Health experts on 'COVID shame': Do not feel bad for getting sick

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Many people who've taken precautions, such as getting vaccinated and wearing a mask, are testing positive for COVID-19.

If the virus isn't stressful enough, health experts warn about feelings of embarrassment or guilt. They've dubbed it "COVID shame."

Some people have avoided large gatherings, holiday travel, and maybe even seeing friends and family. When a person catches COVID-19, it is possible feelings of guilt, embarrassment, or frustration come up.

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"It's totally normal to have those feelings," explained Ahmad Bahrami, with Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health. "It's also putting those feelings in the context, right of like 'Hey, you know what, I tried everything.'"

Prior to the holiday season, the CDC warned that breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur with the spread of the new Omicron variant.

This is why Bahrami, the division manager at the Department of Behavioral Health, said it's important to be kind to yourself if you're experiencing COVID shame.

"This is not a reflection of you as a person," he said. "It's a virus that you happened to get exposed to."

Some other tips include:
  • Do not feel bad for getting sick, instead focus on getting better

  • Limit the time spent on social media, which is often a place where people can feel judged

  • "Just taking that negativity and toxicity out and finding people who can be supportive of you at that time," Bahrami said.

    The Department of Behavioral Health also shared tips for those who might find themselves judging others.

    Health leaders said it's important to remember precautions minimize risk, but they don't eliminate them.

    Also, people have different circumstances you might not be aware of, such as medical-related issues or a job that puts them at risk of exposure.

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    Last but not least, blaming or shaming does not help. In fact, it may make a person less likely to monitor their symptoms or report test results -- which doesn't help control the spread.

    Bahrami said: "We want to be able to have people feel safe to say, 'Hey, you know what, I'm not feeling good today. I don't know if it's COVID, but I think I might have some symptoms. I'm going to stay home today.'"

    Local health leaders stress, as the pandemic continues, showing empathy to yourself and those around you is very important.
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