MISHAWAKA – COVID-19 is at the forefront of public attention prompting several different responses. Bethel’s own psychology department weighs in on the psychological impact of the situation.
As a result of the coronavirus, there has been quite a wide range of negative responses. Hoarding, aggression, and unrelenting panic are among the most common and the most widely publicized. Seeing these behaviors in the news all the time prompts the question: what causes people to behave in this way? Luckily, Bethel’s Professor of Psychology, Dr. Spivey, and Assistant Professor of Psychology, Dr. Beamer-Rhode, happen to be experts in the field of what makes people tick and were happy to offer their insights.
One important thing to remember about the entire situation surrounding COVID-19 is that, while the virus is new, the public’s reaction is not nearly as novel. It is the fact that the coronavirus has not been encountered previously that puts it above known threats like the flu which kills thousands every year.
“Yeah, these responses are pretty common, not just for COVID-19, but for any difficult stressor,” said Spivey. “If the stressor was unpredictable… fear of the unknown… no control over the stressor… all of this applies to COVID-19.”
If there was any part of the current situation that was atypical, it would be the mad dash to stores. Dr. Beamer-Rhode attributes this knee-jerk reaction to the result of fear on the human psyche.
“I think some of the more selfish, panicked ‘hoarding’ behaviors of COVID-19 is a bit unique,” Beamer-Rhode said. “People don’t make their best decisions when operating in a state of fear.”
Both professors pointed to earlier occurrences of panic that prompted similar behaviors, though both admit that very few resulted in responses this severe.
“There has not been anything this severe nationally for awhile,” Spivey said. “Maybe the recession in 2008, certainly 9/11.”
“There was a terrible global Flu Pandemic a little over 100 years ago," Beamer-Rhode said. “The difference was that most people only purchased what they needed and the mass shortages were not as significant of a problem.”
Turning to what can be done to prevent the spread of the virus, the importance of self-care cannot be understated. Keeping emotions under control is almost as important as hygiene. Maintaining daily routines, staying active, and nutritional upkeep are all incredibly beneficial to mental and physical health. Both Dr. Spivey and Dr. Beamer-Rhode advise engaging in calming activities and obtaining as much information as possible in order to make informed decisions. Probably the most important thing to do in these difficult times, however, is to keep hope up by having a positive mental attitude.
“Things won’t always be like this,” said Beamer-Rhode. “Do your best to focus on remaining hopeful for the return of coffee shop dates, trips to the library, going to a movie with friends, and yes, even a ‘helm run’ or a jump in the ponds.”