Coronavirus isolation and related relationship conflicts are the inevitable results of staying and working from home as a result of this pandemic. For clarity, I’ll use the catch-all phrase “corona virus stress” during this post to talk about the anxiety most everyone is experiencing right now. It’s likely that a lot of psychological literature for years come will be dealing with the effects of corona virus stress. Many factors exacerbate stress and anxiety during this lockdown. Coronavirus layoffs, working at home problems, loss of income, having to deal with kids while working at home are some examples of these stress factors. More recently, “coronavirus relationship conflict” and another phrase that psychologists have coined, “coronavirus loneliness” is adding to the stress that mental health experts are witnessing.
However, many of these causes of corona virus stress cause even more underlying anxiety due to inaccurate information and myths about the virus itself. The lockdown has caused many people to experience a kind of virus anxiety overload. The excessive use of social media and television news about the virus is fueling fear. Much of the information we hear and read can be misleading—and we’re not talking about ‘fake news’ or biased corona virus politics. When people are under great stress, especially in a public health crisis like this, it is natural to access information to ease stress and reduce anxiety. But if the information we read and see is biased, misinformed, inaccurate or vague, as it often is at this time, the corona virus stress, isolation, and fears are only made worse when we fail to fact-check. Having true information from reliable sources can only help.
I’m paraphrasing here, but during a Skype therapy session, a client asked, “if we know we are seeing a social media post filled with rumor or vague information about the corona virus, and we know it causes extreme anxiety, why do we tend to avoid checking with the experts in order to debunk corona virus myths?” It seems to me that it’s simply hard for people to actively seek out ways to de-bunk corona virus myths. Could it simply be that our corona virus stress makes us a little bit passive?
With that in mind, when I’m doing therapy sessions by Skype (or therapy by FaceTime), I’ve been stressing to clients to look out for the signs that lead us to conclude that what they’re reading may not be fully researched virus information.
Here are five clues that you should consider fact-checking with stress-inducing corona virus social media posts, emails, and articles:
- Who is the source? If the source is a trusted “friend’s doctor friend” or even worse, “a friend of mine has a friend with close ties to [Washington D.C.], [the military], [expert doctors] who told my friend that…” then it’s a certain sign that the authentic source of the corona virus information likely said something about the virus that has been misquoted or diluted.
- How specific in detail is the information? “I heard the corona virus was worse than we think.” What does that suggest about the dangers of the virus in specific terms?
- Dates of information i.e. what are the exact dates of the quotes, articles, or rumors about the corona virus.
- Is this credible information verifiable from at least 2 other public health or government sources?
- And finally, we must ask ourselves, “Has my corona virus stress caused me considerable anxiety that I’m relying on articles and posts regardless of the sources?” I am not paying attention to the specifics like dates, and the ability to verify the information.
Inaccurate information spreads corona virus stress as if it were its own, separate pandemic. The profound sense of social isolation, the logistical difficulty of working from home, relationship conflicts and money worries add to the virus stress. Inaccurate information incites insecurities. Would you like to reduce your corona virus stress and feel less isolated? See if you can de-bunk some coronavirus myths by examining these sites:
Note that both Snopes and Factcheck are non-partisan sites that will tell you that the coronavirus information you’ve heard is, in fact, a myth that needs de-bunking or an article that isn’t quite accurate.
The following websites are from your local mayor, senators, house reps, and university hospitals.
- Harvard School of Public Health
- National Institutes of Health
- Johns Hopkins Medical Center
- World Health Organization
If you’d like to explore these and other ways to reduce corona virus stress and isolation, we are offering therapy sessions by Skype and FaceTime.