From chest pain to headaches – how to tell if symptoms are coronavirus or anxiety – The Sun

THE unprecedented coronavirus outbreak means that life has dramatically changed for all of us for a while.

And as the deadly bug continues to sweep across the globe, many people have found themselves stuck in a cycle of anxiety and fear.

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In particular, as your body reacts to the uncertainty around you – you may find yourself experiencing a tightness in your chest and shortness of breath.

However, these are also two symptoms of coronavirus – which has infected over 22,000 people in the UK.

As Dr Sarah Jarvis, clinical director of, says: "Some of the symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks – feeling short of breath, palpitations, dizziness etc – are sometimes also seen in coronavirus."

And this overlap can make it hard to determine what is really going on in the moment when you’re spiralling.

Here, we take you through how you can tell whether what you're experiencing is coronavirus or anxiety.

Anxiety vs Covid-19 symptoms

Doctors have revealed that shortness of breath, chest tightness, loss of appetite and diarrhoea are a few symptoms of coronavirus that you may also develop if you are experiencing anxiety.

In particular, according to the World Health Organisation, if you have coronavirus your chest may begin to feel tight or you begin to feel as though you cannot breathe deeply enough to get a good breath.

Despite this, this is something those experiencing a panic attack or anxiety may also experience.

However, there are three key things you can do that’ll help you differentiate coronavirus symptoms from anxiety.

1. Focus on your breathing

Dr Jarvis recommends people take a few minutes to check in with themselves and try to steady their breathing.

She says: "The symptoms of panic attacks tend to settle if you concentrate on your breathing and take very slow breaths.

"Try tummy breathing – put one hand on your chest and the other on your tummy. You should aim to breathe quietly by moving your tummy with your chest moving very little."

Concentrate on your breathing and take very slow breaths

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.

On the other hand, 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.

In coronavirus, if you're experiencing severe shortness of breath you may also have persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse and bluish lips or face.

2. Talk it out

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 if you're able to talk while experiencing shortness of breath then it's more likely to be anxiety.

He told the Huffington Post: "They feel the same. Closed throat, can’t get enough air, shallow breathing.

"If you’re experiencing shortness of breath, call someone. If you’re able to speak and they understand you, and you aren’t gasping for air, then it’s most likely anxiety.”

3. Check if you have a fever

Another way to differentiate between Covid-19 and anxiety is by checking whether you have a high temperature – as this is a key symptom of coronavirus and is unusual during anxiety attacks.

The NHS say you don’t need to fixate on a number, but know it’s really not a fever until your temperature reaches at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 degrees Celsius) for children and adults.


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They say you can tell if you have a fever when you feel hot to touch on your chest or back.

Dr Jarvis adds: "Panic attacks don’t come with fever and virtually never with a persistent cough – these are the classic symptoms of coronavirus. "Other common symptoms include headache and muscle aches and pains, which are uncommon with coronavirus."

How to handle anxiety around coronavirus

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) CEO Simon Gunning has revealed there are some simple steps you can take during this uncertain time to keep on top things and stay mentally fit and healthy while at home.

✓ Stay connected

Make sure you stay connected to your mates as best as you can.

Even if you’re stuck at home, in our interconnected world there are loads of ways to chat to your friends and family, without seeing them IRL.

Play FIFA with your mates. Facetime your mum (she’ll love that).

Hell, organise a Google hangout and have a beer if you want to recreate a pub.

Connecting and checking in with each other is more important than ever and can help ease the stress caused by all the news.

BUT remember you can always mute WhatsApp groups and Facebook groups if you’re finding them too overwhelming.

✓ Switch off

It’s OK to turn off social media for a bit.

It’s very tempting to watch and watch (and then watch some more) all the information that’s coming in. But don’t do that to yourself.

Avoid news that could make you feel anxious and choose the stuff that’s practical and helpful.

If it helps check the news and decide on specific times you’re going to do it (9am and 5pm, for example).

Let out your feelings

Having that realisation that you’re feeling overwhelmed or annoyed at trivial things? Totally normal.

Finding it tricky to adjust to an unfamiliar way of living? Yep, normal.

Letting family or friends know you’re finding times tough? Well, that should be normal too.

In fact it’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed or upset about a lot of this.

Keep up your daily routine

Strike a balance between having a routine and making sure each day has some variety.

It can be hard to begin to accept this new normal.

If you’re finding the change difficult, it might help to build yourself a new routine – getting up, eating and doing familiar things at set times can help you to feel a little more in control of the situation.

But also change it up a little. Learn simple daily physical exercises you can perform at home.

Keep a To-Do list so you can see you’re achieving something.

Go for a run. Skype your mates. Even doing mundane things like cleaning the oven can help.

All of it will help to keep you active and reduce boredom (apart from the oven thing).

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