Dr. Odiase Jerry Edobor


Mr. Ohre Ighoyohwo Joseph


Department of Educational Psychology, Guidance and Counselling

Faculty of Education

University of Port Harcourt



Fear and anxiety over a disease kills faster than the disease itself, hence it is necessary to have sufficient knowledge of any pandemic so as to reduce the fear for it and fight it squarely. How fear and anxiety arises during pandemic have been exhaustively highlighted. The major causes of fear during pandemic which include lack of adequate information about the disease itself were also outlined. Recommendation on how to control fear and anxiety during pandemic was also outlined which include acquiring adequate information about the virus. It was concluded that pandemic induces fear and anxiety.


Key words: Pandemic, Fear, Anxiety, COVID-19





There has never been a time in the history of man where the emergence of infectious disease never occurred, ranging from ages till date. It could only be of record that while some are endemic, others are pandemic. In recent times, many strange and life threatening diseases have been occurring at an increasing scale and frequency i.e. Ebola virus disease, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), avian and pandemic influenza, Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and the recently emerged corona-virus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The outbreak of these diseases resulted in wide ranging socio-economic consequences, including loss of lives and disruption to trade and travel. Lives are lost in seconds with dead bodies littering all over the place with few countries exempted from this current pandemic. These have built fear and anxiety in every living being. The outbreak of corona-virus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has created a global health crisis that has had a deep impact on the way we perceive our world and our everyday lives. Not only the rate of contagion and patterns of transmission threatens our sense of agency, but the safety measures put in place to curtail the spread of the virus also require social distancing by refraining from doing what is inherently human, which is to find solace in the company of others.

           Unlike fear, which is a response to a real specific threat, anxiety is a response to a vague or unknown threat. Anxiety occurs when an individual anticipates the occurrence of a dangerous or unfortunate event. Anxiety is a part of life, just like joy, sadness and anger. As in the case of stress, anxiety can show up as various physical, cognitive and emotional reactions. The degree and intensity of anxiety experienced varies from one person to the other. How an individual perceives the event can significantly affect the intensity of the anxiety experienced. The COVID-19 pandemic is an unusual and unknown virus that calls on us to adjust and adapt since we have never had to deal with something similar. It brings out reactions and emotions in each of us. We anticipate its impacts on our lives and that of people close to us.

          Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. How people respond to outbreak or a situation may depend on their personality, their home background, the things that make them different from other people, and the environment they live in. Diseases that are endemic induce fear let alone those that are pandemic. One major problem with pandemic diseases are the problem of vaccines, they take lives at speed while scientist work daily to find solution. The corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has become one of the central health crises of a generation. The pandemic has affected people of all nations, continents, races, and socioeconomic groups. The responses required, such as quarantining of entire communities, closing of schools, social isolation, and shelter-in-place orders, have abruptly changed daily life.

           Very little research has been conducted on excessive anxiety in response to pandemic illnesses in general, and the COVID-19 in particular. However, understanding the psychological factors that predict anxiety in response to such phenomena is important because for some people this results in clinically significant distress (e.g., anxiety and fear), avoidance, and functional impairment. Excessive safety behaviour responses designed to minimize the perceived risk of illness (e.g., excessive hand washing, repeatedly seeking reassurance from medical professionals) may also be performed, further impairing functioning. Highly publicized disease outbreaks can also result in mass psychogenic illness, in which medically healthy individuals misinterpret benign bodily signs and sensations (e.g., temporary sneezing or shortness of breath) as indicating that they have become infected, causing them to become health anxious, hyper-vigilant, and engage in excessive safety behaviours (Taylor & Asmundson, 2004). Adding further to the costs to society, such individuals might over utilize medical resources and miss days of work. Such costs highlight the importance of identifying the psychological factors that may predict COVID-19 virus anxiety; which is the aim of this study.


Fear is an emotional response to a known or definite threat. For example, when there is a pandemic, the thought or feelings of being infected generate fear in an individual. It is a frightening time. Everyone is currently in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, with total or partial lockdown. Some of us are in areas that have already been affected by corona-virus. Others are bracing for what may come. Nigeria Centre for Disease and Control (NCDC) keep updating us on daily happenings on COVID-19, the death toll is increasing, having in mind the poor level of medical facilities in the country, one begins to ponder, “What is going to happen next?” Although people differ in their psychological constructs, for many people, the uncertainty surrounding corona-virus is the hardest thing to handle. We do not know how exactly we may be affected or how bad things might get.


