COVID-19 Effect on Those With OCD
Updated: Mar 25, 2020
OCD affects many people across the world. In fact, it affects 2.2 million Americans each year. If we add the rest of the world to those stats, that's an enormous amount of people.
For those who are unaware of what OCD is or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, it is a mental illness that makes people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that makes them feel like they have to do something again and again until it feels okay (compulsions). This can be unwanted thoughts about harming one's self or someone they love, this may be counting rituals or contamination thoughts. OCD takes on many hats and sensations making it very hard for people to cope with everyday life in a "normal" way. I put normal in quotations because no one really knows what normal is or feeling normal is like but for those with OCD we feel like we are not "normal".
If you are new to my blog, yes, I have OCD and mainly my OCD fixates on contamination thoughts and rituals, sexual unwanted thoughts as well as relationship OCD. People may have one type of ritual or obsession and others may have a variety.
During this difficult time of COVID-19, everyone is affected by the media, the hysteria, and anxiety in society. For those who have OCD this may and is in fact heightened. We have been told time and time again that our unwanted thoughts about contamination and harming others isn't true, to only wash our hands once, to not use hand sanitizer excessively, to not worry about spreading germs and killing other people, yet we now live in a society where there is very much true. So how does this affect people with OCD and affect those who have been working through exposure therapy?
Exposure therapy allows patients to work through their obsessions and compulsions at their own pace, exposing themselves to unwanted thoughts/actions but not giving in to the compulsions. For example, if your unwanted through is I touched the hand railing, my hands are dirty, I touched this person before washing my hands now they are going to get sick and die, we would sit with that thought and not wash our hands. But now everything has changed, were supposed to be worried and to be extremely diligent and it becomes very confusing for those who suffer from OCD especially with contaimination OCD.
For me specifically, I am confused from what is a regular worried thought about COVID-19 and what is an OCD thought and behaviour. Is washing my hands twice okay now becuase of the time we live in or is that still an OCD behaviour? It really does become confusing and the anxiety behind the potential compulsion being done doesnt really go away. Is me quesitonsing if its an OCD behaviour infact my OCD, I guess I'll never really know during this difficult time as my therapy has been cancelled.
I know I am not the only one confused during this time as to what is right and not right to do if my thoughts are valid or just obsessive. Not having therapy or an outlet during this time is also a very difficult thing to go through. Do we continue with our exposure therapy or do we give this a break as to not make us more anxious during this time?
I have felt my symptoms, my compulsions and obsessive thoughts have gotten worse during this time. Although I am practicing social distancing and not going out, when I do leave to get groceries I have thoughts like should I change? Shower? Disinfect everything? Will I die? Are these obsessions or are these valid? Let me know in the comments below. I feel like during this time we have a duty to protect ourselves and others so yes, maybe some of these thoughts are in fact valid but the anxiety and worry don't make it any easier.