Increased Anxiety in Iceland, due to Negative News

COVID-19 has not yet been confirmed in Iceland, but it …

COVID-19 has not yet been confirmed in Iceland, but it is expected to spread here. mbl.is/Eggert Jóhannesson

Vala Hafstað

A flood of negative news in Icelandic media lately has led to increased anxiety in society, states Óttar Guðmundsson, psychiatrist.

He tells Morgunblaðið that children, in particular, are affected: “Children become very anxious under such circumstances. We, the psychiatrists, notice signs of increased anxiety in many parts of society.”

The negative news lately includes news of COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus), strikes, severe weather, avalanches, the lack of capelin in Icelandic waters, earthquakes, and the risk of volcanic eruptions.

“This negative news causes anxiety about the future,” Óttar explains. “If the flu won’t kill you in the coming days, then a volcanic eruption in Grindavík [Southwest Iceland] will. If you survive that, then pollution and climate crisis will kill you, so you will be dead by 2025. Such thoughts and endless talk of imminent disaster do, of course, cause anxiety.”

Óttar Guðmundsson, psychiatrist.

Óttar Guðmundsson, psychiatrist. mbl.is/Kristinn

Consequently, Óttar states, the use of prescription drugs is up. Doctors increasingly have to prescribe sedatives.

“I call what you see in the media these days ‘disaster fetish,’ he states. “Reports of COVID-19 have begun to resemble news from a sports event – how many have turned ill and how many have died.” He points out that billions have not been infected.

When listening to such news, he states, people start believing there is no hope. “We’ve always had to deal with severe weather in Iceland, and we’ve experienced strikes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions before,” he points out.

He advises people to take a deep breath, take it easy, find a good book to read, stay physically active, listen to music and watch a good movie.

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