Anxiety is a mental health disorder characterized by feelings of worry, anxiety or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one's daily activities. Health anxiety is a construct which refers to the inappropriate or exaggerated concern about one’s health status relative to one’s actual health is conceptually relevant to a number of psychological conditions, including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), illness anxiety disorder, somatic symptom disorder, and other anxiety disorders (e.g., Taylor, McKay, & Abramowitz, 2012). Cognitive-behavioural models of health anxiety posit that distress arises as a result of mistaken beliefs about illness, health, and the meaning of ambiguous body sensations (e.g., Abramowitz & Braddock, 2011; Taylor & Asmundson, 2004).

Causes of fear and anxiety during pandemic

Lack of adequate Information: Information they say is power, that is definitely true. With the adequate knowledge of the virus, you can control your own fear, manage your safety measures and cope with the challenges that come with it. Knowledge gives you the power of decision making because of the information you have decisions can be made.

Fake news about the virus: There are also cases where wrong information about the virus pushes us to fear, for example, when you are wrongly informed about the measures of contracting the virus, you get scared of the uncertainty surrounding it. Most of these fake news are spread through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.

Total lock down: During pandemic, there are laws put in place to help the government and health workers fight the virus. These laws sometimes generate anxiety and fear on the members of the society as they are meant to stay at home and in most cases they run out of food stuffs and other necessities especially in under-developed countries like Nigeria where palliatives are inadequately given to the citizens.

High rate of goods and commodities: During pandemic, there is low or no movement of goods and commodities and this causes the sellers to increase the prize of the goods they have in stock just to make higher profit. Most consumable goods in Nigeria for instance are transported from one part of the country to the other, for example, tomato, onion etc are transported majorly from the Northern part of the country in large quantities but due to the lock down, it becomes difficult to carry such goods to the retailers.

Duration of the pandemic: The period the pandemic is meant to last is in most cases unknown to everyone including those in the corridor of power as the laws put in place to regulate the activities of people can only be suspended if and only the pandemic has been reduced to a minimal level or its vaccine has been established and tested. This alone creates fear and panic in the minds of everybody.


There is no doubt pandemic comes with fear which causes anxiety, there are measures that can be adhered to control, reduce or eradicate such fear.

  • Get sufficient information: When there is a pandemic, make effort to acquire adequate information about the virus as this will help you to know the measures of contracting it and therefore know steps to stay safe. With a good knowledge of the virus, there is no doubt fear and anxiety will wipe away or reduce.
  • Get rid of fake news: While obtaining information about the virus, make effort to verify and filter the right news as this is a major cause of fear and anxiety during pandemic. Do not rely on one source of information about the virus instead go online, read local and foreign news, listen to foreign and local television stations. All these will help you take control of the rightful information.
  • Focus on the things you can control: Truthfully, there's not much you can do about what is happening around you. You can only take control of yourself, so that is what you should focus on. Follow the advice of the major health agencies monitoring and fighting the virus like World Health Organization (WHO), Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) etc.
  • Follow laid down instructions: During pandemic, there are laid rules to follow to curb the virus, some of such rules could be washing of hands regularly, keeping social distance, avoiding the usage of unsterilized objects, sanitizing your hands regularly, using face or nose masks etc. These measures are laid down depending on the means of contracting the virus.
  • Keep yourself busy: In most cases during pandemic, there is total lockdown, therefore it is necessary to keep oneself busy as an idle mind could generate fear.









Fear and anxiety are normal day to day psychological challenges which arise in times of trouble but during pandemic there seems to be increase in fear and anxiety of persons within the affected areas or nation. Pandemic no doubt causes a lot of setback in peoples’ daily activities and this setback induces fear and anxiety. Conclusively, adequate information about pandemic is a key factor in fighting the psychological challenges arising from it.







Abramowitz, J. S., & Braddock, A. E. (2011). Hypochondriasis and health anxiety. MA: Hogrefe & Huber.

Taylor, S., & Asmundson, G. J. G. (2004). Treating health anxiety: A cognitive behavioral approach. Guilford Press.

Taylor, S., McKay, D., & Abramowitz, J. S. (2012). Hypochondriasis and health-related anxiety. In P. Sturney & M. Hereson (Eds.), Handbook of evidence-based practice in clinical psychology, 2; 603–619.