The information people consume from the media daily affects their thought processes, behavior, and emotions. Information related to disasters like hurricanes, floods, conflicts between nations, and wildfires is likely to inflict fear and distress among people especially in cases where such events occur within their neighborhoods, while positive information can contribute to a person’s happiness. Although staying up-to-date with ongoing events is essential, overconsumption of negative news from the media can lead to the deterioration of an individual’s mental health and contribute to the development of anxiety or depression-related symptoms. Balancing between being informed about the ongoing events in the world and maintaining a positive mental health status is an effective way of reducing the risks of mental health conditions. While the Coronavirus pandemic, which is one of the greatest challenges that the world has faced since World War II, has affected the lives of many people globally; thus, people need to be informed about it, news related to the disease, such as morbidity and mortality rates, can have detrimental effects on the health of patients diagnosed with dissociative disorders.
Selection and Description of Current Event
The current event selected is the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, a global health crisis that has impacted people’s health, economic status, and overall lives globally. The Coronavirus emerged in Asia, where the first case was reported in Wuhan, China before it spread to other countries. The virus, which is believed to be a spillover of a similar version that affected animals and later adapted to human-to-human transmission, is highly contagious and has rapidly spread globally. On March 11, 2020, the WHO officially declared the virus a pandemic because of the high rates of infections seen locally where the virus was discovered and in other countries (Liu, Kuo, & Shih, 2020). As of August 22, 2020, there were 275,499 new cases and 22.8 million people had been infected with the virus globally, and more than 700,000 had died (WHO, 2020). Approximately 99% of the infected have mild symptoms, while 1% are in critical condition (Worldometer, 2020). The spread of the virus continues to affect people’s lives globally as families lose their loved ones and face an unpredictable future.
The pandemic has impacted the social lives and economic status of people globally through movement restrictions, loss of jobs, and broadcasting of such information on different media platforms. While the cases’ initial reports were mainly from Asia, the majority of the recent infections have occurred in the United States, Europe, and Eastern Mediterranean (WHO, 2020). The high rates of infections linked to the virus and the need for people to practice social distancing have contributed to the loss of jobs. According to the surveys conducted on employment in the U.S., approximately 701,000 Americans lost their jobs within the first two weeks of March even before the initiation of the lockdown protocol. Moreover, state filings showed that 10 million people had registered for unemployment benefits within the first week of March due to the loss of jobs (BBC News, 2020). The loss of jobs, economic impacts of the disease, loss of lives, and other news related to the Coronavirus’s challenges have been trending on the news over the past five months.
Selection and Description of Textbook Concept
The identified textbook concept is depersonalization/derealization disorder (DPD), drawn from chapter 16, which addresses dissociative disorders. An altered sense of selfhood characterizes depersonalization, while derealization is characterized by feeling like one’s surrounding is unreal. Individuals diagnosed with depersonalization often present with various symptoms, such as emotional and physical numbness, perceptual alterations, feeling as though they are not part of their physical body, and time distortion, while those with derealization present with a sense of dreamlike perception of their environment and visual distortion of their surroundings. Patients with DPD often experience both alexithymia and an inability to differentiate between feelings related to emotional and neural stimuli (Lynn et al., 2015). In most cases, patients experience a combination of the symptoms, which explains the characterization of depersonalization and derealization as one condition, DPD, in DSM-5.
DPD usually occurs in different conditions. These include highly stressful situations, being exposed to unfamiliar environments, threats directed to a person’s life that might occur during social interactions, the use of hallucinogens like marijuana, punishment, or parental rejection during childhood, depression, and anxiety, and emotional abuse. The persistent reoccurrence of these symptoms, which might interfere with a person’s future or affect daily functioning, leads to the diagnosis of DPD. Reality testing is used to assess patients and rule out the possibility of other mental health conditions like schizophrenia. Moreover, DPD commonly occurs along with other mental health problems, such as panic or anxiety disorders like PTSD. DPD is considered one of the fourteen symptoms linked to PTSD in DSM-5. It occurs in approximately 30% of PTSD cases (Lynn et al., 2015). The link between DPD and trauma suggests that exposure to high-stress situations could lead to the worsening of DPD symptoms.
Integration and Synthesis of Textbook Concept with Current Event
The current events related to the Coronavirus pandemic can affect the mental health of individuals diagnosed with DPD by worsening their DPD symptoms. Based on the textbook’s description of DPD, affected individuals often have trouble differentiating between the real and unreal perceptions of their surroundings that can be caused by the inability to distinguish between emotional and neutral stimuli. The strict lockdowns that have been placed in many countries, limited access to the outside world, seeing empty streets, and passing people wearing masks as a precaution to protect themselves against the infection has created a sense of danger and anxiety in most neighborhoods (Liu, Kuo, & Shih, 2020). Patients diagnosed with DPD are likely to experience challenges differentiating between reality and their perception of their environment and may feel unsafe even when approached by an individual wearing a facemask. Derealization can lead to visual distortion and perception of normal objects as dreamlike, lifeless, or robotic creatures (Lynn et al., 2015). For an individual diagnosed with DPD, the stress related to exposure to the current events might lead them to view a person wearing a facemask or PPE kits for testing the virus as robots or aliens.
Continued exposure to news about events relating to the Coronavirus pandemic could also lead to a recollection of traumatic experiences that exacerbate DPD symptoms in affected individuals. Over the past five months, most media outlets have extensively and constantly covered reports of new COVID-19 infections, death rates, loss of jobs linked to the pandemic, and other challenges affecting people globally because of this virus. According to Lynn and her colleagues, DPD often occurs in stressful situations or events that might pose a threat to social interactions. Overconsumption of information related to the high risks of COVID-19 infections in social places could contribute to increased stress among DPD patients. Moreover, exposure to the news on the current COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates could also contribute to excess worrying, depression, and anxiety among patients with DPD, which might further affect their mental health status or impair their ability to perform their daily activities effectively (Lynn et al., 2015). Since DPD is among the symptoms associated with PTSD, DPD patients who have undergone traumatic health experiences in the past might experience extreme anxiety, characterized by a fixation on their past trauma.
Striking a balance between staying informed about current events and limiting overconsumption of news, especially during a global pandemic, can be challenging. For individuals diagnosed with mental health conditions like dissociative disorders, overconsumption of such news can worsen symptoms such as depression and anxiety. Since individuals diagnosed with DPD are usually triggered or may experience an exacerbation of their symptoms after being exposed to traumatic or stressful situations, exposure to the news on the global pandemic and the suffering affecting people could lead to deterioration of their mental health. The high morbidity and mortality rates linked to the pandemic, increased number of unemployed people, the challenge of obtaining unemployment coverage, and the risk of infections are major sources of stress that could affect DPD patients. Based on the mental health challenges affecting patients diagnosed with DPD, their risk of depression, and anxiety related to the current event could be higher when compared with other people.
BBC News. (2020, April 3). Coronavirus halts a decade of US jobs growth. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-52153998
Liu, Y.-C., Kuo, R.-L., & Shih, S.-R. (2020). COVID-19: The first documented coronavirus pandemic in history. Biomedical Journal, 1-6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2319417020300445.
Lynn, S. J., Lilienfeld, S. O., Merckelbach, H., Maxwell, R., Baltman, J., & Giesbrecht, T. (2015). Dissociative Disorders. In J. E. Maddux, & B. A. Winstead, Psychopathology Foundations for a Contemporary Understanding (pp. 298-317). Routledge.
WHO. (2020, August 22). WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard. World Health Organization. https://covid19.who.int/
Worldometer. (2020, April 23). COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Worldometer. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/