Shrink Rap: Dr. Paul & Coronaphobia!

Dr. Paul Hokemeyer

Shrink Rap: Dr. Paul & Coronaphobia!

A Telluride local, Dr. Paul Hokemeyer is an internationally recognized expert on treating clinical issues at the nexus of relationships and behavioral health. Dr. Paul’s book,Fragile Power.” is about the psychological challenges of celebrity, Go here for our review.

The following is a note from Dr. Paul in the Age of Corona to draw your attention to an interview titled “This COVID Side Effect Anyone Can Catch, Says Study,” which appeared in yahoo!life. Below is a preview. Read the full article here.

Dr, Paul

It seems that nearly every morning this week, we arose to greet a day full of chaos and uncertainty.

The morning after the first “presidential debate” (I intentionally put the phrase in quotes for the event was neither presidential nor a debate), I awoke to an inbox full of messages from anxiety ridden patients. One was crushed by the impact the event had on his 12 year old daughter, “We thought it would be a good learning event for her, but she got so upset by the bullying she started weeping uncontrollably.” Another, a mid level manager at a financial services firm wrote, “I couldn’t sleep all night and my stomach is a mess. It feels like the apocalypse is close at hand.”

Without a doubt, the spectacle marked yet another low point in the narrative of our nation. It punctuated our Covid_19 tragedy not with a period, but rather with a comma. Rather than provide a roadmap out of the pandemic, the event pulled Americans more deeply into a purgatory of chaos, uncertainty, and trauma.

While most Americans are left stunned, drained and as one of my patients said, “poisoned” by the hubris that overtook the stage that night, I’m proud to say that my colleagues- mental health researchers truly devoted to healing and hope- have been addressing the raft of mental health and addictive disorders that have arisen from coronavirus.

They’ve labeled the constellation of symptoms coronaphobia.

In a recent article by Leah Groth, I address coronaphobia as follows:

Defining the problem

“Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., author of Fragile Power: Why Having It All Is Never Enough explains that he has treated an increasing number of patients who (have symptoms of the disorder).

“While the bulk of the medical and media’s attention has focused on the physical aspects of COVID-19, those of us in the mental and behavioral health field have been struggling to manage the raft of psychological issues the pandemic has brought into the lives of the patients and families we treat,” Dr. Hokemeyer says. “These issues for the most part manifest from the fear, uncertainty, and eternal nature of the virus.”

Dr. Hokemeyer reveals that one of his patients, a mother of three young children, describes the virus as “an invisible molester who lives in my attic. I know he’s up there waiting to harm my family, but I can’t take any action to have him arrested.” Another, a professional man in New York City, described the pandemic as a “slow moving 9/11.” He explains that at the core of both these patients’ experience is, “a sense of impending doom over which they are powerless to escape.”

From his experience, the symptoms related to these feelings of “coronaphobia” are just as extreme as other severe phobias, including disrupted sleep patterns, a host of compulsive behaviors – such as spending money, eating, doomscrolling, sexual acting out and drug and alcohol abuse. “Many communities are experiencing an uptick in suicides and other self harming behaviors like cutting,” he adds.

He points out that relationally, the stress of COVID-19 is causing an uptick in physical and emotional abuse, infidelity and the magnification of personality disorders such as narcissistic and borderline personality disorders. According to recent reports, the divorce rate is significantly higher than years before.

Outlining a solution

Dr. Hokemeyer suggests that the most effective treatment for most of these disorders occurs from relational interventions and traditional psychotherapeutic modalities that are highly effective in treating mood disorders, including DBT, CBT, and REBT.

“These modalities address the thought patterns that give rise to the emotional reactions,” he explains. If the symptoms become extreme, psychopharmacological interventions such as SSRI’s can be effective in reducing the intensity of the mood dysregulation and negative emotional states.
“It’s also critically important that people seek help in their primary relationships,” he adds. Asking for help and providing support for others during these highly stressful and uncertain times is a top priority.

Finally, he notes that it is important to remember that while it feels as if COVID-19 is unprecedented, it isn’t. “The precedent in the pandemic is in the healing that comes from the highly adaptive and tribal nature of the human race,” he explains. “We instinctively come together to fight a common foe and heal in supportive and nurturing relationships with other human beings. These instincts will enable us to transcend the challenges presented by the pandemic and move ourselves, our relationships and our world to a more elevated and healthier state of being.”

Yes, I’m sure there have been periods in the past few months when you’ve felt overwhelmed and fatigued by the interminable nature of COVID-19 and the chaos it’s caused in our global community. I also suspect you’ve found healing and hope in your closest relationships as well as from strangers who’ve graced your path. I certainly have. From my spouse, to my colleagues around the world, to the sales clerk at my local grocery store, COVID-19 has provided me with countless opportunities to see others and be seen as a vulnerable human being.

One of the most impactful of these encounters occurred last month with a colleague of mine from London, Lou Lebentz founder of the community support group, Trauma ThriversWhile I’ve known of Lou and admired her work for close to two years now, we never took the time to engage in a deep and long format conversation about healing from trauma until we became united in our pandemic isolation through the power of technology.

In the following interview we discuss topics that include:

1. The hyper focus on self that has come with social isolation;
2. The need to incorporate somatic modalities into a trauma informed treatment plan;
3. The acute fragility that underlies modern manifestations of power.

You can find a link to the full interview here.

I hope you too find healing and hope in the conversation.

While it might not seem like it in the toil of the present moment, we will emerge from COVID-19, clearer about who we are and the world our children will inherit. Humans are highly adaptive beings who not only strive to make meaning out of the challenges in their lives, but to evolve -up- into more respectful connections with themselves, the human beings with whom they are privileged to share the planet and the natural environment that supports their existence…let’s continue in this esteemed tradition.

Dr. Paul, more:

Dr. Paul Hokemeyer

Dr. Paul Hokemeyer

Paul Hokemeyer , J.D., Ph.D., is the world’s leading authority on the need for culturally competent care in the treatment of people of power and celebrity. An internationally renowned Marriage and Family Therapist, he is the author of the book, “,”Fragile Power: Why Having Everything Is Never Enough (Hazelden, 2019).

His work in the realm of mental health and power has been utilized by the World Economic Forum and the Emirate of Dubai Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Paul has appeared regularly in a variety of media outlets including CNN, FOX News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Men’s and Women’s Health, and The Johns Hopkins Newsletter.

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