I’ve noticed lately that public health crises, such as the new coronavirus pandemic, make many people anxious. This is especially true for the immunocompromised, disabled, and chronically ill.
Of course, there’s a difference between health anxiety and health concern. Anxiety is obsessive. It’s irrational and toxic. Concern, on the other hand, is valid and normal. It involves staying informed, while anxiety means refreshing Twitter to read the latest apocalyptic tweets, which is no good. (I can’t say I haven’t been there.)
We should all be concerned — as patients, family members, and people in a society where others get sick. But we shouldn’t obsess over numbers and details to the point that we can’t sleep or function. That only makes matters worse. And we all know that stress can impact our disease.
The thing is that people on the other end of the spectrum do exist. You know, those who insist the coronavirus is no big deal and that everyone is being histrionic and dramatic. They say, “Don’t worry, only the elderly or the immunocompromised are at risk,” or “The death rate isn’t that high.”
None of that — and I can’t stress this enough — is helpful.
The coronavirus is a global health pandemic. The virus has reached every continent except Antarctica and is closing country borders! Just because you might not think the death toll is high doesn’t mean it’s negligible. Plagues and infections have wiped people out before, so it’s natural to worry.
For folks with ankylosing spondylitis, our concern is valid and human. It’s not weird or lame or uncalled for. Many of us live with impaired immune systems, which means our bodies attack themselves. Either we are on intense immunosuppressant drugs or we have friends with chronic illnesses that affect their lungs or hearts. In short, it’s a big deal.
Assuming our concern is not freakishly obsessive, or in need of information and balance, health concern is natural. A little health anxiety (which we should try to manage) is probably normal, too. Stay safe, know that your worries are valid, and try to get off the internet here and there. The world might fall apart, but you don’t have to spend every minute obsessing about it.
I’ll try to take my own advice.
Note: Ankylosing Spondylitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ankylosing Spondylitis News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ankylosing spondylitis.
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