OCD and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has no doubt been stressful and unnerving for many of us. However, it is important to note that people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) may be feeling particularly triggered, anxious, or hurting at this time.

OCD is defined by the International OCD Foundation as a “mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and walks of life, and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions." Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Compulsions are behaviors an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease his or her distress.

Some people with OCD struggle with contamination obsessions, in which cleaning, disinfecting, or bathing rituals can take place. These compulsions are excessive, not enjoyable, and not the fault of the person with OCD.

For those who struggle with or have loved ones with OCD, The International OCD Foundation provides a detailed list of tips for managing OCD symptoms while still remaining healthy at this time. Here is a link to the full site https://iocdf.org/covid19/ 

  • Some of their recommendations include:
    • Get news and updates from verified, trusted sources. Put a time limit on how long you spend looking at these trusted sources, including the number of times you consult them per day.
    • A maximum of five minutes per day should be enough to give you all the information you need to keep yourself and your family informed and safe. This may be difficult, but going beyond your time limit could give your OCD a chance to get hooked in, making it much harder to set reasonable limits around checking for news and information
    • Give yourself permission to set a basic safety plan based on the recommendations of trusted health organizations, and do not add to it.
    • Stick to (or create new) healthy habits — exercise, good nutrition, and quality sleep are all helpful things for both your mental and physical health.
    • If you are currently in treatment, talk to your team about COVID-19 and how it may be affecting you. This can go beyond ways in which it specifically ties in to your OCD — it doesn’t have to be changing or worsening your OCD symptoms in order to be affecting your mental health! It’s natural to feel a wide range of emotions right now, and your treatment team are great people to talk to about them.
    • Avoid the temptation to learn “everything” about COVID-19. Do your best to stick to your time and frequency limits on news or information consumption.
    • MOST IMPORTANTLY: Be kind to yourself in these extraordinary times.

It is important to remember that this situation is temporary, and that taking care of ourselves and each other is the priority. CAPS remains a resource for all who are struggling with OCD. If you have an urgent or crisis need, please see these resources: https://caps.umich.edu/article/crisis-services