Understanding Caution Fatigue

art-295-01Temperature checks at an office building in Bandar Sunway, Selangor

Despite the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) still in effect, some Malaysians are displaying signs of ‘caution fatigue’, as they are seen not following the standard operating procedures (SOPs) imposed by the Government.

According to Jacqueline Gollan, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in the United States, caution fatigue occurs when an individual no longer has the energy or motivation to adhere to safety guidelines.

“You could consider caution fatigue to be similar to an AA battery,” Gollan describes. “Initially you may have been energized and positively focused on following pandemic-safety behaviour.

“But as the virus has continued on, you may start to focus on the negative and feel physically or mentally depleted.”

Gollan further explains that caution fatigue can take place when people find themselves unable to cope with the uncertainty and fear brought about by a situation like the COVID-19 pandemic, as a result of taking constant precautions for themselves or others.

“Our lives are defined by our habits and routines, and thus, are hard to change,” she says. “They connect us to a sense of normalcy and it is important to maintain a semblance of your previous schedule so as to not lose sight of your health goals.

“The things we miss, like playing and exercising, can still be rewarding but need to be redefined to meet pandemic safety guidelines.”

It may not be prevalent when just one individual feels tired from being too pre-cautious, but the danger of caution fatigue in a health crisis such as COVID-19 lies within the number of people affected by it.

The more people experience caution fatigue, the less likely they follow SOPs. This not only endangers the health of their own and those around them, but also leads to a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

“It is crucial that we recognise the threat of virus exposure accurately and adapt our lives to meet evolving safety standards,” advises Gollan.

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