I never imagined that I would be treating clients with OCD during a pandemic. This is a unique situation and I myself often question the appropriate amount of hand-washing and hygienic behaviors I should engage in. However, it is important to know that proper hygiene habits, such as hand washing and washing groceries only provide temporary anxiety relief. If we are concerned that we have missed even a single germ, our limbic system, responsible for emotions, memory, and reinforcing behavior, remains in fight-or-flight mode. Getting to a place of peace and groundedness can be extremely difficult at this time, especially for those who experience OCD.
Those clients with underlying mental health conditions, specifically obsessive compulsive disorder, may be experiencing a major increase in anxiety in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. It is essential that everyone takes appropriate precautions at this time to keep ourselves and others safe and healthy. However, there is a blurry line between washing your hands appropriately versus excessively during this pandemic, disinfecting your foods incessantly, and other anxiety reinforcing behaviors.
An obsession is an intrusive thought, image, or urge that triggers intense and distressing feelings. An example of an obsession might be, “If I don’t wash my hands 30 times in a row, I will get Coronavirus”. A compulsion is the behavior one engages in in efforts to rid of the obsession, the feelings, and the distress such thinking may cause. An example of a compulsion would be actually washing one’s hands 30 times in a row to be rid of the distress and fear of associated with contracting Coronavirus. .
Here are some practical steps to help prevent yourself from falling into the obsession and compulsion trap.
For more resources on coping with OCD during Coronavirus, go to: https://iocdf.org/covid19/.
Hannah Tishman, LMSW, is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in incorporating self-care into your life, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.