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Articles > Coronavirus August, 06, 2020

Dealing with OCD during a pandemic

Angel Maharjan
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An Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is the mental state in which person feels the urge to complete certain routines repeatedly or certain thoughts repeatedly. Anything that causes an OCD to a person is still unknown till this date.

Symptoms of OCD

As the name says it, any person suffering from OCD has two symptoms; obsession and compulsion.

Obsessions – recurring thoughts that are quite disturbing. This could be fear of forgetting something, hurting yourself or others, or being contaminated with germs. It could also be excessive superstitious beliefs, which in return results in…

Compulsion – such as rituals necessary to be performed. Those with OCD do these to reduce anxiety. Examples may include double checking things, excessive washing, following a specific ritual or order.

You can read more about OCD on the NHS website here.

Effect of pandemic on OCD patients

We all are well informed about how much the world has been affected by Covid-19 pandemic. There are several aspects of Covid-19 that may provoke OCD related anxieties. Some of which includes the advice to wash hands frequently, the prominence of hand washing techniques, the advice to leave home only for necessities. These may lead to compulsive behaviours such as urging family members to wash hands properly and frequently, fear of getting out of the house, normalising frequent hand washing. There remains a constant fear that you’ll either contract the coronavirus yourselves, or you will go and spread it to an immunocompromised loved one.

OCD is always a big challenge to get control over, and an even greater challenge during a pandemic. For example, it is recommended that if you’re outside, you come in, you wash your hands for 30-40 seconds, and that is all enough for you to do. But the individuals with OCD may blow that way out of proportion and wash hands for a reasonably longer amount of time. While individuals who are stressed may see an increase in certain habits, people with OCD will really take advantage of overdoing the recommended procedures.

 

Angel’s experience with OCD 

The onset of OCD is generally gradual but in exception it might start suddenly. In my case, it happened suddenly. I am a Civil Engineering student so field visit is a must for us. In one such field visit for a survey, I realized that I have started developing OCD. It was a field trip to a forest that too in the rainy season so it was muddy all along. While doing surveys, I realised:

  • It was not easy for me to sit on a muddy ground as it was for my friends.
  • It was not easy for me to touch my books, copies and calculators without washing hands properly as it was for my friends.
  • Just the thought of my stuff getting dirty would bother me all day that I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
  • After getting home washing hands once was not enough for me I had to wash it at least 7-8 times still that would not satisfy me.
  • All the stuff that I took with me to the survey site was dirty for me so I could not place them with the rest of my stuff in my bedroom.

After the survey ended, I thought I would be easy going as before and I would not have to deal with these compulsive thoughts. But things got worse with time. Instead of using soap once, I would use it 8 times. I could not even let my parents and my sister touch my books or laptops being in the thought that their hands might be dirty and it might contaminate my books. My parents and I would argue now and again regarding them touching my stuff. I didn’t even want to go out often to parks or other public places thinking that a lot of other people had sat there which might contaminate me.

My experience with OCD during the pandemic

With lockdown, my compulsion of washing hands has clearly increased. I now wash hands for even a longer period of time and frequently as well. I now try to avoid touching things like door knobs and light switches, and scrubbing my hands red-raw. Now that lockdown is over, I still distance myself from going to public places or meeting friends due to worries of contamination. I recognise what remains constant is the unquenchable anxiety that comes from never really being satisfied that you’re safe from infection.

Treatment for OCD

I knew that it was ruining my lifestyle so I started researching about curing OCD. Believe it or not, going to a doctor concerning mental health was not my first option (living in a society that abandons the importance of mental health and mental stability). From my own research and experience, here is what actually helped me to calm my OCD:

  • It’s always better to seek help from professionals so it’s best to consult a doctor in case of symptoms.
  • Managing stress as much as possible to avoid anxiety. You can do yoga and meditation or simply follow creative hobbies such as painting, dancing, or listening to music.
  • Try to get as much good sleep as possible sticking to a sleeping pattern.
  • Look out for your diet.  Make sure not to include caffeine, alcohol and as little sugar as possible.
  • Exercise regularly, to help with both physical and mental fitness.

Finding the silver lining

Having OCD benefits a lot to your capability of acknowledging the details compared to others. It makes you sensitive towards others regarding what they might be going through. This is quite a good behaviour to have in this ruthless world. So if you ever feel sad about having OCD, it’s better to regard its positive impacts. Due to the pandemic, you might start realising that people around you are more conscious than before so the world might be getting cleaner around you.


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Four factors that could lead to a second wave of the pandemic

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  1. Barsha Shah

    Even I have OCD and I can relate so much to it.