a "fear pandemic", Anxiety and Cognitive Dissonance, blind faith in leaders, consequences for the economy, consequences for personal freedom, COVID-19 measures, disrupted social development in children and young adults, effects on mental health, gaslighting, increased suggestibility and reduction of rational thinking, increased suicidality, mass psychological programming, susceptibility to acceptance of authoritarian codes of conduct
Norm’s note: This article is a computer generated translation from Dutch to English, but it is in my estimation very readable. And though it is by now somewhat dated, it is — in my opinion and as the insanity relentlessly grinds on — even more relevant now than it was when first published: the harms it points to have only been and are only being aggravated.
Mar 5, 2020
Fear in times of the corona crisis.
The Covid-19 measures have a negative psychological effect in the short, medium and long term and are very bad for mental health. The harmful consequences, such as fewer social contacts, less exercise and the development of financial problems, are so great that they are disproportionate to their goal: to protect the population against the consequences of a virus infection. It is all the more pressing that from a scientific point of view it is by no means certain that these measures actually contribute to achieving the stated goal. Therefore, they can be said to be highly disproportionate. Studies show an increase in sleep problems, anxiety and depressive symptoms and increased suicidal behavior, as well as an increase in loneliness in society.
Due to the continuation of the measures over a longer period of time and the very one-sided portrayal by the media and government (press conferences), a “fear pandemic” has in fact arisen among almost the entire population and not only among people who are medically vulnerable. This fear is reinforced by the constant emphasis that there is only one problem (corona) with only one solution (vaccine). This fear-inducing way of communicating has led many to a mindset that is reminiscent of psychic programming. Consider features such as:
- an increased suggestibility and reduction of rational thinking,
- a blind faith in leaders who appear to offer protection against external threats and
- an increased susceptibility to acceptance of authoritarian codes of conduct, presented as a protection against the perceived danger.
People with such a mindset are no longer capable of neutrally discussing the reality of the danger and the measures imposed because of the narrowing of consciousness that has arisen and the accompanying sense of false security that can be threatened by a discussion about this. Psychologically, thinking differently cannot be tolerated well. Because not everyone is equally sensitive to this programming, society is divided. Social tensions are magnified, even distance between friends, within families and families. A normal discussion about this subject between dissenters is hardly possible anymore because of the highly emotionally charged psychic programming described. In order to get out of this oppressive situation, a social context is necessary in which people can discuss their views in an emotionally safe way. Only then will something like “social deprogramming” be possible, restoring the possibility of normal, mutually respectful debate. Unfortunately, government and media policy do not offer sufficient scope for this at the moment. As a result, if policy remains unchanged, there is a real threat of continuing social disintegration. This is of course highly undesirable. It is therefore an important goal for the Doctors Collective to contribute to a rapid improvement of this situation, restoring the possibility of normal, mutually respectful debate. At the moment we see an increase rather than a decrease in the described fear pandemic and this seems difficult to break. This is a matter of great concern.
The psychological consequences of the measures.
Since the beginning of this year, a whole new situation has arisen worldwide in which there appears to be a health care problem for which radical freedom-restricting measures are being used to reduce the risk of infection.
These measures are used for the entire population with major consequences for personal freedom, for the economy and also for psychological well-being. There are more people with anxiety symptoms and the degree of anxiety is higher.
Based on the course of the virus and the experience gained in the meantime, a clear risk group can be identified that is susceptible to the physical consequences of this virus, and the vast majority of people who are infected have little or no trouble with the virus. It is therefore logical to protect the vulnerable group and not to subject the entire population to measures in order to limit harmful consequences in the financial, psychological and physical area. Here we will describe some of the causes of anxiety and discuss ways of communicating that cause and increase anxiety.
Death is an essential part of life. About 400 people die per day in the Netherlands, more than 150,000 people per year i . Of these, about 2000 die from influenza, mainly older and sick people. In an influenza pandemic, this can even lead to 10,000 hospitalizations in the Netherlands and more than 4,000 deaths ii . This dying at the end of a long life has hitherto been regarded as a natural occurrence. Also, these figures have never been emphatically and continuously shared in the media.
Covid-19 has now created a whole new situation with a lot of media and government attention for death rates, hospital admissions and frequent communication about infections. Measures are being taken to prevent the spread and thus to protect vulnerable groups in society, including the elderly and the chronically ill. These measures range from lockdown, urgent advice to work from home, keeping a distance of 1.5 meters, banning gatherings, very frequent hand washing, use of disinfectants to the obligation to wear mouth masks in public areas. These measures apply to the entire population, including people without complaints and people/children with a reduced risk of illness and death.
The measures cause stress: if the measures are not adhered to, a fine or even imprisonment can follow, or in the case of companies fine and closure. The measures cause a lot of damage on both a somatic and psychological level and thus weaken the natural defenses of the body and therefore mental and physical health.
The strange situation has now arisen that the measures intended to protect public health worldwide have a negative effect in the short, medium and long term for people of all ages.
One could speak of a worldwide disaster: logistics are at a standstill everywhere, leaving many people without care and famine looming: millions of victims have already been killed in developing countries iii , iv . As a result, inequality in the world is increasing.
