'I'm still living the unknown': Personal trainer opens up about health anxiety after enduring long COVID for a year

Alexandra Thompson
·5 min read

Watch: Long-COVID patient opens up about his mental health

A personal trainer has revealed how his mental health has been affected by living with long COVID for more than a year.

Not everyone who overcomes the coronavirus returns to a clean bill of health, and hundreds of thousands of people in the UK alone are thought to be enduring lingering complications after supposedly clearing the infection.

In November 2020, Dan Scoble, 23, told Yahoo UK he had hired a carer after long COVID left him "wiped out".

Five months on, Scoble, from Oxford, no longer requires the same support, but he "still struggles physically".

Read more: Up to 89% hospitalised with coronavirus endure long COVID two months later

Scoble continues to endure breathlessness and a "feeling of inflammation across his upper body", with medics unable to say when he may recover.

Scoble's emotional wellbeing has also been affected. Recently diagnosed with health anxiety, he relies on antidepressants and regular check-ups with a psychiatrist to keep him on track.

Dan Scoble (pictured before he became unwell) has lived with long COVID for more than a year. (Supplied: COVERSCAN, a study investigating the effects of long COVID)
Dan Scoble (pictured before he became unwell) has lived with long COVID for more than a year. (Supplied: COVERSCAN, a study investigating the effects of long COVID)

Scoble developed severe chest pain and cold-like symptoms in early March 2020.

With tests unavailable at the time, he was never officially diagnosed with the coronavirus, but doctors have agreed his symptoms fit the bill.

Although never hospitalised with the infection itself, Scoble sought medical attention around 10 times over the next eight months, even enduring a spontaneous lung puncture that September.

Scoble thought the injury had reoccurred around Christmas, with it turning out to be severe chest pain.

Read more: Scientists get grasp on long COVID's cause

Day to day, Scoble's "most dominant symptom" is a sense his body is inflamed. He also becomes "really light-headed and dizzy" if he stands up too quickly. 

"Stepping out of my comfort zone and over-exerting can [cause my body to] respond quite badly," Scoble told Yahoo UK. 

"Even quick head movements, [or] becoming too excited or overactive."

Overall, Scoble has "good and bad days". "Last week I was in bed for two days, which hasn't happened for a while," he said.

Despite his symptoms, multiple tests and scans have not revealed any sign of organ damage.

"I want every test on my heart and lungs there is to do," said Scoble, who has not yet been offered a coronavirus vaccine. "No doubt something will appear."

Watch: Personal trainer, 23, reveals ordeal of long COVID

While Scoble works hard to stay positive, the ordeal has taken its toll on his mental health.

"I have been diagnosed with health anxiety," he said. 

"If I'm outside my home I can have panic attacks, which puts you in a horrendous state. 

"I'm fearful of what I'm not comfortable with – doing something new can be a huge event for me."

Read more: White women most at risk of long COVID

Scoble recently saw a psychiatrist, who came to the home he shares with his father.

"I was shaking vigorously because it was so abnormal," said Scoble. "I was really uncomfortable because I'm not used to another human presence."

Scoble is also enduring "mild depression and PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]".

He has been taking a low dose of the antidepressant citalopram since the start of 2021, which is "definitely working to a degree".

The personal trainer (pictured before he developed long COVID) used to work with six clients a day. He now endures debilitating pain that has left him bedridden. (Supplied: COVERSCAN)
The personal trainer (pictured before he developed long COVID) used to work with six clients a day. He now endures debilitating pain that has left him bedridden. (Supplied: COVERSCAN)

Despite all he continues to endure, Scoble is looking forward to the future.

While he still relies on his father to help with cooking, he hopes to move into his own flat in the summer.

He may one day return to personal training, but plans to first do office-style work from home.

"I don't have the physical ability to engage in a job right now," said Scoble. "If I focus on one thing for too long, symptoms arise."

In the meantime, Scoble is "financially stable", relying on savings and money from a property he rents out.

Keen to speed up his recovery, Scoble pays to see private healthcare professionals.

"I value health more than anything," he said.

"I have a lot of hope and belief I will recover."

Scoble (pictured recently) wants 'every test on his heart and lungs there is to do'. Scans have so far revealed no signs of organ damage. (Supplied: Dan Scoble)
Scoble (pictured recently) wants 'every test on his heart and lungs there is to do'. Scans have so far revealed no signs of organ damage. (Supplied: Dan Scoble)

Scoble continues to support his recovery with a "bloody amazing diet", made up of three different vegetables with every meal.

"The thing is patience," said Scoble. "You don't have one plate of food or tablet and you're fixed."

Official long-COVID guidance recommends patients join online support forums, but these were not helpful for Scoble.

"It can be overwhelming, hearing everyone's problems," he said.

Scoble added that he would advise other long-COVID patients to "seek professionals in mental health".

"You're going through so much trauma, you need to open up to manage it," he said. "Pace yourself, prioritise yourself and do seek help."

While millions across the UK eagerly await the further lifting of coronavirus restrictions, the prospect returning to normality is bittersweet for Scoble.

"It's going to be really hard to see people do normal stuff when I can't," he said. "I'm going to erase social media from my life."

Scoble is reassured by falling coronavirus cases, however. 

"Things will be safer, which is a positive," he said.

Watch: What is long COVID?