Emotions and Reason in the time of Coronavirus: anxiety and sadness from healthy to unhealthy – Interview with the great Sandra Sassaroli

Emotions and Reason in the time of Coronavirus: anxiety and sadness from healthy to unhealthy – Interview with the great Sandra Sassaroli

Fear, sadness and anxiety, some of the emotions related to the emergency context from COVID-19 that must be accepted, but which must not govern our days.


Advertising message The interviews with great professionals on the theme “Emotions and Reason in the time of Coronavirus” continue. In this interview we will hear the point of view and the suggestion of the great Sandra Sassaroli, who will explain how to approach the predominant emotions of this moment such as anxiety and sadness and above all how to use them to our advantage.

Prof. Sandra Sassaroli, Psychiatrist and Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapist, Director of Cognitive Studies, Specialization School in Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy, Director of the Department of Psychology at Sigmund Freud University in Milan and Associate Teacher SITCC – Italian Society of Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive, he starts by making a brief introduction about what emotions are.

Fear, explains Prof. Sassaroli, informs us and warns us about a possible danger or difficulty and this emotion helps us to quickly choose a strategy that allows us to save our lives or get out of that situation, through answers such as attack or flight.

Emotions are information that is used to organize ourselves in the world, thus underlining their strong adaptive character. Fear is in fact a basic emotion that in human history has guaranteed its survival in moments of threat and uncertainty. Prof. Sassaroli takes up the example of this precise moment, that is, the arrival of this enemy whose name we only know: Coronavirus.

In this case we cannot think of not experiencing fear or anxiety, but it becomes important to use these emotions to our advantage.

In this case, adaptive anxiety pushes us to adopt prudent behaviors to safeguard and not infect us, such as keeping distance from others, washing our hands often, using a mask …

Maladaptive anxiety, on the other hand, is such a high anxiety that it involves our mind in catastrophic thoughts and thoughts, of the type it will never end, I will never get out, we will all die, which distract us and does not help to implement functional strategies and indeed it could expose us to further risk. When this occurs, Prof. Sassaroli suggests, we must bring anxiety back to prudential behavior in a realistic way.

Picture 1 – Prof.ssa Sandra Sassaroli

But we also talked about sadness.

With regard to sadness, Prof. Sassaroli once again starts by emphasizing the essential nature and adaptive role of this emotion, which is also very present in this delicate moment.

Even sadness has always served us, Prof. Sassaroli reminds us, it allows us to process losses, process losses, we need to deal with what we had and what we no longer have.

An emotion that is also essential and basic, not only ours but also present in mammals.

Being sad at this moment doesn’t have to worry us, Prof. Sassaroli suggests, because there can be a useful use of sadness.

Advertising message Therefore his advice is to deal with our sadness, learn to stay in it, accept it knowing that we may have lost a friend, a loved one, having lost a lifestyle that we had before the emergence of the coronavirus and that in the face of such experiences or thoughts we cannot fail to experience sadness. Having sad and nostalgic thoughts is, so to speak, “normal”, but they too must be used to guide us towards prudential behavior. It is important not to fall into it, especially for those who may have a certain vulnerability to these emotional states. What could become dangerous is sinking into a situation of absolute sadness, putting in place dysfunctional behaviors such as going to bed, stopping feeding …