2. Effect on Mental Health
The Covid-19 measures that have lasted for months have consequences for the economy and the psychological health of the population.
Soon after the start of the Covid-19 crisis, more psychological complaints are reported. In May 2020, the Trimbos Institute presented the results of a survey v . Half of this group reports sleeping problems, 13% mentions fear of corona and of this group the majority (80%) also has other fears and depressive complaints; 11% suffers from suicidal thoughts.
We know that people’s well-being is related to their economic status vi . A 2010 article showed that the economic recession and crises have a negative impact on psychological well-being vii . The Dutch Central Bank estimates that the gross domestic product (GDP) will fall by 6.4%, which is the largest contraction in post-war history: almost twice as large as that during the credit crisis in 2009 viii .
A poor economy and unemployment are associated with increased suicidality ix .
Haw et al also show that there is a relationship between economic crisis and increased suicidal behavior x . During Sars1 outbreak in 2002 and the economic crisis in 2008 xi this was also observed. Data from 63 countries showed a 20%-30% increase in suicides related to unemployment during the economic crisis of 2008. To date, no increase in suicides has been reported from the Current Suicide Registration Committee xii or CBS.
Other measures concern reducing social contacts: keeping a distance of 1.5 meters, having to go into quarantine and not being allowed to come together in groups or to a limited extent. These can lead to increased loneliness, which increases the risk of increased suicidality xiii . The social isolation measures during quarantine have significant psychological consequences such as loneliness and boredom. In Italy people reported more fears during lockdown xiv. The quarantine also appears to lead to more fears, sleeping problems and fatigue. There is a greater chance of developing traumatic complaints in this group. Children who have been in quarantine show a higher chance of developing post-traumatic stress complaints compared to children who have not experienced this. The longer the quarantine lasts, the more serious the complaints are xv . It is conceivable that measures such as quarantine disrupt normal social development in children and young adults.
The above concerns the effect of the (social isolation) measures on people who previously had no psychological problems.
The effect of the measures on vulnerable people, such as people with psychological complaints, has also been studied. RIVM regularly conducts research into the consequences of the current Covid-19 crisis. In their latest report, they indicate that from week 11 the national influx of patients into mental health care has decreased sharply and that there have been approximately 63,000 fewer referrals from the general practitioner to mental health providers.
This means that many people who needed help probably did not report to their GP. This delays treatment and people with more serious problems may report later. The number of treatments does not yet appear to be at the level of recent years. In slightly more than half the treatment proceeds as before. It is worrisome that for approximately 45% of the people the care provided by the general practitioner, POH-GGZ and mental healthcare practitioners still takes place online and that for a third of them the daily activities have not started xvi .
3. Anxiety and Cognitive Dissonance
The uncertainty about this unknown and new virus and the measures taken to this end give rise to fear. Acute loss combined with drastic changes in the old living conditions are accompanied by emotions similar to grief. Uncertainty may arise about the meaning of life xvii . With the passage of time and the continuation of the measures, we can conclude that there is a fear pandemic.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the measures taken are creating a pervasive atmosphere of prolonged general uncertainty about the economy, finances, social relations and health. As a result, anxiety symptoms continue and increase. This feeling of fear and anxiety does not only affect the people who are more likely to get sick, but almost everyone. This has previously been described as traumatizing the general population and medical staff working during the Covid-19 crisis xviii , xix .
Fear is therefore prominent among almost the entire population: fear of being infected, fear of the possible consequences of the measures (fines, exclusion, loss of social security). The measures are significant because of the impact on so many levels. This further emphasizes the seriousness of the threat and perpetuates fear.
There is a process in psychology [cognitive dissonance.] Cognitive dissonance is the unpleasant tension a person experiences when one’s beliefs, ideas, or views are mutually contradictory or when one acts contrary to one’s beliefs. Thoughts such as “it must be serious, otherwise such measures will not be used” are appropriate.
These contradictions make us uncomfortable. On the one hand there is one’s own convictions (right to freedom, having difficulty losing it, need for social contacts and touching), on the other hand one has to act contrary to these own convictions (keeping social distance). That causes a lot of restlessness, anger, possibly also towards oneself. In an attempt to restore a sense of control and security, the rules are strictly followed. This can also lead to anger towards the outside world that can manifest itself in, for example, domestic violence (The WHO reports an increase in domestic violence). In the current situation there is clearly cognitive dissonance :
there is a virus that is presented as a threat to all of society. This is constantly confirmed by the government (press conferences), (social) media – it is always about death tolls or increasing infections where in reality it is about positive PCR tests, nasty images of sick people in the ICU are shown etc. The media also talks about warriors and heroes, as if we were in a war.
All this amplifies the process of cognitive dissonance that causes stress and anxiety and can lead to health problems xx. This is substantiated by several studies: in 2003 various groups were questioned about financial measures taken by the government. It turned out that it was precisely the group of people who suffered the most from the measures, ie those with the lowest income, who, paradoxically, expressed the least doubts about the measures taken xxi .
