There is a cold, anxiety and coughing. The head also hurts a little, and the stomach rotates. Is it a crown?
Familiar thoughts for most of these weeks of emergency when a new coronavirus pours people into a bed of disease.
The coronavirus raises fears, especially because it is a vague threat about which not all is yet known. It is particularly dangerous for those at risk, including the elderly and those suffering from underlying diseases, but the serious illness can also affect people of working age and young people.
The only thing that adds to the anxiety is that you can’t get rid of viral news for a moment if you watch TV or keep your smartphone on.
Concern for one’s own and loved ones ’health is perfectly normal in the midst of an epidemic. On the other hand, there is also a long-term fear of a serious illness that can paralyze a person. Fear remains even if the disease is ruled out by medical examinations. That’s when we talk about hypochondria, which the people call hypothyroidism.
Jukka Kärkkäinen, a specialist in psychiatry and chief physician from the Department of Health and Welfare at THL, says that the tendency to hypochondria is due to early events in the construction of the human mind.
- A person with hypochondria symptoms his mental disorder through physical symptoms, and these physical symptoms can be very serious, Kärkkäinen told IS on Wednesday.
In order for a diagnosis of hypochondria to be made, symptoms must be associated with longevity. There are a lot of people who may worry about their symptoms for a short time, but it doesn’t stay on top.
The corona epidemic is putting pressure on mental health. People are differently equipped to face stressful situations and stressors. How a person copes depends on individual sensitivity.
- The psychic side of people, the mind, is constructed in different ways. Typically, mental disorders arise, or at least become acute, when a person experiences something stressful in their life situation - change or loss. At the same time, one must always see that people do not act, or symptomize, in the same way in these situations. A similar load does not cause anything to one, but the other can have very serious mental symptoms, Kärkkäinen pondered.
Kärkkäinen does not like the term illness.
- It gives the impression that it is a pretense. After all, it is not, but hypochondria, if diagnosed in a patient, is a genuine mental disorder like depression, anxiety disorder, or whatever.
The coronavirus raises fears, especially because it is a vague threat about which not all is yet known.
Photo: Marco Bertorello / AFP / Magazine photo
There is a clear difference between fear of normal disease and hypochondria. Usually the fear goes away, but the hypochondria can last for months and even years.
- The healthy fear in this situation is that you wash your hands and are precise, and that is a sensible way to protect yourself from infections, Kärkkäinen said.
Sometimes the fear takes on too strong a scale: the possibility of infection preoccupies more or less throughout the day. This, too, does not yet give rise to a psychiatric diagnosis.
- In order for a diagnosis of hypochondria to be made, symptoms must be associated with longevity. There are a lot of people who may worry about their symptoms for a short time, but it doesn’t stay on top.
One of the special features of the corona epidemic is that it becomes a huge amount of information. The news also reports daily deaths from viral illnesses and those in intensive care due to the illness.
- I've heard from some people that they leave without looking at the news. It goes beyond their resilience.
According to Kärkkäinen, in an exceptional situation, one might think that there are still relatively few deaths and intensive care periods in Finland. Kärkkäinen gives advice to those who are worried.
- I would think that it is good for a basic healthy person to see this proportionality. It is very rare for Korona to be dangerous to basic health so as to be hospitalized or in intensive care, let alone die. It is good to be aware of the big picture and think rationally.
A similar strain causes nothing for one, but the other can have very severe mental symptoms.
Unfortunately, the epidemic is killing Finns, that is an indisputable fact. They are known to be mostly very old and are likely to have other illnesses.
- Here, too, it is good to think about the big picture and see that Korona alone does not cause serious consequences - death or intensive care - but always involves other diseases. I try to practice this kind of thinking myself in order to maintain a sense of proportionality in all this.
1. Hypochondria is a mental disorder, a psychiatric illness with its own classification of disease. The diagnostic code is F45.2.
2. Hypochondria is diagnosed if a person suffers from a physical symptom for a long time for fear of suffering from a serious illness - such as cancer, heart disease or AIDS, even though the existence of that illness has been ruled out by appropriate medical examinations.
3. Hypochondrial fears can also be a symptom of many other psychiatric illnesses, such as severe depressive disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Source: Duodecim, Health Library