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First, let us be clear, that the entire world has done certain habits and / or behaviors in order to protect themselves and loved ones from acquiring the Coronavirus. Public health officials, offices, and businesses have all been requiring certain safety procedures such as masks, temperature taking, hand washing, and Purel usage. While these “new” hygiene behaviors are more than what people are used to in non-corona times, they are still within common practice range; given that there is a global pandemic.
However, there is a sub-section of people that have gone “too far” in their protection behaviors; have not left their house since March, are still disinfecting groceries, or are unable to function due to extreme fear of the Coronavirus. Their COVID caution has become a phobia. I have received many consultation calls of people who are “paralyzingly” terrified of the virus.
It is important to differentiate between following public heath protocal versus a clinical problem that would require professional help to treat. I have developed a 6-question quiz, based on DSM-5 criteria for phobia, in order to determine if you meet criterion for COVID Phobia.
1. Do you have an excessive and persistent fear when thinking about Coronavirus? Do you find yourself thinking about Coronavirus and seeking reassurance regarding the virus more than others around you? While everyone around you is nervous about the virus, do you feel more terror; even petrified?
2. Do you have an immediate anxiety reaction that is out of proportion or more than the fear reaction than others around you? For example, if you see someone, in the distance, not wearing a mask, will you feel instantly anxious and will you have trouble shaking that feeling?
3. Would you go extremely out of your way to avoid any potential Coronavirus risk? For example, are you avoiding the dentist or your general physician (even with protective gear), for fear of catching Coronavirus? Or, if you must be in these types of situations, will you experience extreme amounts of distress?
4. Does the mere thought that you may have come in contact with Coronavirus produce physical symptoms, such as: sweating, chills, hot flushes, rapid heart beat, and shortness of breath? Also, when in those situations, do you feel detached, like you are disconnected and watching other people, rather than participating?
5. Do you have an awareness that your fears are more extreme than others; yet, you are unable to control them?
6. Are you having difficulty functioning in life? Are you having difficulty with your social life and your occupational life, solely due to your fear of acquiring the Coronavirus?
If you answered yes to most, or all of these, I highly recommend you seek treatment. Typically, a behavioral therapy, such as exposure therapy is used to treat phobias. I utilize my RIP-R therapy for the treatment of phobias with my clientele. (See my post, “Can This New OCD Treatment Help Where Others Fall Short?”) Most importantly, help is out there,