COVID-19 vs. OCD Symptoms

Dr. Sneha Sharma

The coronavirus pandemic has added an additional challenge to individuals living with OCD. These individuals  are continuously seeking out certainty and reassurances for their doubts and anxiety. For many such people, the COVID-19 pandemic is strangely validating their fear and doubts about accidental infections and invisible looming danger. Their compulsions of cleaning and repeated washing also gets validated and might lead to flaring of symptoms. We have tried to list some specific information for those struggling with OCD in the current times.

  • Set a basic safety plan based on the recommendations from trusted health organizations and local authorities. Avoid adding extra steps to it.
  • Focus on cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that have come from outside and can be potentially contaminated.
  • Avoid compulsions to clean objects/ surfaces that do not require disinfecting such as repeated cleaning inside home with no outside visitor.
  • Follow protocols of wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after being outside or in public, before eating, after going to the bathroom, and after you’ve coughed/sneezed/blown your nose. If soap and water are not available to you, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Take help from a trusted person to help you figure out what might be a reasonable and rational safety measure to take.
  • Remember that there is no fool-proof/ perfect guidelines to be followed for COVID-19. Times like these call for using your common sense instead of going to perfectionistic extremes. 
  • Public health guidelines are not designed for people with OCD and/or perfectionism and thus it might be prudent to talk to a trusted friend, family member, and/or your therapist to help figure out what those health standards mean for you.
  • COVID-19 fears might flare up OCD with thoughts of infecting someone, accidentally or on purpose.This can lead to significant stress and guilt.
  • If you notice these intrusive thoughts, or find yourself giving in to compulsions related to these thoughts, check in with your Mental Health Professional and let them know about your symptoms.
  • Continue treatment for pre-existing symptoms and have regular follow ups with your team of mental health professionals.

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