NASHVILLE—A research study led by three middle-aged women with no relevant scientific background has identified a COVID-adjacent syndrome with an infection rate likely more than 1000 times that of the underlying coronavirus. Patients infected with the novel 3SW syndrome present with sudden bouts of panic, manifesting in trembly lip, goosebumps or uncontrollable weeping.
The study was co-authored by three friends on a text chain at the end of a particularly emotional week of quarantine, when one of the women confessed to breaking down over an Instagram post about an eighth-grade graduation that was conducted as a socially distant drive-in movie.
“I teared up AND got goosebumps. I think COVID-19 caught up with me in that moment,” lead investigator Judy texted co-authors Ann and Carrington. “What a creative and memorable way to mark an occasion.￼”
“I know what you mean,” Ann responded. “Sturdy sturdy sturdy then WHAM. Brick wall, have to stop and just cry.”
The latter text resulted in the name to the Sturdy Sturdy Sturdy WHAM (3SW) syndrome, a sudden and simultaneous onset of diverse emotions that might include fear, anxiety, grief, nostalgia, gratitude or boredom. Attacks are generally brief and can be triggered by an overdose of cable news, a compassionate commencement address by a former President, the cancelation of a wedding or prom, the failure of sourdough to rise, or the simple fact that no one has emptied the dishwasher. A survey of moms in lockdown concluded that 3SW does not depend on the emotional content of particular stimuli, but is instead a consequence of the Enormity of It All.
These findings were published in May 2020, in a text chain between the investigators:
- 3SW primarily affects women, or at least we’re the ones talking about it.
- Attacks can occur any time, but cluster in the moment between waking and opening one’s eyes while still lying in bed.
- Alcohol makes 3SW worse.
- Coffee helps. And buttered toast.
- Bread products should be taken in moderation.
- This too shall pass.
Researchers issued the following statement:
“What is so frustrating about 3SW is the fact that we know exactly how to treat it–with increased human interaction. But in a pandemic, that remedy can be toxic. Until real researchers find prevention and treatment for the underlying coronavirus, we are limited in our ability to treat 3SW and, ironically, risk provoking more attacks with every creative and memorable marking of an occasion, from graduation parades to Zoom bat mitzvahs. Furthermore, we are not convinced that complete eradication of 3SW should be a goal. After all, it is our extraordinary capacity for grief, gratitude and empathy that makes us human. Heightened vulnerability to these emotions during the pandemic just might be an essential driver in defeating the virus.”