Our COVID-19 Pandemic Strategy-Makers May Need a CBT Upgrade
Faulty thinking may be preventing better results in the fight against the virus.
Posted August 20, 2021 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
- CBT—a form of therapy that explores how thoughts impact emotions and behaviors—may be able to aid policymakers in fighting the COVID pandemic.
- A key aspect of cognitive functioning that impacts problem-solving effectiveness is "either-or" versus "and" thinking.
- The concept of "and" thinking can be used to fight COVID by equally shifting the focus onto both prevention strategies and treatment.
Getting tired of wearing your anti-COVID mask? Hurting from the economic pinches caused by COVID, dreading more Zoom schooling, and feeling lonely from staying safe by staying home? Well, here's more bad non-news: The coronavirus rollercoaster ain't goin' away.
This virus mutates all too cleverly. Periods of coronavirus respite therefore will, again and again, be followed by ever-more-aggressive new COVID strains.
Politicians have been issuing prevention strategies as valiant attempts to fight off being swamped by these pandemic waves. They have recommended isolation at home, vaccinations, masks, social distancing, Zoom schooling, and more. These strategies do keep our shared finger in the dike, or at least they did before the most recent mutation started spreading. Still, the worldwide waters of ever-worsening virus variants will most likely continue to flood us with ever-more-dreadful virus threats.
Where does CBT come in?
Cognitive behavior therapy looks at how people are thinking in response to a problem.
A CBT analysis clarifies the problem with how many of us, including our political leaders, are reacting to the coronavirus pandemic. We have been too single-minded. The focus has been too exclusively on how to prevent the spread of the virus.
CBT by contrast values and thinking.
What could we add beyond prevention to remove the threat of COVID from our lives?
We could broaden our focus by adding a second focus to the official COVID pandemic-fighting strategy. The government, and also journalists and the media, could focus equally on both (another vital CBT word) prevention and treatment.
Prevention still matters. At the same time, with and thinking, those who make health policy could couple their concern with masks and vaccinations with equal attention to treatments that heal the illness more speedily and potently.
We as a nation did do "warp-speed" development of vaccines. How about adding a focus on ways to make warp-speed development of more effective methods of treatment?
Multiple COVID treatments now have been proven effective
There's Regeneron (which cured President Trump within days). There's Ivermectin. There's the politically incorrect but often helpful hydroxychloroquine. There are many more in the research pipeline. Yet few of these seem to have been made broadly available.
If such medicines were routinely administered at the very first signs of illness, they could block the nasty virus from causing undue suffering. Widespread early treatment with these medications also would prevent COVID from over-burdening hospitals and their overworked medical staffs.
Florida so far has taken the lead with regard to and thinking about COVID. While the government there still voices support for mask-wearing, vaccinations, and the like, Florida has opened treatment centers that make Regeneron immediately available to all who test positive for COVID. This kind of conventional prevention, plus rapid, strong, and early treatment for all will meet COVID-19 with a strong one-two punch—a punch that will hopefully knock out both the spread of the illness and needless coronavirus suffering.
Sure, the virus will still circulate. What will change is the need to fear its potency.
Reducing excessive fear is an important aspect of what CBT does. A change in thinking by adding the word and to pandemic strategizing can make the disease that had looked so frightening become a manageable phenomenon. Swift treatment for those who do contract COVID needs to be seen as equal in importance to prevention of the illness with masks and vaccinations.
Can prevention strategies plus a second focus on speedy and effective treatment soon make COVID-19 cease to be a dreaded disease?
Hopefully, yes. To the extent that sickness with COVID becomes only a briefly uncomfortable phenomenon, if people do get it, far fewer will become seriously ill or end up in hospitals.
So—may the coronavirus soon become like a drippy nose, an annoying cough, or a mild flu—ie., a mere passing nuisance.
May a cognitive change to pandemic-fighting thinking that focuses both on prevention and on treatment options be implemented immediately by all our political leaders. City by city, state by state, and as a country may this cognitive change enable all of us soon to enjoy less COVID-anxious and still physically healthy lives.