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It’s unnatural to be restricted into one space, Jaiyeoba

By Daniel Anazia
11 April 2020   |   4:05 am
It is unnatural to be restricted into one space. This is why imprisonment is a traditional way of punishing offenders of societal values and rules.


Dr. Jaiyeoba Folusho Ilesanmi, a psychologist and senior lecturer in the Department of Industrial Relations and Personnel Management, Lagos State University (LASU), spoke to DANIEL ANAZIA on the psychological implications of the ongoing lockdown across the country.

Residents of Lagos and a few other states have been locked down to stem the spread of the novel Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19. From the psychological viewpoint, what does it feel like to restrict human movement?
It is unnatural to be restricted into one space. This is why imprisonment is a traditional way of punishing offenders of societal values and rules.

Being confined is also contrary to the basic needs/freedom of man for liberty, association and likelihood. Most people, however, introverted, may not like to be confined; hence we hear of violations of lockdown rules and stringent measures (some extreme and further violations of basic rights) to curtail envisaged and actual violations.

Is it psychological good for someone to stay in one place? What are the effects/impact on the restricted, psychologically, mentally and otherwise?
It is neither good nor safe. One, you are unable to adequately protect your self and territory once restricted. Two, you are unable to engage in routine exercises that are basic to survival. Lockdown is like a siege that has physical, social and mental implications. Psychologically, it relates to claustrophobic dread of space. Some find going out as a means of escape from spousal pressures, responsibilities and squabbles. Now, this is not possible.

Depending on news filtering from outside, feelings of panic, anxiety, dread and hopelessness may set in, with implications for ongoing Blood Pressure (BP) and cardiovascular diseases.

How can one cope or survive in such a situation, as we have now in the country, especially with the social distance factor?
Social distancing means restrictions on existing support systems. For instance, people on group therapy cannot interact (online medium may not suffice or maybe inaccessible) and improvements earlier achieved may be lost.

Also, people in isolation may become depressed and be thrown off balance in other areas, such as self-esteem, loss of aspirations and lockdown on ongoing attainments/projects.

Some introverts can adapt, how can the extroverts cope?
As hinted above, it will be extremely difficult for extroverted individuals to cope. Introverts, if they are engaged in research, writing, thinking (as they are accustomed to) may tolerate isolation better. But the fact that it is imposed can cause anxieties.

How is it possible for people, especially those suspected to have the disease to self-isolate for 14 days?
If they are enlightened and aware of their status, they may self-isolate. If they become symptomatic, they should also know how to seek help. The reverse is better imagined. The potential to spread infection, even in period of isolation, is high with the unenlightened.

There have been reports, supported by visual footages, of couples having domestic squabbles following the lockdown. What is your perspective could be the cause?
I made reference to the fact that going out provide escape route from spousal pressures and squabbles. It is volatile to be locked down with a troublesome spouse. We hope that tragic reports will not escalate as the days progress in the lockdown.

Some spouses only barely tolerate themselves. If economic pressure, like nothing to eat, is added, it can be very combustible.

How can couples improve their relationship during this period?
On the flip side, a thriving relationship that was hindered by daily activities and career concerns has the chance to catch up with lost moments. Bonding can renew and emotional wounds can recuperate. Of course, couples finding it hard to achieve conception may seize the advantage of being locked down to increase chance of conception by more frequent coitus.

Also, adultery- side chicks, late nights, drinking sprees, etc- had taken the backbench. Some emotional purging, confession of sins may be encouraged by closer ties, so are renewed commitments, once it is realised that the home offers much more than outside kicks and gigs.

Can staying in one place affect one’s mood, considering that we are of different personalities?
This question may have been answered from earlier commitments. However, depending on the range of personality one is considering, there are several possible responses and coping mechanisms.

For instance, Macrae personality types talks about: Openness to experience- this will likely respond by seeking excitation from activities they can find or invent or they are frustrated. Conscientiousness- these may be preoccupied with news sources, available solutions to COVID-19 and how to protect their family members. Extroverted- as earlier discussed. Agreeableness- their good nature may spur them to helpful activities, like giving, prayers, reaching out, etc. Neurotism- emotionally unstable individuals may become anxious, foreboding, etc.

All these personality types are on a continuum, ranging from positive to negative ends of the spectrum, so are the possible responses, varying with life circumstances.

Can finance affect one’s behaviourial pattern and psychology in this period of lockdown?
Definitely, this is a yes. This is why l referred to life circumstances in my response to the role of mood and personality. Lockdown means economic blockage, except for those whose means of livelihood are not directly impacted. Like they say, lack of money is anxiety inducing. If the family’s store is stocked and they can manage through, that is okay.

For daily income earners and particularly low-income groups, signs of irritation, anxieties, frustration and aggression would have become very evident because of lack of economic safety valves. People are helplessly locked down without means.

The church and extended family supports have also been cut off. It is grievous to think of the full extent of behaviourial patterns that will emanate from what is going on.

What is the psychological impact of staying in one place on one’s mental health and how can people maintain balance?
Balance depends on existing personality make up, lifestyle and level of appreciation of the changes and options presented by the lockdown. Also, a lot depends on one’s life roles. For instance, as a lecturer, l am reading, writing and finishing outstanding works, much like a blessing in disguise.

As a pastor, l cannot attend to my congregation and l can feel the distress many may have been going through. That can be traumatic, emotionally, depending on how emotionally connected one is with certain life roles.

Regarding what do we do about children at home, the struggle to restrict them, make them assume responsibilities, etc, each one can only do the best possible in the circumstances. Some prescribed coping mechanisms for maintaining balance are- key into factual news, reduce anxieties, water your religious beliefs and practise your faith by being hopeful, interact online to communicate and connect with associates that will inspire you, bond with family, especially spouse, knowing that except at retirement, you may never find opportunities of month-long honeymoon.

Exercise your muscles as best you can, take a walk in unrestricted neighbourhood streets, be creative, solve problem in your field of endeavour that can announce you on resumption to work, etc. As a pastor, l will say, pray without ceasing.

How can the children be handled in precarious a period like this? How can parents maintain balance?
I read a funny cartoon where a child was saying something like, ‘go and sit down, stay in one place, now you adults will know how far.’

It is not easy to handle children during any period when at home. They want their freedom and play. It is made worse by fear of infection. One can provide sanitisers (which is more exciting for kids than washing hands) when they are in contact with others. Assignments can be outlined for them and it may be a good time to expose them to useful domestic chores, like cooking, washing, making rooms neat, personal hygiene, etc.

These, of course, depend on the age range of the children. Older ones can assist in ‘taming’ younger ones. Games, stories, invented plays, etc, can also help, as well as educative television channels.