A Vademecum drawn up by the National Council of Italian Psychologists to face Covid19 outbreak

Schermata 2020-03-18 alle 12.07.29

PSYCHOLOGICAL VADEMECUM CORONAVIRUS FOR ALL CITIZEN

Because fears might turn into panic and how to protect yourself through appropriate behaviours.

This handbook is not intended to be exhaustive or to replace professional help. It is a tribute to reflect and better direct our individual and collective thoughts, emotions and behaviors – facing Covid-19 problems. A few minutes of your time for a reading that we hope will be useful.
David Lazzari
Presidents Italian National Council of the Order of Psychology

FEAR.

ear is a powerful and useful emotion. It was selected by the evolution of the human species to allow to prevent dangers and therefore it is functional to avoid them.
But it works well if it is proportionate to the dangers. This was the case until men have had a first-hand experience of the dangers and decided whether to face them or not deliberately.
Today many dangers do not depend on our experiences. We learn about them because they are described on the media and often distorted by the messages circulating on the net. Here are some pointers to adopt the right sort of protective and responsible attitudes.

FIVE ANTIPANIC INDICATIONS

  1. The curve of fear.
    The relationship between efficiency of our behaviors and fear described by a camel’s hump-shaped curve: underestimating the problem is not effective, it leads to inappropriate behaviors, overestimating it has the same result: a lot of fear but little efficiency. The right consideration of the danger helps us and increases our “resilience quotient”.
  2. Stick to the facts, which means the objective danger.
    Coronavirus is a contagious virus, but as an OMS source said out of 100 people who get sick, most have only minor problems. The exceptional collective measures arise from the need to stem the epidemic, because the number of people who have more serious problems becomes important and difficult to manage if the infected are so many.
  3. Getting caught up in the collective panic infection leads us to ignore the objective data and our capacity for judgment can weaken. Many feel anxious and want to act and do something to ease anxiety, and this can generate irrational and unproductive stress and behavior. While doing something, we often end up doing wrong things and ignoring simple, apparently trivial but very effective protective actions, such as those suggested by the health authorities.
  4. Too many emotions prevent correct reasoning and slow down the ability to see things in a fair and broader perspective, widening the space-time we examine the phenomena with. It is hard for reasoning to argue against the emotions, but for good, try to rely on objective data. The rule is based on the balance between the feeling of fear and the objective risk.

This simple image allows you to see the fear of coronavirus in perspective:

The graph shows the phenomenon of fears as a whole: on the top, dangers we are more afraid of than we should be.

On the lower section, instead, dangers we are accustomed to which do not result in adequate fears. The imbalance between the two circles’ areas shows how much difference there is between subjective fears and objective dangers. (Source: Legrenzi, face to face with our fears. Living with vulnerability, II Mulino, 2019).

The graph shows the phenomenon of fears as a whole: on the top, dangers we are more afraid of than we should be. On the lower section, instead, dangers we are accustomed to which do not result in adequate fears. The imbalance between the two circles’ areas shows how much difference there is between subjective fears and objective dangers. (Source: Legrenzi, face to face with our fears. Living with vulnerability, II Mulino, 2019).

  1. We are concerned about our vulnerability and the one of our loved and we try to make them invulnerable. But the obsessive search for invulnerability is counterproductive because it makes us excessively fearful, unable to face the future because we are too locked up in ourselves.

THREE GOOD PRACTICES TO DEAL WITH CORONAVIRUS

  1. Avoid compulsive search for information, using and disseminate reliable information sources.
    Reduce overexposure to media and social media information. Once you have acquired the basic information, simply check for updates on reliable sources. In this way you have all the information you need to protect yourself, without being submerged by an uninterrupted flow of “anxiety alarms”.
  2. A collective and not personal phenomenon
    Coronavirus is not an individual phenomenon. We must protect ourselves as a responsible community. Regular use of elementary actions significantly reduces the risks of contagion for oneself, those close to us and the whole community.
  3. Act collectively and responsibly for a collective phenomenon
    Even if you have got a correct idea of the phenomenon, it is good to help other telling them in simple words the recommendations listed. You can provide the simple information indicated above, reasoning calmly and patiently instead of ignoring or, worse, despising those who do not know and refuse to think.
    Acting all in an informed and responsible way and helping each other to do so increases the protection capacity of the community and of each of us.

Finally

Protect children

It is good to protect children too. If they ask us, we will always give our willingness to speak peacefully of what they may have heard and frighten them by correcting a statistically unfounded picture. It is best not to expose them to the alarmist information above.

Don’t be ashamed to ask for help

If you think your fear and anxiety are excessive and make you uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to talk about it and ask for help from a professional.

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