have already bought a stock of groceries enough for one year, and if you have not yet read the information from the competent authorities, you are in panic! And it is your responsibility to understand what you are feeling, so you won’t have disruptive behaviours.

Panic arises when the mind is invaded by fears and insecurities that are activated by some critical situation. Instincts sabotage thinking: the problem becomes a demon, and you feel powerless. Fears are confused with reality. A scenario equivalent to medieval times, when scientific information was precarious and problems were imagined in the light of our most primary fears: demons that threaten our lives, and we’re doomed without magic or god’s help.

How to avoid panic?

If this feeling is the result of fears that obscure the perception of reality, then the only solution is information.

It is the possession of information about reality that results in a feeling of control and, consequently, enough tranquillity to maintain healthy behaviour.

Those who remain uninformed and/or in a state of panic are unable to take care of themselves.

The virus is not a gun to your head; the virus does not threaten your supermarket’s food stock; the virus is not outside your door waiting for you to inhale it.

Acting with responsibility and civility

Like most of life’s problems, SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) is not the worst thing in the world, but also not harmless.

To adapt your response to the seriousness of the situation, you must be properly informed. Without information, thought wanders through instincts and fantasies!

Behave based on information from reliable sources. Reading Facebook publication titles doesn’t count! Thinking an idea makes sense “just because” doesn’t count! Concluding that “I know” does not count!

At the time of publication of this article, the official source of the Portuguese government is the website:

There is also the World Health Organization website, where you can have information at an international level:

Reinforcement: Keep yourself updated and informed with valid information and you will be a responsible citizen and be as calm as the situation allows.

The uncomfortable feelings that this situation arouses are not just related to fear. It can also be uncomfortable to deal with a feeling that should be easy to deal with. It may be uncomfortable because it is not part of our instinctive nature of self-preservation. It is the feeling of cooperation.

It is a human tendency to fight for their own survival. While we are children, we have adults constantly reminding us that we have to think about others. Apparently, it is an easy learning to forget!

You will only get the situation under control by cooperating with others. And others will only have that tranquility if you cooperate too.

You don’t have to sacrifice your life for anyone. You don’t have to starve for anyone. You just have to wash your hands, avoid social contact as much as possible and don’t take all the toilet paper. Side note: I found toilet paper, although there were no eggs left. But the lady at the supermarket guaranteed that tomorrow they will be replaced!