We’re navigating unprecedented times. As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, many of us have found ourselves stuck in a cycle of anxiety and fear. Is that tightness in your chest and the shortness of breath just your body reacting to the uncertainty around you, or could you have possibly picked up COVID-19?
Some of the symptoms associated with anxiety and COVID-19 can overlap. Because of that, it can be hard to determine what you’re experiencing in the moment when you’re spiraling. Here’s what you need to know.
Anxiety Symptoms vs. COVID-19 Symptoms
“There are a few symptoms of COVID-19 that overlap with anxiety symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, loss of appetite and diarrhea,” according to Kate Denniston, a licensed naturopathic doctor at Los Angeles Integrative Health.
While difficulty breathing is a major known symptom of both anxiety and COVID-19, there are a couple key things that’ll help you differentiate one from the other. In order to understand what you’re dealing with, Denniston suggested taking a few moments to check in with yourself and try to think about what you were focused on before your symptoms began.
“Maybe you’ve been focused on the news, financial stress or worry about finding the supplies you need,” she said. “Do you have a history of anxiety? If so, how does what you’re feeling now compare to anxiety you’ve experienced in your body before?”
If you were able to calm yourself down and find a steady breathing pattern within those few minutes, you may not be dealing with the coronavirus.
“Shortness of breath associated with the COVID-19 infection is progressive in nature and can become life-threatening over a period of hours to days without medical care,” Sarah Johnson, chief medical officer at Landmark Recovery, said.
Another quick self-check you can do is to try talking, said Anthony Freire, the clinical director and founder of the Soho Center for Mental Health Counseling in New York. Freire, whose doctor believed he contracted the virus and has since recovered, said the most difficult part of dealing with the virus was the respiratory issues.