SEMARANG – The outbreak or pandemic of Covid-19, which demands a change in behavior in society, has the potential of causing serious psychological disorders and threatening the productivity of society. Dean of Faculty of Psychology Undip, Dian Ratna Sawitri, S.Psi, M.Si, Ph.D, said that the potential for psychological disorders needs special attention.
According to her, changes in behavior related to pandemics are generally divided into three. “There are behavior changes called protective behavior, preparedness behavior, and perverse behavior. The three changes in each behavior have implications that can lead to psychological disorders,” she said, Friday (11/12/2020).
As an illustration, the number of Covid-19 cases in Indonesia until Thursday (10/12/2020) are 598,033 cases, and the number of infected people in the world up to 69 million people. The death rate is over 1.5 million so that the World Health Organization (WHO) declares an international health emergency situation. As a consequence, there are social restrictions, such as school and university activities changing to study from home, limiting office activities, resulting in the emergence of work from home. Policy of closing entertainment and tourism venues also carried out which has resulted in increased unemployment due to layoffs.
As stated by Sawitri, at first the community can accept restrictions, be patient and hope that the situation would soon recover. However, when the outbreak situation becomes prolonged, the community is restless and various psychological disorders emerged which could be grouped into three patterns.
The first group, protective behavior, is actions taken by individuals to comply with health regulations in order to stop the spread of disease. Protective behavior includes personal hygiene and social distancing. Personal hygiene is manifested in the form of actions such as wearing masks, washing hands, avoiding eating outside the home, spraying disinfectants, ensuring adequate air ventilation in the room. Meanwhile, social distancing is done by maintaining distance to prevent spread of the virus, avoiding crowds and delaying traveling.
In certain contexts, social distancing is also manifested in the act of carrying out self-quarantine when an individual is interacting with suspects and/or parties infected with Covid-19, just traveling long distance journey using public transportation.
Limitation of social relations and quarantine, according to Sawitri, can lead to reduced physical activity, feelings of sadness, isolation, boredom, and loneliness. This condition, she said, quoting Safai and Sganga, opens up opportunities for increasing prevalence of depression, consumption of alcohol and drugs, addiction or internet addiction, and domestic violence.
She revealed, adjustments in work such as learning new things and dealing with fast, frequent, and drastic changes can cause serious implications. Its impacts can be in form of decreased job satisfaction, even causing increased burnout, namely a condition of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that a person experiences due to excessive and prolonged stress.
Implementing work from home is also not a simple thing. Adjustments to the situation and people living in the house are required. Particularly for those who have school-age children, providing assistance to children who are facing new learning situations while doing work from home while often making them over exhausted and depressed.
The second change in behavior, preparedness behavior, is behavior aims at ensuring the availability of resources needed by individuals to be able to make an appropriate response in order to inhibit and stop the spread of the virus. For example, looking for relevant information about the distribution of cases, the number of infected people, government intervention, buying hand sanitizers, masks, face shields, and daily necessities.
As a warning, seeking information about pandemics sometimes opens up opportunities for confusion, uncertainty, and anxiety. The reaction becomes serious for individuals who have anxious personalities, especially those who already have anxiety-related psychological disorders such as fear of being infected with a virus, have fear of contact with objects that are thought to transmit the virus, and feel afraid of strangers. Compulsive behaviors will emerge such as washing hands excessively, always cleaning objects to be touched, and spraying disinfectants even in normal conditions.
The third behavior change called perverse behavior, a behavior that is different from what is considered normal by society, such as avoiding hospital visits and obsessing over buying anti-virus drugs by themselves. A literature review conducted by Usher et al (2020) provides an illustration, although these three behavioral changes are responses that contribute to inhibiting the spread of Corona virus, they are positively correlated with increased anxiety, heightened concern, and more intense stress experienced by individuals.
The Dean of Faculty of Psychology Undip suggested that there should be special handling of changes in behavior and social conditions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is necessary to mitigate the effect of a pandemic on people’s mental health.