About Us | Contact Us | E-Paper

How to cope with OCD during COVID-19

How to cope with OCD during COVID-19

Post by on Wednesday, June 16, 2021

First slide

Dr. Siddharth Chowdhury

 

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) experience persistent or recurring thoughts that are disturbing and cause anxiety. People with OCD may try to cope with these intrusive thoughts through compulsions. Compulsions are repetitive behaviours or mental acts that a person feels they must perform. Some aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic may trigger anxiety and repetitive behaviours for people with OCD, such as frequent hand-washing and repeatedly checking the news.

 

Practicing self-compassion may help a person with OCD cope during a pandemic

OCD can manifest in numerous ways, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, a person may find that some obsessions are more common than others.

 

Contamination

Contamination is one of the most common fears among people with OCD. This can be difficult for someone to cope with under normal circumstances, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may become even more challenging. The real possibility of illness may cause people with OCD to take extreme measures to keep themselves and their families safe. This could include repetitive hand-washing, cleaning, or being afraid to leave the home.

Harming others

Worrying about harming others, either by accident or on purpose, is another common feature of OCD. During a pandemic, people with OCD may worry that they will transmit an illness to another person, or they may go to extremes to try to avoid doing so.

 

Hoarding

Researchers consider hoarding a separate disorder that is distinct from OCD. However, many people with OCD also engage in hoarding. Usually, people with a hoarding disorder collect things that are not useful. However, during a pandemic, they may also hoard items such as medications, alcohol-based hand sanitisers, and toilet paper.

 

OCD triggers

There are several aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic that might trigger OCD-related fears and behaviours. These triggers include:

the advice to wash the hands more often

the emphasis on proper hand-washing techniques

the need to clean the hands every time a person returns home

the advice to only leave the home for food and other necessities

These triggers may contribute to the following behaviours:

widespread panic-shopping, which could trigger hoarding

frequently reminding family members to wash their hands

searching for information about how long the virus stays active on certain surfaces

normalising frequent washing and bathing

Nationwide lockdowns may also make people with OCD feel more stressed in general, which can make it more difficult to cope with the symptoms.

Sensible precautions to take

People with anxiety often feel pressure to follow rules perfectly. As a result, a person with OCD may find it difficult to tell the difference between taking sensible precautions against COVID-19 and excessive or perfectionistic behaviour.

Many therapists suggest that people with OCD set a safety plan for themselves based on official public health guidelines. By following the plan, people with OCD will know if they are taking reasonable steps. Therapists also encourage people to think consciously about their cleaning and hygiene practices. If a person did not go outside and no one came into their home, they do not need to disinfect anything. Disinfecting commonly used surfaces once per day is a reasonable plan.

People can also try limiting hand-washing to 20 seconds each time:

after going outside

before eating

after going to the bathroom

after coughing, sneezing, or blowing the nose

If it is difficult for a person to tell whether or not their safety plan is reasonable, they may find it helpful to ask someone else.

Also, if a person with OCD adds extra steps to their plan and finds it difficult to stop, they may wish to consider seeking support.

 

Coping with OCD

Some people with OCD may find that they struggle with intrusive thoughts or checking behaviours that are not related to hygiene.

The following sections outline some other ways to cope with the OCD during a pandemic.

Limit news and social media

To ensure that everyone has access to information, many news outlets are offering free live streaming during the COVID-19 pandemic and publishing news updates frequently.

The amount of updates in the news and on social media means that people with OCD might start to check the news excessively.

The American Psychological Association (APA) advises that people who notice that they are checking the news more than usual set a limit for themselves. Defining a specific limit, such as reading the news only once per day, may help ease anxiety.

The APA also recommends restricting the number of news outlets that people use to search for information. They may wish to stick to a few good sources of information and avoid expanding to other outlets.

Seek online support and tele-therapy

To limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19, many therapists have stopped offering in-person sessions. However, instead, people may be able to access teletherapy online or over the phone. Researchers have found that online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be effective for people with OCD, and it allows more people to access help.

Online support groups may also help people cope with OCD during a pandemic.

Practice self-compassion

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused fear and stress for many people, including those who did not have a preexisting mental health condition.

Some experts say that people with OCD may feel better if they remind themselves that it is normal to worry, and that it is not their fault if their OCD symptoms get worse.

It is a good idea to be mindful of any worsening OCD-related thoughts and behaviours, and to consult a doctor or therapist if this occurs. Taking care of oneself can help people focus more on what they can control and less on the pandemic. Many therapists also recommend that people with anxiety continue to socialise with their family and friends. Physical distancing can make socialising difficult, but using video chat software can help prevent feelings of isolation.

When to seek help

Pandemics do not only have biological or medical implications. They also impact many people psychologically and socially, including those with mental health conditions.

During a pandemic, people with preexisting mental health conditions are at higher risk of experiencing a relapse, stopping their medication, not engaging in self-care, or having suicidal thoughts. If a person with OCD is struggling with their symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic, they should call:

Their doctor or therapist

A mental health helpline

Their local public health centre

 

Summary

People around the world feel anxious because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is particularly the case for people with OCD.

Although fears about illness might be justified during a pandemic, a person with OCD may take extreme measures to protect themselves and their family.

Checking in with a therapist, setting sensible limits, and staying in touch with friends by phone or video chat may help people with OCD cope with their symptoms.

 

QUOTES

People with anxiety often feel pressure to follow rules perfectly. As a result, a person with OCD may find it difficult to tell the difference between taking sensible precautions against COVID-19 and excessive or perfectionistic behaviour.

 

The American Psychological Association (APA) advises that people, who notice that they are checking the news more than usual, set a limit for themselves. Defining a specific limit, such as reading the news only once per day, may help ease anxiety.

 

During a pandemic, people with pre-existing mental health conditions are at higher risk of experiencing a relapse, stopping their medication, not engaging in self-care, or having suicidal thoughts.

 

Latest Post