A lot of people suffer from anxiety in their normal life. With so much media coverage and information during this uncertain time, it’s hard not to feel anxiety. If you’ve never experienced a panic attack before, many who go experience panic attacks and anxiety can feel like they’re dying when they aren’t.
There are a lot of different medical conditions can cause sudden shortness of breath: asthma, chest infection, heart disease, anxiety, panic attacks, and yes — COVID-19. (BR General, April 2020)
It’s important to know the difference between anxiety and COVID-19 so that if you’re experiencing anxiety, you won’t run to the hospital thinking you’ve contracted COVID-19. Although there are a few similarities, there are some major differences between the two sets of symptoms that one should keep in mind. (Self, April 2020)
What is Anxiety?
Shortness of breath is identifying as an increased effort to breathe, chest tightness or a feeling of not getting enough oxygen. Normally, anxiety symptoms can also include feelings of panic and fear, obsessive thoughts, excessive sweating, heart palpitations, nausea, or dizziness.
A person who is experiencing shortness of breath due to anxiety may also only experience it in intervals lasting 10 – 30 minutes at a time and symptoms will likely come and go throughout the day. If you find that you are experiencing anxiety, here are some things that you can do to help ease the symptoms that you may be feeling:
- Take slow, deep abdominal breaths, inhaling for a count of five and exhaling for a count of seven. Do that for five or 10 minutes at a time.
- Try a muscle relaxation exercise, where you squeeze muscles in a select area of your body for a count of five and then relax them. Start with your feet and move up to your head.
- Focus on things directly in front of you. What can you smell? Hear? Touch? Focus on your senses as a form of distraction.
(GoodRx, April 2020)
If you try these techniques and feel your symptoms easing up, that’s a good indicator you’re dealing with anxiety. From there, consider making a few changes in your daily routine. If the symptoms feel chronic, a visit with a mental-health care professional can help you get to the root cause of the problem.
Anxiety Symptoms vs. COVID-19 Symptoms
While difficulty breathing is a known symptom of both anxiety and COVID-19, there are a couple of key things that will help you differentiate one from the other. In order to understand what you’re dealing with, it is recommended to take a few moments to check in with yourself and try to think about what you were focused on before your symptoms began.
A person suffering from COVID-19 usually has a fever along with coughing and difficulty breathing; since anxiety doesn’t cause coughing, that’s an easy key distinction between the two. And another distinction is that sneezing, and a runny nose can occur with the virus but not with anxiety. While you’re working to keep anxiety in check, don’t forget to also stay protected from COVID-19. (Psychology Today, April 2020)
By now, we all know the things one should be doing to prevent contract COVID-19, such as washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, not touching your face with unwashed hands and limiting contact with others through social distancing. But don’t forget to practice self-care as well.
The diagram reminds us of the myriad of symptoms that accompany COVID-19. You won’t experience fever AND shortness of breath with a simple anxiety attack.
In case you’re experiencing feelings of anxiety that won’t go away, talk with your doctor about your options. If your shortness of breath is coupled with symptoms of coronavirus as depicted in the diagram above, we recommend an ER visit just to be sure.
Our Board-Certified Emergency Physicians can determine your condition if you feel that your symptoms are indicating COVID19. We are also here to help those experiencing a mental health crisis. We are here for you and your family, 24/7, 365 days a year to treat any medical emergency. Our doctors and nurses are here to give you comfort, quickly. It’s what we do best.
“Is My Shortness of Breath Anxiety or Coronavirus?” Baton Rouge General, 7 Apr. 2020, www.brgeneral.org/healthy-lifestyle-blog/2020/april/is-my-shortness-of-breath-anxiety-or-coronavirus/.
Vergnaud, Sophie. “Is Shortness of Breath an Early Symptom of Coronavirus (COVID-19)? – GoodRx.” The GoodRx Prescription Savings Blog, 10 Apr. 2020, www.goodrx.com/blog/shortness-of-breath-first-symptom-of-covid-19/.
Cohen, Ilene S. “Anxiety vs. Coronavirus: How to Tell the Difference.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 26 Mar. 2020, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-emotional-meter/202003/anxiety-vs-coronavirus-how-tell-the-difference.
Miller, Korin. “Tightness in Your Chest? Here’s What It Could Mean.” SELF, www.self.com/story/when-to-see-doctor-chest-tightness.