Having Medical Anxiety During a Pandemic
Having any kind of anxiety disorder or phobia, is already stressful and frustrating. During a pandemic, it’s even worse. Anything and everything are amplified to the point you aren’t sure if this is just a regular ache or pain, you’re freaking yourself out over, or if it’s a symptom related to the coronavirus.
On an average day, I have around 1-3 panic or anxiety attacks over some kind of ache, pain, or weird symptom in general. It’s always nothing to worry about, and just gets worse because the anxiety becomes way more physical than it was, creating more symptoms to stress about. During this pandemic, I’ve noticed those attacks have increased, and small symptoms that I usually wouldn’t pay attention to or that I’ve already worked out are nothing, cause me to have more attacks.
Any kind of headache (especially behind the eyes), any sneeze, cough, sniffle, chest tightness (which is a symptom of anxiety), I panic. It’s like I can’t control my feelings of fear and anxiety and I just let them cause chaos which only makes things worse.
Thankfully, my therapist has taught me some great de-escalation techniques. I thought I would share them so that anyone who also suffers from medical based anxiety or phobias can try these out to hopefully ease or at least help you work through your attacks when you get them.
1. Is it one of the Three Major Symptoms of Covid
The three major symptoms are fever, cough, and not being able to breathe. Now, because of anxiety and panic disorders, chest tightness and feeling short of breath is common, however, please keep in mind that you CANbreathe during these episodes. It may not feel like it, and you may be hyperventilating or even gasping for air, but if you’re able to talk, drink, eat, and heck even burp, your airways are clear. You’re getting enough oxygen, and this is just anxiety or panic spreading throughout your body. If you don’t have a fever, you’re not coughing, and you’re able to breathe, then you are most likely okay, or at the very least not experiencing a symptomatic case, as only a test can confirm if you are asymptomatic but positive with Covid 19.
2. Have you been anywhere, where you could be exposed? And if so, talk it out with yourself or someone else you trust and determine the risk.
It’s okay to leave your house within reason, some of us have work or need to go to the store for essentials, or even need to go to the doctor for other reasons. Wherever you have gone, ask yourself your level of exposure, like are you in a very high-risk area? Did you wear a mask? Did you follow social distancing guidelines? Did you sanitize or shower after you went somewhere? If you’re not able to be a good judge, ask someone else what their thoughts are, about your level of exposure. For example, I ask my best friends, my therapist, and my mom. None of those people would lie to me, and they know the areas of where I went or were with me (in my mom’s case).
3. What do YOU have control over in regard to the Pandemic?
The biggest thing to remember during all of this, is that you do have control over things in regard to this pandemic. Finding out those things, can be extremely helpful in gaining some control over your panic and anxieties. For example, I have control over where I go/ who I come into contact with during the pandemic, what I do to protect myself, and what I do afterwards to help ensure that I am as safe as possible. Making a list like this and making sure you adhere to them, can be very beneficial in managing that fear that leads to anxiety and panic.
This has been a hard year, one that’s very scary, very stressful, and very anxiety inducing. Those of us already with mental health issues, have been hit extremely hard.
Take care of yourself and remember to breathe.