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Coronavirus: Four symptoms that closely resemble a panic attack – what to look for

Coronavirus has sowed doubt and confusion since it first broke four months ago in Wuhan, China. Domestic governments response efforts have seen varying degrees of success and the lack of international coordination has been woefully evident. The response effort has also been stymied by a lack of understanding about the nature of symptoms.


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Health bodies have had their work cut out because COVID-19 is a new disease that has spawned from a new strain of virus.

Health experts have had to learn on the job about the different ways it affects the body as it spreads, hence the constantly updated lists of potential symptoms.

Complicating matters further is the fact that symptoms are general enough to be attributed to a wide range of conditions.

This generalisability is fertile ground for fear and paranoia to spread.

One area of crossover is the symptoms associated with panic attacks, which are strikingly similar to those linked to COVID-19.

A panic attack is when your body experiences a rush of intense mental and physical symptoms.

Muddying the waters further is the fact that panic attacks can be triggered by stressful situations and the current COVID-19 pandemic could be elevating stress levels.

What symptoms could fall under panic attacks and COVID-19?

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shortness of breath and chills are common identifiers of COVID-19.

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As the NHS points out, these are common symptoms of panic attacks too.

Furthermore, COVID-19 appears to affect brain function in some people.

According to Harvard Health, specific neurological symptoms seen in people with COVID-19 include tingling or numbness in the hands and feet and dizziness.

Dizziness, numbness or tingling in your fingers are also common manifestations of a panic attack.


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How can I distinguish between a panic attack and COVID-19 symptoms?

There is no official guidance but the duration of symptoms could help to distinguish between the two.

As the NHS explains, most panic attacks last for between five and 20 minutes.

Some panic attacks have been reported to last up to an hour.

COVID-19 symptoms, on the other hand, are believed to be at their most acute over the course of a week, this is why the government advises self-isolating if you have mild symptoms for seven days.

Coronavirus UK latest

Millions more people are to be eligible for coronavirus tests, according to government announcements yesterday.

People over 65 and those who must leave home to work, as well as those they live with, will be able to get tested if they have symptoms of COVID-19.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “From construction workers to emergency plumbers, from research scientists to those in manufacturing, the expansion of access to testing will protect the most vulnerable and help keep people safe.”

The total number of people who have died from COVID-19 in hospitals across the UK now stands at 22,370.

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