How does the pandemic affect people with OCD?
Now that we have been living through the COVID-19 pandemic for several months, specific areas of concern are starting to shift. Naturally, there is an ongoing concern for everyone’s physical health and safety — especially those at a higher risk of contracting the virus.
But, research suggests already that there is a significant risk for long-term mental health issues in the wake of COVID-19.
There are expected spikes in people with anxiety, depression, and fear over the coming months and years. Some experts have even expressed concern that the mental health community will not be able to keep up with all that society needs.
For people who already have conditions, however, COVID-19 can take an even higher toll. For example, people with OCD may have a harder time dealing with this pandemic than others. Let’s explore this concept.
What Are the Challenges for People With OCD?
People with OCD tend to have difficulties with discomfort. Well, nothing has been more uncomfortable than the uncertainty of this pandemic. COVID-19 is not just an irrational fear. It is a real virus that has swept over the world. Unfortunately, no matter where you stand politically, it’s clear that the U.S. hasn’t done the best job to keep it under control.
So, the fear and uncertainty of the pandemic can cross over into struggles those with OCD already have.
When most people think about OCD, the first thing that comes to mind is an obsession with cleanliness. If you have the disorder, you know that isn’t the whole story. Yet, it’s a big part of it for many people. The idea of worldwide contamination makes it easy to trigger common OCD symptoms.
There are several things related to this pandemic that can serve as triggers for people with OCD, including:
- Being told to wash hands frequently
- Staying six (or more) feet apart
- Excessively searching for information about the virus
- Emergency/panic shopping
Even now, as most states are starting to open up with restrictions, the idea of being in lockdown or staying away from people can make symptoms worse for those already struggling with OCD.
What Can You Do to Manage Your Symptoms?
What can you do to manage your OCD during this time of uncertainty? First, give yourself some slack. This pandemic is anything but an everyday occurrence. Most people are trying to get through it in their own way. If you notice your symptoms getting worse, take a deep breath, and give yourself a bit of a break.
If those symptoms are getting out of control, there are a few things you can do to manage them effectively.
Make a Plan
One of the best things you can do is to create a reasonable safety plan. That might include only washing your hands before you eat when you come in from the outside, or after you’ve been in a public place (instead of cleaning them obsessively throughout the day). Other coping mechanisms could include:
- Limiting your time watching the news or looking at social media
- Practicing self-care as much as possible
- Talking to a therapist and leaning on your support system
Seek Professional Help
Talking to a mental health professional can make a big difference in how you feel. Things like counseling for loss can help you to come to terms with the things you might have had to give up because of this pandemic, whether you’ve lost your job, you know someone who passed away, or you’ve just had to deal with the loss of your everyday routine.
Therapy can also help you to learn healthy management skills to keep your symptoms at bay.
This pandemic won’t last forever. For people with OCD, it can feel more overwhelming than it does for others. If you’re struggling to manage your OCD, please contact me or visit my page about counseling for loss to learn more about how I can help.