Neuropsychologist explains how Coronavirus can impact mental health


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — As the concern over the Coronavirus grows, mental health experts say it can be hard to keep calm, especially with so many unknowns associated with the virus.

It’s something neuropsychologist Dr. Antonio Puente is an expert on.

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“One thing is to have great concern, and the other thing is to panic. There is no value in panicking,” he said. “The more unknown there is, the more anxiety that values. We are creatures that don’t like uncertainties.”

Puente, a UNCW professor, says the fear around the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is actually similar to the kind of fear associated with hurricanes.

“We start purchasing food, buying all the hand sanitizers available, and all of a sudden, it becomes widespread panic,” Puente said.

With a second case of Coronavirus confirmed in North Carolina on Friday, Puente explains how people can keep from jumping to that level of panic.

“I think we have to rely on sources that are tried and true,” he said.

Sources like the CDC, following tips like washing your hands, avoid shaking hands and disinfecting areas around you. However, he says there’s no need to take it too far.

“Not to make it to a point that it becomes so anxiety-provoking that you’re worried that you’re always going to be catching germs,” Puente said.

He says there is always a second part.

“What if you do get it?” he said. “We have great medical opportunities here, great medical professionals. Seek the help necessary. Get tested, and follow the advice of your health care professionals.”

As the disease spreads, Puente says it’s normal to be concerned, but no panicked.

“The difference between having appropriate anxiety and having panic anxiety is quite different, and clearly too much anxiety and panic is not what the doctor ordered, or for that matter, what fights the virus,” he said.

Governor Roy Cooper announced the state has adequate capability to test, but they’re trying to get more supplies to do further testing.

Find tips on how you can take extra precautions to prevent the spread of Coronavirus here.