The dread that the new coronavirus evokes is an example of the negative effects of fear.
Medical experts across the board say fear is an unnecessary complication in a situation that can be handled by simple hygiene measures and steps to boost immunity.
The spread of the COVID-19 virus across the world is vastly outstripped by the spread of the fear associated with it. While fear can have a positive effect in many a situation as it sets the adrenaline flowing and allows the brain to take emergency action, it can also have a negative, debilitating effect and create unnecessary complications. The dread that the new coronavirus evokes is an example of the negative effects of fear.
“Fear is one of the biggest diseases in the world. When we are scared, our immune system freezes and we fall prey to diseases. Our natural immune system has protected the human species over centuries and it continues to do so. We need to trust it and be fearless,” says Dr Manoj Kuriakose, a homeopathy practitioner, adding that fear weakens the immune system and can cause cardiovascular damage and gastrointestinal problems.
Dr Ramana Prasad, Consultant Pulmonologist, KIMS Hospitals, agrees. The immune system is the body’s defence against bacterial and viral infections, he explains, and says positive thinking boosts immunity.
“A multivitamin and antioxidant can be regularly taken to cover any deficiencies after checking with your doctor”, says Dr Syamala Aiyanger, senior consultant, physician and diabetologist, Apollo Hospitals.
Dr Kurikose says a large number of Indians have latent tuberculosis, which means that though they have the disease, it doesn’t affect them. “This is because of our fantastic immune system,” he says, adding, “The question is, why such a solid immune system is unable to prevent simple diseases like colds, coughs, stomach infections and other contagious diseases?” He explains how this happens: “The moment our body experiences fear, the immune system is compromised. What happens when we see a wild dog charge at us? Our body freezes first, and then it reacts. The same is the case with our immunity. It freezes when we are scared, allowing diseases to attack us.”
He points out that children are brought up with a series of fear-instilling instructions such as ‘Don’t eat ice-creams, you will get throat pain’; ‘Don’t eat chocolates, you will get a cough’; ‘Don’t get wet in the rain, you will get a fever’; etc. Most people from well-to-do homes do not drink tap water because they have been conditioned to think tap water is unhealthy and will make them fall ill. But people from lower walks of life drink tap water and do not fall ill. This is because they have not been taught to believe it cause diseases, and they are not scared, says Dr Kurikose.
When humans face threats, the body goes into stress mode, and then decides whether it will be ‘fight or flight’. This state of stress can weaken immunity. Don’t let your body go through unnecessary stress and fear, says Dr Venkat Raman Kola, Senior Intensivist and Critical Care Specialist, Yashoda Hospitals. “Be confident about your immune system which has protected you through these years of human existence against many viruses like this.”
As far as the coronavirus is concerned, the symptoms are very similar to flu. If you cough or sneeze or have fever, don’t jump to the conclusion that you have contracted the COVID-19. It is very likely that you are just suffering from the common cold or influenza. That doesn’t mean, of course, that you should be careless about hygiene or that you should take unnecessary risks. The global death toll is 3,200 and counting. Remain cautious but confident.