The preventive measures that were put in place during the current epidemic crisis (hand washing, social distancing, wearing mask etc.) encourage us to remain vigilant. Experiencing the fear of being infected with the coronavirus is therefore quite legitimate, especially as the number of cases continues to increase.

Could it be, however, that this fear of infection can become excessive and even irrational? Take, for example, a patient who, since the start of the pandemic, washes his hands 30 times a day for fear of being infected with the virus. The anxiety is so strong that he compulsively performs this gesture to try to calm himself down as soon as he touches an object.

But where is the line between the real fear of a danger that threatens us and the excessive fear that takes over for no reason? The line is difficult to draw but one thing is certain: if we want to get through the pandemic without too much psychological damage, both individually and collectively, it seems desirable to take care of the part of ourselves that is afraid and more particularly, of the excesses that may result.

The difficulty is that this fear of being infected touches on an even more visceral fear: the fear of dying, which can lodge itself deep within our unconscious. It thus triggers our survival instinct, which sets into motion defense mechanisms whose pupose it is to protect us against an external threat.

When the fear of being infected is too present, it can affect our daily lives and manifest itself in different ways; among other things, by a greater emotional fragility and a kind of insecurity that makes us uncomfortable. Mistrust of others can also develop, without us realizing it, into a tendancy to withdraw into ourselves. This can lead to depressive symptoms (sadness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, lack of motivation etc.)

One way we can take care of ourselves in these difficult times is to observe our thoughts as best as possible in order to resolve any excessive fears that may arise. This is not a simple exercice, but it can allow us to restore our balance and maintain our internal strength. Certain therapeutic approaches (psychology, acupuncture, osteopathy, yoga) have the potential to help us in this process.

Martin Moisan, M.D.
Kanesatake Health Center
12, Joseph Swan
Kanesatake (Québec)

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