Illness Anxiety

Sometimes a cough is just a cough

The recent news surrounding the coronavirus outbreak has many people feeling more than a little anxious. You may be more aware of how you’re feeling and the innocuous actions of others. With people suffering from regular allergies and seasonal colds this time of year, every cough elicits looks of concern from others. And when people get too close, there’s a big tendency to hold your breath and back away. If you’ve felt this way recently, you’re not alone.

The fear of becoming ill with COVID-19 is causing everyone to become more fearful and stressed. If you’ve had a serious illness in the past, you’re probably even more conscious of the potential risks. That doesn’t mean you’ll be infected with this virus. However, you may still feel apprehensive. You may also be worried about friends and family members becoming ill.

Illness Anxiety

While you personally may have no symptoms you might be worried that you, too, will become seriously ill. Under the circumstances this is normal. We are all concerned about the pandemic sweeping the globe. But sometimes a cough is just a cough.

Occasionally people can become overly concerned that they have an illness. They may become preoccupied with the illness and symptoms. They may worry that minor symptoms or sensations are a sign that the illness is imminent. And while that could be true, most likely it’s not. Even though the numbers are high and the risk is real, the reality is that you can take steps to avoid becoming ill. And that’s what our leaders are encouraging us to do.

COVID19, Cold, Flu or Allergies
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But sometimes people can have very real and debilitating anxiety over the situation. Symptoms of illness anxiety include:

  • Constantly bringing your health and possible illnesses into everyday conversations.
  • Repeatedly taking your temperature or looking for other signs of illness.
  • Not feeling reassured when your doctor tells you that you’ve not been exposed or are not at risk.
  • Being easily alarmed at the slightest cough or sniffle.
  • Preoccupation with the illness, getting a lot of information from social media and constantly checking websites about the illness.

Right now it’s easy to see how travel sizes of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes might be your best friend if you have to go out. That wouldn’t make you a germaphobe. Still, you can take steps to reduce your anxiety.

Jeffrey Hubbell, GraceMed Behavioral Health Consultant, suggests the following:

  • Take a break from all the news. Unplug from social media and turn off the television news. As much as you may want information, the repetition of news about the current pandemic can be upsetting.
  • Take care of yourself and do the things that will keep you healthy. Eat right, get plenty of sleep, exercise. Take a walk. Try practicing mindfulness when you feel yourself getting worried.
  • Do something you enjoy whether it’s watching a favorite movie or crochet.
  • Reach out to your friends and family, you can stay connected even though you are not able to be in the same location. Check-in and tell them about your concerns.

It would not be unusual for anyone to become overly anxious about catching coronavirus. The news is literally everywhere you turn and it changes almost moment to moment. “But if you find that you’re experiencing so much distress over the potential for having this or any illness that it’s difficult to concentrate, focus or perform basic daily tasks,” Jeff said, “you may want to enlist the assistance of a behavioral specialist.”