Psychosomatic Symptoms: You Don’t Actually Have Coronavirus


It’s day 10 of social distancing. You haven’t seen another person in more than a week, and you’re starting to get inside your head a little. This morning, you woke up with a slight headache, congestion and a sore throat. You tried to shake it off, but it persists. Now, you’re furiously searching Coronavirus symptoms online, convinced you’ve got it. Incubation period is up to 14 days for the virus, so there’s a chance you have it, right?

Not to downplay the severity of this pandemic situation, but it’s more likely you’re experiencing psychosomatic symptoms. You probably don’t have Coronavirus, and worrying whether or not you do is only going to stress you out. The more you try to align your symptoms with the virus, the worse you’re going to feel. It’s important to recognize psychosomatic symptoms for what they are.

Disclaimer! COVID-19 is a very serious condition. If, after reading this, you genuinely believe you’re suffering from it, get in touch with a medical professional—especially if you’re part of an at-risk population due to age or preexisting conditions. This article is meant to help anxious individuals understand the difference between a manifesting condition and psychosomatic symptoms.

What are psychosomatic symptoms?

Close your eyes and think about ants crawling on your skin. After just a few seconds, you’re going to feel those imaginary ants, and your skin is going to start tingling or itching. You know they’re not there, but it’s going to feel like they are!

This is a very simple example of a psychosomatic response. Mental imagery and vivid thought is enough to evoke a physical response. We think about something strongly enough and our bodies begin to react as though it were real.

Just like the imaginary ants aren’t real, it’s very likely your perceived Coronavirus symptoms aren’t real either. Sure, you might actually have a sore throat or a headache, but your brain is automatically attributing these things to something larger—the obvious pandemic happening outside!

Coping with psychosomatic symptoms

It’s a lot harder to reason with your brain when it’s being irrational. Even if you know for a fact you don’t have Coronavirus, your brain is still going to try and convince you that you do. Psychosomatic symptoms are extremely powerful in convincing us of things, even against logic and reason.

The only way to combat psychosomatic symptoms is to keep yourself grounded in irrefutable facts and to think logically whenever possible. Separate your symptoms from anything you know about Coronavirus and contextualize them.

For example, if you have a sore throat try to look at any possible reason why. Did you snore heavily last night? Are seasonal allergies flaring up? Did you talk on the phone a lot yesterday, after not speaking to people for a few days? When examined against all the other possibilities out there, Coronavirus starts to look less logical!

It’s also a smart idea to look at overall context. Are you a 30-something person who lives by yourself, who has good hygiene and a history of good health? Have you been diligent in avoiding people over the last two weeks? These things likely add up to something other than Coronavirus.

Finally, look at the symptoms you’re experiencing in context as a whole. Headache, sore throat and congestion are extremely common. Sure, they’re associated with Coronavirus. But they’re also associated with allergies, a head cold, overexertion—even a hangover! General symptoms—especially when they’re exaggerated by an overactive brain—usually don’t turn out to be the worst-case scenario.

Treat yourself right

It’s easy for even the most logical of us to develop psychosomatic symptoms while we’re all stuck inside our homes. One of the best ways to keep a level head is to keep busy. Take your mind off of… well, your mind! Do something engaging and stop thinking about your symptoms. After a few hours, you might realize they’re gone!

If you wake up feeling less-than-stellar, treat yourself accordingly. Take OTC painkillers for your headache. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. Eat healthy food. Take a nap! You’ll be surprised at how well your body responds to a little self-care.

If the days go by and you don’t feel any better or your symptoms have gotten progressively worse, reach out to a medical professional. Tell them what you’re experiencing and see if they have further advice. Even if you are sick, there’s nothing that says it’s Coronavirus—the common cold, flu and respiratory infections are all still common this time of year. You might have a mild case of a common illness. A medical professional will advise on whether you need to get tested for Coronavirus.

At the end of the day, Coronavirus is a very serious pandemic we all need to be aware of. Just make sure your awareness doesn’t generate a psychosomatic response! It’s easy to convince yourself that you’re sick in the middle of a pandemic. Make sure you’re thinking about things logically and treating yourself right. And if you truly are ill, make sure you’re handling things the right way.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone!

Evan DeMarco

Evan DeMarco is a leading sports medicine and nutrition expert, published author, public speaker and frequent guest on television, radio, and digital platforms.

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