Professor Mattias Desmet is a Psychotherapist and Professor of Clinical Psychology at Ghent University in Ghent, Belgium.
He was recently interviewed by The Daily Sceptic about the rising levels of paranoia and fear associated with the COVID pandemic.
Professor Desmet has concerns:
But it is especially important to place mental well-being in the corona crisis in its historical continuity. Mental health had been declining for decades. There has long been a steady increase in the number of depression and anxiety problems and the number of suicides. And in recent years there has been an enormous growth in absenteeism due to psychological suffering and burnouts. The year before the corona outbreak, you could feel this malaise growing exponentially. This gave the impression that society was heading for a tipping point where a psychological ‘reorganization’ of the social system was imperative. This is happening with corona. Initially, we noticed people with little knowledge of the virus conjure up terrible fears, and a real social panic reaction became manifested. This happens especially if there is already a strong latent fear in a person or population.
The psychological dimensions of the current corona crisis are seriously underestimated. A crisis acts as a trauma that takes away an individual’s historical sense. The trauma is seen as an isolated event in itself, when in fact it is part of a continuous process.
But according to Professor Desmet, perhaps the biggest concern is where this fear could potentially take us because it has the potential to open the door to totalitarianism:
Here, too, we see a kind of naive belief in objectivity that turns into its opposite: a serious lack of objectivity with masses of errors and carelessness. Moreover, there is a sinister connection between the emergence of this kind of absolutist science and the process of manipulation and totalitarianisation of society.
In 2020, psychologists from several universities across North America were already noticing patterns concerning people’s fear of COVID.
As governments started talking about ending the lockdowns, they saw three groups emerging. At the top end, about 16% of the people had an extreme fear of COVID and were absolutely terrified about the lockdowns ending.
The biggest majority was the middle group who had a moderate fear of COVID, but were ‘cautiously’ looking forward to the lockdowns ending.
The bottom group believed that the lockdowns were more of a concern than the virus.
But notice what was said about the 16%:
Researchers will take a deeper look at people’s feelings toward reopening during the next phase of the project, but Asmundson says current results suggest likely responses, with those in the mid-range likely to be cautiously optimistic about reopening but those in the upper end — 16 per cent of respondents, many of whom have pre-existing anxiety-related disorders — are more likely to face the idea of leaving their homes with dread.