Whether you’re worried about your health or the health of loved ones, trying to navigate sudden unemployment or wondering what happens next in the face of uncertainty, you’re not alone. As things develop during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s one thing just about everybody has in common: A huge increase in anxiety.
If you’ve experienced anxiety or panic before, you’ll be aware that symptoms can manifest physically. Your breath may become shallow and rapid, you may experience flu-like aches.
Global media channels are telling us all to look-out for potential COVID-19 symptoms — shortness of breath, cough and fever — so when anxiety induces those physical symptoms your fear begins to sky-rocket.
The best course of action if you’re concerned about your symptoms is to talk with your doctor.
In the meantime, here’s how anxiety affects your body and the overlap of symptoms with COVID-19.
How Does Anxiety Affect Your Body?
Anxiety and panic can cause physical symptoms that may resemble early COVID-19 symptoms, including shortness of breath and even chills or aches and pains like you have the flu.
COVID-19 symptoms can feel so common to other illnesses and to panic attacks, so it’s very easy to overthink about how your breathing feels tight or you feel fatigued.
Increased anxiety triggers a threat response in body’s core system. It primes you to fight or run away from a threat. You may feel:
- Increased heart rate
- Heart palpitations
- Rapid breathing
- Tightness in the chest or chest pain
- Muscle aches due to contraction (to prime you for action)
- Digestive discomfort due to slowed stomach or intestine function
So how do COVID-19 symptoms overlap with physical signs of anxiety.
Shortness of Breath
COVID-19 causes a respiratory infection, which makes it more difficult to breathe. Reports indicate this can be mild to moderate, like feeling winded after a short walk from your bed to the bathroom, or more severe.
Chills and Feeling Cold
To fight an illness, a fever increases body temperature to make it more difficult for a virus to survive in the body. Chills cause muscle contractions that help your body maintain and regulate a high temperature. COVID-19 causes a fever (and chills).
Flu-Like Aches and Pains
A fever can cause body aches, pains and weakness, which you might usually experience with the flu. COVID-19 causes similar body aches and pains for many people.
Preliminary research suggests that COVID-19 can cause digestive symptoms including a loss of appetite, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting.
COVID-19 Versus Anxiety Symptoms
So, if you’re having a hard time determining whether the tightness in your chest and shallow breathing are related to your increased anxiety or a potential sign of COVID-19, you’re not alone. We’re still learning about the coronavirus, we can’t know exactly what symptoms it causes for most people.
Here are some clues to look for:
- Physical anxiety symptoms should decrease as your anxiety levels go back down and your nervous system calms down.
- COVID-19 symptoms will likely persist or worsen over time, regardless of your anxiety levels.
- Use a thermometer to keep an eye on your temperature to determine if you have a fever.
If you’re still in doubt, after attempting to reduce your anxiety symptoms through traditional methods of relaxation, meditation and distraction… contact your doctor about the symptoms you’re experiencing, and make sure to mention the anxiety you’re feeling too – they’ll advise you what to do.