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How Panic and Fear Spreads In Trying Times

 

If you’re keeping up with the news surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, then it’s likely that you’re aware of the impulsive decisions many people are making. The long lines at grocery stores, stocking up on food and toiletries, sweeping out the aisles of entertainment—all of this is panic-induced. Panicking is just as contagious and spreads at a rate as fast as the coronavirus. The way in which panic takes control is that people start to take all the information that is created (and is sometimes misleading) and start to run with it. It doesn’t help that social media is a huge factor in supplying news and updates, whether it regards a worldwide pandemic, natural disasters, economical catastrophe, or other instances. We take a look at how exactly this fear spreads and what we can do to slow it down.

Responding With Fear in The Face of Danger

Oftentimes, responding with fear to scary situations is all we know—at least that’s how we feel at the moment. The contagious nature of fear and panic is an evolutionary old phenomenon that researchers have observed in many species of animals and in humans as well. Believe it or not, the panic we build can serve as a valuable survival tactic. 

So why do we panic? Well, it’s simple. Our brains are hardwired to automatically respond to threats within our environment. The amygdala (the portion of our brain that is located deep within the side of the head in the temporal lobe) is responsible for responding to these times that our brain categorizes as a “threat”. The amygdala collects this sensory information and analyzes it for stimuli associated with danger. From there, the amygdala sends the signal to other parts of the brain in order to cultivate defense and fear-factor responses. These responses often come in the form of flight or fright.

We Sense The Fear of Others 

Many species of animals travel in herds, therefore, if one of them begins to run for their lives, another member is bound to follow. Human beings are social creatures by nature, so much like animals, when a few of us pick up on fright, the rest of us are inclined to do just the same. People are sensitive to panic or fear, especially expressed by the groups we closely surround ourselves with. 

There is a specific part of the brain, in addition to the amygdala, that is responsible for reacting to the fear of others. The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is what makes this possible. It surrounds the bundle of fibers that connect the left and right hemispheres of the brain. So when you watch another person react to situations with fear, your ACC is triggered. 

All in all, fear contagion is a real thing and it is an effective way of transmitting and inducing defense responses. 

Breaking the Cycle of Fear: Almost Impossible 

Due to the fact that fear contagion spreads so quickly, it can be rather difficult to control. Once fear is triggered within a crowd, there is no time to verify the sources of terror. People rely on the actions of others, so if one is running, you can expect the rest of the group to run with that one individual. Oftentimes, these mass panics end up in tragedies—which is exactly why officials are urging people to remain calm. Ever since the breakout of COVID-19, people have been purchasing items by the bulk, but many of them don’t understand how this can worsen the circumstances. With more people going to the stores, it becomes more likely for the virus to spread. 

Fear is not limited to spread in physical settings. The media is also highly responsible for distributing terrifying information and propaganda, keeping people in a growing state of fear. 

How Can We Impede the Spread of Fear 

There are rather simple ways in which we can help mitigate fear contagion and spread. When you are out in public, it is best that you remain as calm as possible and keep your physical state relaxed. People can sense when you are anxious or afraid, even just based on your body talk. Additionally, it is best that you do not spread around information regarding safety that is not clarified. It is best that you share information from trusted sources. 

Keep Calm With Latinx Talk Therapy

At Latinx Talk Therapy, we do everything we can to ensure that you maintain mindfulness and peace, even in the worst of times. Contact us today to learn more about how we are providing our services in the midst of COVID-19.

 

 

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