First the good news: Botswana has still not recorded its first confirmed case of COVID -19. Then bad news, all those reports about the coronavirus may actually be making you sick. Head of Psychology Department at the University of Botswana Mpho Pheko, says “beyond the possibilities of anxiety, depressive symptoms and disorders – both during and post the COVID19, my worry and concern is possibilities of psychosomatic illnesses which can be caused by the emotional stressors and too much exposure to negative information.”
Christina Bitsang a Clinical Psychologist at the University of Botswana says exposure to reports of COVID-19 over and over again may result in feeling like one has the virus.
Psychosomatic illnesses manifest in the body as physical pain and other symptoms.
“In this case, people may start having real Coronaviruses disease symptoms without having been infected,” Dr Pheko explained.
Because the physical symptoms of psychosomatic conditions are real and may also require treatment, this will put undue additional pressure on the fragile health infrastructure”, Dr Pheko said.
Clinical Psychologist, Lorato Kenosi told Sunday Standard Lifestyle that the obsession over COVID-19 may aggravate other disorders such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in people who are prone post the spread especially from regular and constant hand washing making them not to want to touch anything or anyone”,
Kenosi further stated that the COVID-19’s impact will influence development of disorders in those that are already vulnerable. It’ll further overwhelm others and worsen the mental condition of those with already existing disorders.
“The danger is, some may not show at the moment. But the disorders may start to show after the outbreak has subsided, may be six months later or so. Some people may still be in shock and numb”, she said.
Social distancing may also strain family relations and quarantine measures. Some people may develop anger and resentment because they felt they were thrown under the bus and left to their devices either by family members or government because of measures taken.
“In a time like this, anxiety may ease when we know where our families are. We need support from family”, Kenosi pointed out
She said some may suffer mental and emotional breakdown because of closure of churches. She explained that places of worship, do not only provide moral and spiritual fortitude but also help with coping. Closing churches thus alienates some from their coping mechanisms.
Kenosi further explained that the closure of bars and other drinking places does not only take away other peoples coping mechanism, but may result in sever withdrawal symptoms.
Kenosi pointed out that
Healthcare practitioners and other Frontline workers such as porter workers, shop assistants, and law enforcement personnel also need mental health intervention.
“Debriefing is crucial. It is a control and prevention measure. It lowers the risk of development of mental illness such as Acute Stress Disorders, Depression, Anxiety Disorders. Which, if untreated, may turn to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Frontline workers may be overwhelmed. They may need to vent, or share their fears without being judged, put on the spot or jeopardizing their jobs and careers”, she pointed out.
Anxiety goes with irritability. Armed Forces may become volatile during pandemics because they’re not only dealing with a lot of different people when enforcing the COVID-19 measures but have to constantly look over their shoulders because they are dealing with an invisible enemy that threatens their life. They also need to undergo Debriefing regularly.
The idea of contracting the virus is not only felt by the ordinary man on the street but is also felt by Frontline workers who have left families back home. And they don’t know when this thing will end, whether they’ll make it through or not. The importance of mental health intervention cannot be overemphasized in catastrophic events like the COVID-19 pandemic.