The confinement had significant psychic consequences for the French. Florence Sordes, lecturer in psychology at the University of Toulouse 2, studied its effects thanks to the testimonies of volunteers. The results are not very encouraging with the approach of a reconfinement.

An unprecedented situation in France. Our country has never found itself under cover, so quickly, so brutally, as from March 16 to May 11, 2020. The French seem to have understood the need for this confinement, but its psychological consequences are beginning to be revealed.

Florence Sordes has been working on the issue since leaving confinement. Following a call for testimonies, it gathered the words of 4,689 volunteers. All were able to testify about their experiences during the confinement period. Most of them are women (77.4% of respondents) living in Occitania.

5f995e216fa5b photo florence 5058326 - "the reconfinement would be experienced as a relapse" according to Florence Sordes, psychologist at the University of Toulouse 2

Florence Sordes has embarked on a large-scale study on the effects of containment

© Florence Sordes

What are the first conclusions of your study?

This study is carried out in three stages. The first, which I will talk about here, is that of containment. Then come the testimonies concerning the deconfinement, and finally those collected three months later.

Regarding the period of the two months of confinement, it is already clear that 20% of respondents have developed significant psychological distress. That is to say, anxiety, emotional instability, depression … Other factors also come into play: geographic location, degree of isolation.

Four major difficulties emerge from the testimonies I have gathered: daily management, deprivation of freedoms, the rupture of social ties and the fear of contamination.

The fact that things remain abstract and difficult to understand for people reinforces their propensity to develop psychological distress syndromes.

Which parts of the population are most affected?

Women seem to be more affected than men by this confinement. The same is the case with the youngest, more used to maintaining a social life and worried about their professional future. This also corresponds to the more worrying results among people without professional activity (students, unemployed, etc.).

Conversely, retirees seem to have been less concerned by the damage to the confinement. These are the ones who express the least psychological distress.

How did people experience this confinement?

Their reaction is very ambivalent among those polled. They testify at the same time to a loss of freedoms, of social bonds, of organization in their daily life as I have just explained, but they also believe to have gained in personal development. This can mean refocusing on the family, the pleasure of maintaining your garden, completing work paused for too long …

In the end, this confinement greatly caused a change of state of mind among people confined to their homes. The upheaval of everyday life has changed their way of seeing things. But when you compare the pros and cons, it is clearly apparent that people lost a lot more than gained over the period. This is particularly due to the ambient anxiety.

What would be the consequences of a re-containment?

The consequences will be very important in my opinion. Used to working on the psychology of people with cancer, I have the impression that this re-containment would be experienced as a relapse.

People already strongly marked by the confinement of the spring will come out only more affected by a new period in a bell. And for those who had put up with it rather well, nothing says that this time they will not develop psychological distress syndromes.

Even if we now know more about Covid-19, it does not seem to me that people have necessarily assimilated the learnings of the fight against the disease. This panic fear, linked to this persistent misunderstanding of the period, frightens people.

What are your major fears for the coming months?

In view of what is happening today, people are not ready for a re-containment. I fear that they will develop even more psychological distress, thus amplified by this ambient uncertainty.
A sort of vicious circle has taken place: the less people understand what is going on, the more they worry. And the more they worry, the less they understand what is going on.

This reconfinement would be an amplifier to what is currently happening in short. And government and media messages such as "we no longer control anything"promote this anxiety.

What is clear today is that we lack the resources, both economic and psychological, to bounce back in the event of a re-containment.

An uncertain future

Emmanuel Macron's announcements to the French on October 28 at 8 p.m. will therefore be decisive for the study of psychologist Florence Sordes. Mainly on the third part concerning the state of mind of those surveyed three months after the lifting of confinement.

Especially since this new confinement would not take place under the same conditions as the first. "We do not yet know the influence of the weather, the change of time, which generally encourage people towards addictive practices."added the psychologist.

Nothing says either that the French will be as respectful of the instructions as in the spring.