A study from Japan and America showed that self-care perpetuates the dissonance. This fear is influenced by the behavior of another, whereby a sense of justice (restoring the dissonance) arises in wanting to change the behavior of the other, so that one’s own fear decreases xxii .
This creates more and more polarization among the population.
The sense of immediate and unknown danger seems to create more fear and makes people feel they have to act immediately. That feeling of personal danger makes people want to do something and, for example, opt more quickly for a vaccine. Modern communication plays an important role in this. This means that people are no longer able to properly estimate the risk of the hazard due to the dissemination of incorrect and limited information. A study in 2013 shows this nicely. There was a visible difference in the percentage of flu vaccinations in Australia and Sweden that could be explained by the difference in media communication about the danger of this flu virus. Perception of risk is heavily influenced by media which can have a great effect on the level of anxiety and thus the decisions to be made by the populationxxiii . This fear also varies from person to person. People who are already vulnerable and insecure, who have a negative self-image and difficulty letting go of control experience more anxiety.
4. Cult and Hypnosis
So far, the government and media have failed to speak in a reassuring tone and have taken every opportunity to emphasize the seriousness of the situation. This is an incessant confrontation with unreal dangers, which perpetuates the fear . Rational and logical thinking is increasingly disappearing into the background and making way for ‘tube thinking’ and making decisions based on ‘belief and confidence that the measures will be the best’.
A situation has thus arisen that almost seems sectarian: an image is sketched that there is one overriding problem (corona) for which there is one solution (vaccine). Critical thinking is not desired and is not given a place in the media , choices that affect personal privacy are limited, everything is dominated by this one way of thinking. This is related to the cognitive dissonance mentioned above .The so-called ‘framing’ is also part of a cult: critical or deviant thinking is portrayed as harmful because it goes against the established policy. Exactly what we are currently seeing happening: people with different views or ideas are spoken of in a derogatory way, they are dismissed as conspiracy theorists or wappies – and therefore not taken seriously. This also means that many dissenters who are [struggling] to withstand this [pressure] may start to doubt [themselves]. In psychology, this process is called gaslighting, a manipulative technique that casts doubt on a person’s sanity with the aim of making that person doubt mentally. These people no longer trust their own judgment.
Mass Hypnosisis another term that seems to apply here. People are influenced with irrational beliefs and feelings that amplify fear. This requires a mental state in which one is more open to certain terrifying thoughts, such as the fear of a serious and deadly virus. Normal independent thinking is turned off and all attention goes to that one thing, in this case Covid-19. Independent and critical thinking is also weakened in many ways, such as constantly repeating the same information as discussed above (media, press conferences), reinforced by using terms like “war” and “heroes”. This results in the hypnosis being experienced as reality. A condition for mass hypnosis is that it involves a large group of people,
In 1969, researcher Hernert Krugman already showed that watching television changed the brain waves in the brain: the beta waves (brain waves associated with active, logical thinking) changed into alpha waves (brain waves associated with a different consciousness with more receptiveness to messages). This indicates that the parts of the brain responsible for logical thinking are reduced to inactive while watching television. These results were later confirmed several times in other studies. It means that rational thinking is more or less switched off at that moment xxiv .
Another study showed that after just 30 seconds, television-watching children saw changes comparable to hypnosis: their brain status was almost comatose, as during a hypnosis xxv .
These studies and current social developments confirm how vulnerable our brains are and how impressionable we are by media (television, commercials, newspapers, the internet), especially if that influence is long-lasting and it concerns something that is potentially deadly, [such] as we are [constantly being reminded about], a “life-threatening virus”.
Death is an essential part of our lives. It is clear that the virus cannot be eradicated by a lockdown. It seems that, like previous (corona) viruses, Covid-19 will eventually become part of our annual flu epidemic. The longer the Covid-19 pandemic and the corona measures last, the greater the polarization becomes. This was also mentioned in a recent study in Italy: it examined whether there was a difference in assessing the risk of the virus between the group of care providers and non-emergency workers. There appeared to be a large gap in perception of ‘knowledge’ between the two groups xxvi .
The economic and psychological consequences of the measures in the short, medium and long term for the well-being and health of the entire population are enormous. There is an increase in psychological complaints as described in this article: more fears, suicides and depression. People have had fearful thoughts for a long time and struggle with cognitive dissonances, which makes it difficult to return to less one-sided influence and more autonomous thinking.
It is necessary that a social context is created in which people can discuss their views in a feeling of safety. A bed that offers space for all thoughts and emotions, so that people can view their fear thoughts in the context of other possibilities and thus put them into perspective. Only then will something like “social deprogramming” be possible, restoring the possibility of normal, mutually respectful debate.
Unfortunately, both government and media policy do not offer sufficient scope for this at the moment. As a result, if policy remains unchanged, there is a real threat of continuing social disintegration. This is of course highly undesirable. It is therefore an important goal for the ACC to contribute to improving this undesirable situation as quickly as possible and thus improving general health. That means: thinking [. . .] about how the vulnerable group can be protected and the majority of the population can resume its work and recover.
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