Covid's mental health toll - How the pandemic has led to a rise in panic attacks

Covid-19 has increased anxiety for many of us and mental health charities say there's been a steep rise in people seeking help for panic attacks.

Anything from worries about health and money; to changes at work, school, or relationships, can cause deep-seated anxiety.

During the pandemic, there have been many potential anxiety triggers such as fears over the virus, going outdoors, infecting other people, wearing masks and returning to normal life, as well as what the future holds.

Sarah Harrison thinks her panic attacks were triggered by the stress of lockdown

My heart feels like it's going to come out of my chest. I shake uncontrollably. Your mind is chaotic and it's throwing every possible negative thought at you

Sarah Harrison

Sarah Harrison, from Bolton, has got two small children and a full time job. She started having panic attacks at the beginning of lockdown.

At its worst, she was having several a day- leaving her physically and mentally exhausted.

At its worst Sarah was experiencing several panic attacks a day

There's just this dread and fear of feeling these attacks coming on and then it becomes a vicious cycle. It's completely debilitating. 

Sarah Harrison

Sarah believes lockdown triggered her panic attacks and she's not alone.

While one in ten people will experience a panic attack at some stage in their lives- experts say there's been a significant increase in people seeking support for panic attacks during lockdown.

The first time Duncan Thorpe had one, he thought it was his heart.

Duncan Thorpe thought he was having a heart attack when he first had a panic attack.

There was this sudden feeling of fear and dread.. and a  rapid heart beat to the point of nothing I've ever experienced before. I thought I was having a heart attack.

Duncan Thorpe

Duncan, who's from Warrington, thinks stress and health anxiety were huge factors in his panic attacks. The father-of-two says daily exercise and meditation help him manage the condition.

Dave Smithson from Anxiety UK says the charity is dealing with a large increase in people needing support for panic attacks

Fear and uncertainty around the virus and then concerns about job losses, financial insecurity, our families, have all heightened levels of anxiety...so it's not unexpected that we've had an increase in panic attacks over that period.

Dave Smithson, Anxiety UK

Sarah says regular online cognitive behavioural therapy has helped with her anxiety and she's now having fewer panic attacks.

She feels back in control of her life.


Gamal Fahnbulleh spoke to Dr Aman Amir, a GP in Knowsley, about how to deal with stress and anxiety.

He started by asking him whether he feels like we are on the cusp of a mental health crisis.


For more information and support:


'The toughest 12 months of all our careers': How mental health services are rising to the challenge of Covid-19

Life within four walls: the impact of the pandemic on older people