When life feels like a disaster movie… (and you’re experiencing Fear Of Going Out)

— by Nilgin Yusuf

Photo: Pexels


Why do so many disaster movies start with or involve crowd scenes? Jaws (1975) is the obvious example but there’s also Rollercoaster (1977) Deep Impact (1998) and Earthquake (2016). All include scenes of mass hysteria, the source which might be respectively, a killer shark, fairground ride, earthbound meteor or erupting mountain.

I hadn’t made this link before between crowds and danger until a recent day trip to Central London. The sun shone and I considered how lucky I was to be able to meet an old friend for lunch and a matinee. It was just like the old days…or was it? I noted my levels of tension increased when confronted by the sea of bodies. Hordes of unmasked people teemed across pavements, alfresco lunchers were packed like sardines and the theatre was rammed. That’s when, I remembered Jaws. I could almost hear the soundtrack.


Original Jaws poster photo: 1st Dibs


After two years of laying low, maintaining distance and playing safe, ‘business as usual’ feels disquieting and a bit scary.  But according to numerous accounts, this kind of post-pandemic, situational anxiety is not uncommon and recent research suggests up to 72% of adults now struggle with FOGO or Fear Of Going Out.

Many vulnerable individuals are still unable to enjoy such freedoms. There are those who continue to shield for their own protection or for the safety of others, carers for instance or those with auto immune conditions. For them, free and easy is a long way off and the idea of being released into packed throngs represents not only a psychological fear but a genuine threat.

Despite restaurants, clubs, cinemas and shops all being back in pre-pandemic swing, Covid is still much with us and remains a worry for many. For those who find this nervousness is constant and debilitating, psychologists are offering up new labels such as Coronophobia and COVID Anxiety Syndrome. But even if the Covid-related angst isn’t persistent, the idea we should all be able to return to normal as though the last two years didn’t happen, is unrealistic.

This stress related to re-entering normal life is experienced on a spectrum and spans mild unease to distressing meltdowns.  Sharon Vickers, a London-based artist experienced a full-blown anxiety attack when she ventured into Soho to meet her daughter, ‘I was overwhelmed by the crowds, the sheer volume of people, colours, movement, smells. I had to get out and sat in a churchyard until she found me.’

While some are phlegmatic about relaunching themselves into life’s mosh pit, others have a sense of foreboding. Two years of Covid-19 lockdowns have affected how many feel about being in public. As hospital admissions continue to spiral, this suggests a prudent approach is wise, despite the nationwide vaccination programme. For those who feel that FOMO is getting the better of them, there are some helpful suggestions here which include taking things slowly and being ‘sure enough’, acknowledging one’s fears and visualising a joyful social life.

The mantra Be Safe is as important as ever.


Nilgin Yusuf is a freelance writer. You can find her on Twitter @Nilgin and Instagram @nilgin_yusuf

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  Why do so many disaster movies start with or involve crowd scenes? Jaws (1975) is the obvious example but there’s also Rollercoaster (1977) Deep Impact (1998) and Earthquake (2016).