Am I a Hypochondriac, or Is This Coronavirus?
There’s nothing like a new and poorly understood virus to bring out the hypochondriac in all of us
Peter Gulick hasn’t been feeling 100% for quite some time. You can hear it in his voice. “I’ve got congestion,” he says in a phone interview. “I’m clearing my throat a lot. I’m bringing up phlegm. I have a cough, but the cough is very infrequent.”
Dr. Gulick, a practicing oncologist and infectious-disease specialist at Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, knows enough not to worry about his symptoms.
He does not have the key symptoms of Covid-19: “I don’t have fever,” he says. “I don’t feel short of breath.” More likely than not, he says, it’s probably a minor cold, or simply a respiratory reaction to rapidly changing temperatures this time of year.
“You’ve got to look at the whole picture, not just one symptom and then panic.”
Gulick is careful to note there have been reports of people having flu-like symptoms that turn out to involve coronavirus infections. And while a runny nose alone is unlikely to be a sign of Covid-19, it’s too early to rule the possibility out entirely. In fact, while children tend to have milder Covid-19 symptoms than adults, early data suggest kids may experience fever, runny nose, and cough, according to Harvard Medical School. The only way to know for sure is through testing.
So Gulick understands why people may be afraid of their own sniffles these days. Still, a tickle in your throat “is nothing to panic about,” he says. “You’ve got to look at the whole picture, not just one symptom and then panic.”
There’s nothing like a pandemic from a new and poorly understood virus to bring out the hypochondriac in all of us. It’s normal and natural, psychologists say.
Stalked by lions
We humans are prone to irrational fear of things that are very unlikely to cause our demise, be it sharks, snakes, airplanes, or disease. The innate tendency to fear the unknown helps keep us alive. It can also cause unproductive anxiety.