The 4 differences between anxiety and breathing problems

These times are really stressful. Although the situation seems to be improving, the truth is that the pandemic has changed the lives of many people who are afraid of being infected.

Some symptoms of anxiety coincide with those of VOCID-19, especially shortness of breath and pressure in the chest. Because the fear of having the disease causes even more anxiety, anyone who experiences one of these episodes worries more, has more difficulty breathing, and feels worse.

With that in mind, let’s see today what they are the main differences between anxiety and respiratory problems associated with the disease, Besides seeing ways to tell if you are experiencing an anxiety attack or not.

    Key differences between anxiety and breathing problems

    Anxiety episodes are conditions that many people can experience throughout their lives. Behind them there can be all kinds of causes that provoke in people who suffer all kinds of symptoms, different in each person but who share as their main emotion felt a deep fear and fear of the way things are going to turn out.

    The global pandemic is a problem serious enough to increase the number of cases of anxiety attacks. In addition to the fear of how society will change after the crisis, there is the fear of the virus itself, as the disease it causes is potentially fatal. Being a respiratory illness, COVID-19 can cause shortness of breath, a symptom many people experience when having an anxiety attack.

    If we put ourselves in the shoes of someone who is having an anxiety attack and taking into account that COVID-19 is the protagonist of the news, the fact that we start to lose our breath is something that makes us feel will alert very easily. We will associate this difficulty in breathing with the coronavirus, because it is the disease of the moment and the main danger. We believe that we have been infected and that we are showing the first symptoms, that we will be one step away from entering the ICU..

    Believe this, the situation will worsen, because the more we run out of anxiety in the air and the more we think about COVID-19 (or any other serious respiratory illness), the more anxiety we will have and so on until whatever someone or someone manages to do. calm them down. Having coronavirus disease is not the only thing that harms our health, but constantly thinking about it and not knowing how to tell the difference between anxiety and medical breathing problems.

    This is why, with the aim of helping all those people who have already suffered from an anxiety attack, below we will look at the similarities and differences between excess anxiety and respiratory problems. .

    Symptoms of anxiety and breathing problems

    First, let’s see what the symptoms of anxiety are. This problem does not manifest itself in the same way in everyone because, just as we have different personalities, intelligence and abilities, our way of manifesting a psychological problem is also different. However, what coincides in all cases that there is an anxiety attack is irrational fear and fear, especially without knowing how the episode will end or thinking that a potentially dangerous situation is involved.

    In today’s environment, worry about the virus is normal and it is natural for people to be very stressed. In addition to the fear of being infected with viruses, there is uncertainty about the end of it all, the economic and social repercussions that this entails and whether the “new normal” will end up being the future “normal”, a world in. which costs a lot to adapt.

    Thinking about all of this is something that can cause an anxiety attack in all types of people, especially those with a neurotic personality or anxiety disorder. Among the symptoms we can find in a picture of this type that we have.

    • Feelings of fear, panic and nervousness
    • Obsessive and uncontrollable thoughts
    • repeated thoughts
    • Trauma from traumatic events
    • Irrational ritual behaviors
    • excessive sweating
    • Numbness of hands and feet
    • Shortness of breath and hyperventilation
    • Chest pain or palpitations
    • Inability to be calm and quiet
    • Dry mouth, nausea and dizziness
    • Feel calm, at the limit
    • tired
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Empty mind
    • irritation
    • muscle tension
    • excessive worry
    • Sleep problems: insomnia and lack of restful sleep.
    • diarrhea

    Taking COVID-19 as an example of respiratory illness, among its main symptoms we can find the following three.

    • fever
    • Breathing problems
    • dry cough

    Other less common symptoms of this disease are:

    • Pain in various parts of the body
    • nasal congestion
    • Rhinorrhea (in which he laughs)
    • A sore throat
    • diarrhea

    Distinguish between the two alterations

    Looking at the symptoms of the two problems, we can see that what coincides with an anxiety attack and COVID-19 is difficulty breathing, although their severity is different.

    Of course if you have an anxiety attack you have a problem and it is best to see a psychologist acquire the best strategies to deal with it; this already brings us to one of the differences to differentiate the two alterations: anxiety is a psychological phenomenon which, in most cases, has no organic causes, while respiratory problems are linked to physical alterations.

    But perhaps the most noticeable difference between the two is the fever. Although this symptom can occur in very extreme cases of anxiety attacks, it is a very strange thing, while in the case of diseases caused by pathogens such as viruses and bacteria, it is common for in addition to not being able to breathe well, the body temperature rises.

    Another clearer distinction is mucus. In respiratory problems in general, excessive mucus production is common, During an anxiety attack, this does not happen. The person having such an attack may be cold and have a lot of mucus, but it is not the anxiety that is causing it, but the breathing problem itself.

    Another aspect that differentiates anxiety and respiratory problems is their duration.. A panic attack that includes difficulty breathing can last between 20 and 30 minutes, reaching its maximum after about 10 minutes. In contrast, breathing difficulties associated with respiratory illness, whether mild like a cold or severe like the coronavirus itself, vary in duration depending on the medical condition in question, but last for at least several days.

      How do you know if it is anxiety or respiratory illness?

      Naturally, the people best able to diagnose respiratory illnesses are doctors, while the people best able to detect an anxiety attack are psychologists. However, it is useful to know what to do to know how to distinguish these two problems without having to go to the hospital and, on the one hand, to give the doctors more work than necessary and, on the other hand, to risk being infected.

      In addition to taking into account the differences mentioned above, what we can do to see if we really have a breathing problem is the following exercise:

      • Sit or lie down with your back straight
      • Breathe out completely through your mouth
      • Slightly close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of four.
      • Hold your breath and count to seven
      • Exhale audibly through your mouth and count to eight
      • Repeat steps 3 through 6 three more times until you have four breath cycles.

      If we could do this exercise without being out of breath, we probably would have had an anxiety attack. In people with respiratory disease, it is not possible to complete the exercise because the lungs are too affected. and the breathing difficulties worsen over a short period of time.

      Also, given the exceptionality of the situation in which we find ourselves, the regional and state governments and the various health organizations have made available to users telephone numbers with which to contact people who, without having to be going to the doctor, can tell us if we may have the disease. If the just mentioned breathing exercise has not been completed, it is best to seek urgent medical help.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Solomon, C. (2015). Generalized anxiety disorder. The New England Journal of Medicine, 373 (21), pages 2059-2068.
      • Sylvers, P .; Lilienfeld, SO; LaPrairie, JL (2011). Differences between trait fear and trait anxiety: implications for psychopathology. Journal of clinical psychology. 31 (1): pages 122 to 137.
      • Wu, J. (2015). Episodic future thinking in generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 36, pages 1-8.
      • European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. (2020) “Outbreak of acute respiratory syndrome associated with novel coronavirus, China; First cases imported into the EU / EEA; second update ”. ECDC.

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