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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 29-30

Pandemic and the fear syndrome: What next?

1 Global Institute of Public Health, Ananthapuri Hospitals and Research Institute, Trivandrum, Kerala, India
2 Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Date of Submission16-Nov-2022
Date of Acceptance17-Nov-2022
Date of Web Publication20-Feb-2023

Correspondence Address:
K Rajasekharan Nayar
Global Institute of Public Health, Ananthapuri Hospitals and Research Institute, Chackai, Trivandrum 695024, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/JIMPH.JIMPH_14_22

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How to cite this article:
Nayar K R, Fazaludeen Koya S. Pandemic and the fear syndrome: What next?. J Integr Med Public Health 2022;1:29-30

How to cite this URL:
Nayar K R, Fazaludeen Koya S. Pandemic and the fear syndrome: What next?. J Integr Med Public Health [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Mar 27];1:29-30. Available from: http://www.jimph.org/text.asp?2022/1/2/29/370072

All catastrophic episodes in human history have generated fear among the population. And the COVID pandemic was not different in terms of the fear psychosis it generated that negatively affected human relationships. This is due to the inherent fear about the suffering and distress which result from such pestilences and disasters. Fear as an expression has a large psycho-biological component apart from being a cultural artefact but its neurobiology needs to be explored focusing on the expression as a conscious experience. There is also a need to explore several interconnected responses rooted in biological as well as psychological processes. Evidently, the feelings and behaviour as outwards expressions are responses to an external stimuli. But the science of fear is still debating and studying many of these levels.[1]

Society and the institutions play an important role in shaping various forms of fear from childhood onwards.[2] Although, the cultural specificity of fear has a strong foundation mainly in the process of formulation rooted in stories to conversations in a society, the universality of fear is enforced mainly through global social and welfare strategies. Fear could be the prime mover of rational management of health programs especially in dangerous or risky situations. Historically, there are many evidences regarding the use of fear in health programs. Use of ‘Sanatoria approach‗ in Tuberculosis and Leprosy also led to primarily stigmatization but also fear of infection. Fear continues to be used explicitly — to a large extent in control measures related to conditions like HIV/AIDS, and implicitly, and often in a subdued way, as a generalised approach in many programs such as in vaccination drives focusing on mothers, family planning program focusing on parents, and anti-smoking campaigns against cancers. One could identify many such invocation of fear in health programs.

There are some evidence from the SARS epidemic in the global context due to the underlying anxiety about a disease with an unknown cause and possible fatal outcomes.[3] Stigmatization led to such responses as global media reported dramatic stories from Asia in print media, social media and the internet. The present pandemic could have many components of fear which are explicitly used and it could be largely linked to and targeted on psychological expressions at various levels of social organization and specifically in relation to the infection and its aftereffects. The State also had a dominant role in creating the fear mainly due to media campaigns highlighting death and distress. Fear was used to comply with the preventive measures such as quarantine, lockdown, use of masks and physical distancing, and even the use of drones for surveillance. Many of the messages containing expressions of ‘social‗ distancing used the fear component to warn people about the infection.

The fear was also generated due to anxiety about one‗s livelihood and social life apart from death or disablement. It was also due to an inherent feeling that the infected will face discrimination and stigma. These two socio-psychological phenomena played an important role in the current pandemic. Even now, the after effects of such a fear are lingering on with varying degrees including in international travel and organising various events.

Apart from these, fear also resulted from an ‘uncertainty‗ regarding the capability of modern medicine and science in general in dealing with emerging infections. These have a lot to do with ineffective communication especially from political and government leaders, but more so also from the medical and public health leaders in many instances. Public health leaders need to be better communicators especially being frank about the uncertainties around emerging infections, especially vector-borne and zoonotic infections. This calls for better training of future leaders and public health professionals, who need to be understand the importance of transparency in communication which is critical to gaining trust from the population and communities.

The world is looking forward to finally ending this “pandemic phase” —hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the entire generation. Observations around the world reveal that people have largely left the mandatory and advisory ‘compliance‗ measures and are slowly shedding the fear syndrome except may be in contexts and situations which invite fines or punishments. However, the insecurity and helplessness and the fear experienced during the pandemic may take time to heal like the effects of massive floods and other natural hazards.

Financial Support and Sponsorship

Not applicable.

Conflicts of Interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Adolphs R The biology of fear. Curr Biol 2013;23:R79-93.  Back to cited text no. 1
Boscoboinik A, Horakova H. Editors. The Anthropology of Fear. Cultures beyond Emotions. Munster: Lit Verlag;2014.  Back to cited text no. 2
Person B, Sy F, Holton K, Govert B, Liang A The NCID/SARS Community Outreach Team. Fear and Stigma: The Epidemic within the SARS Outbreak. Emerging Infectious Diseases (www.cdc.gov/eid) 2004;10:358-63.  Back to cited text no. 3


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