The psychology of a scam.
3 mins read

The psychology of a scam.

Contributed by

Dr Ravichandra Karkal.

Associate Professor of Psychiatry,

Yenepoya Medical College.

The whole world is engulfed in the fear and suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. If the first wave went in understanding an unknown enemy, the second wave has opened our eyes about the weaknesses in our country’s health care system. We are in an unprecedented crisis and the tiny virus has shown the need for the whole of humanity to come together in these difficult times. Unfortunately, we do not live in a utopian world. If we can learn anything from our past, there will be vultures waiting to feast on others suffering. In the age of social media, misinformation is rife and scamsters can operate with an ease unimaginable in the recent past. So, let us discuss today the “psychology of a scam” in the middle of a pandemic. Modern medicine has made remarkable progress in the last century. But any scientific method of treatment is always evolving. What may be the best treatment modality today may not be appropriate in the future. This is especially applicable to a relatively new illness like COVID-19. The likes of Hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir and Plasma therapy etc which figured in our national treatment guidelines have been questioned by rigorous research and some have been removed by now. The protocols for prevention and treatment are confusing for the doctors themselves, let alone the patients and their caregivers.

The uncertainty which arises because of the changing nature of the available treatments is distressing and anxiety provoking. In addition, when a doctor tells you that they can only contain a disease and cannot guarantee a cure, it is upsetting. Because our minds do not tolerate these feelings created by the environment of uncertainty, the certainty of a miracle cure is enticing. In this kind of a scenario, anyone who proclaims that he has a remedy that gives guaranteed results is automatically seen as a silver lining in the dark clouds for the sick and their family. Now imagine if this person is a businessman, a crisis such as a pandemic is a golden opportunity to grow his business. In addition, creating mistrust and fear in the minds of people about other forms of treatment and vaccines is just profitable. There are a lot of such vile forces at play and the healthcare community have a great responsibility to educate the masses. A good understanding of the emotional under tide of the pandemic is crucial to avoid panic and stay away from fraudsters. These lessons on mental health are critical for developing a scientific temperament among masses and build faith in modern medicine during these unprecedented times. Let there be light!

Educate patients about evolving nature of treatments and their limited utility in COVID-19. Support patient and family through the angst of being diagnosed, treatment and isolation by recognising their emotional issues.


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