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The anxiety trap. Do I or don’t I have #covid19?


Being faced with a new illness label, as well as big changes in our lifestyles on lockdown can have a big impact on our stress levels. The challenge is that the main symptoms we’re looking out for – fever, cough and shortness of breath – can also come from anxiety, worry and stress.

Prof. Rona Moss-Morris, Head of Psychology at KCL, explains even though these are emotional things, they can have a pretty huge physical response – what we know as a ‘fight or flight’. As anxiety increases, so can physical symptoms.

  • Higher breathing rate, even hyperventilating.

  • Increased heart rate, can lead to heart palpitations.

  • Tight chest.

  • Clammy and sweaty.

  • Sore muscles if stressed for a long time.

  • Upset tummy and gut symptoms.

  • Even trembling if very stressed.

So what can you do?

If you’re experiencing symptoms, here’s what Prof. Moss-Morris advises.

  1. Be aware of thoughts and emotions, and how these can affect our body.

  2. Think about other things it could be first and check in with the rest of your body. Do you get hay fever for example?

  3. Try do get on with other things, distract with other activities that capture your attention and reduce stress, then see if the symptoms go away.

  4. Remember some anxiety is useful, e.g. it makes us follow advice to socially distance.

  5. Remind yourself that most covid19 cases are mild.

That’s not suggesting we can be complacent, as for some sadly it will be severe – so be vigilant with symptoms and if they don’t go away, seek help. If anxiety is an ongoing problem, it’s important to treat that too.