I have studied the psychological effects of pandemics – and even a few weeks of isolation can cause lasting anxiety
I knew a pandemic was coming, but I didn’t think it would be so soon. In the weeks before the outbreak of Covid-19 began in Wuhan, I was putting the finishing touches to a book about the psychology of pandemics. In my work as a clinical psychologist, I had spent years studying past outbreaks and examining what they could teach us about the psychological effects of the next virus.
Based on the hallmarks of previous pandemics, some of my predictions about coronavirus have proved eerily correct. I imagined that we’d see growing anxiety, racism, panic-buying, the proliferation of conspiracy theories, and sporadic instances of looting and theft – but also altruism and generosity, as people reached out to the physically isolated with offers of help.