How to Manage OCD Symptoms During the COVID-19 Pandemic
“Breathing the same air as other people feels like a death sentence.”
For so many people coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the COVID-19 outbreak has thrown up a host of new challenges. Indeed, if a global pandemic instills panic and confusion in the general population, then it’s easy to see how it can worsen OCD symptoms.
However, there are ways to effectively manage the thoughts and emotions triggered at this difficult time. We’d like to encourage you to read on and take away what you need to help you to manage your OCD symptoms.
OCD and Anxiety During COVID-19
While OCD symptoms vary from person to person, this awful pandemic has most likely presented specific thoughts or compulsions. For example, the constant concern over sickness and contamination can quickly lead to cleaning rituals. Did you wash your hands enough times? Have you sanitized the door handle today?
Persistent information around the spread of the virus could compel some to fixate on news reports. Others may be more inclined to withdraw into unhealthy solitude due to increased anxiety levels.
Would any of these apply to you?
Managing OCD Symptoms at Home
You may be struggling silently with a number of troubling thoughts, and we understand that there is no easy solution. So, if you are on OCD medication, then make certain that you always have a supply of your prescription.
Still, there are systems that you can put in place to help you maintain control over the constant voice of this disorder.
Seek Healthy Distractions
Your mind will likely be racing with disquieting thoughts, therefore it’s wise to distract yourself.
The news is a notorious source of stress and anxiety for most people, as is coverage of revolts, political speeches, and emotional opinion pieces. Filling your mind with this information provides a drip-feed of negativity that you simply don’t need. Perhaps you need help in finding the right balance between staying informed and being overwhelmed by details?
If so, ask someone you trust to help set boundaries in place. This will guide you in finding the right sources of information, and how often you need to access it.
As difficult as it may be, turn off the news reports and virus updates and instead watch a program that you find upbuilding and motivating. Find things that make you laugh and which take your mind off your worries.
If your movements are limited, explore creative ways to pass the time at home. For example, some have found it helpful to learn a new skill, a language, or simply a new recipe. Reignite your passion for writing or painting. Immerse yourself in a good book. In this way, you lead your overactive mind away from destructive, negative thoughts and keep it occupied with positive and progressive activities.
Maintain a Routine
With so many people still working from home, it’s too easy to lose track of time and allow our regular schedule to slip. However, numerous studies have shown that maintaining a regular routine is the foundation of a healthy mind.
Good habits, while they may take some initial effort to create, are crucial for mental and emotional stability. They provide a predictable environment that allows us to adjust mentally, manage anxiety, and process information in a safe space.
The idea of leaving the house during a pandemic may seem counterproductive. Yet, you may be surprised at the benefits of spending time in the fresh air, sunshine, and green spaces. Studies on the effects of nature on both children and adults have highlighted some wonderfully positive results:
- Enhanced self-control behaviors
- Improved working memory and cognitive flexibility
- Reduced stress levels
- Decreased mental distress
- Increased empathy and cooperation
- Replenished cognitive resources
In contrast, too much time indoors can lead to irritability and an internal focus which can derail our efforts to maintaining a healthy mind.
When faced with debilitating internal conflict, it may feel like the easiest route is to isolate yourself. In the case of those dealing with OCD symptoms, there is the constant fear of contracting or unknowingly spreading the virus. This, coupled with an innate issue with germs has forced many into their homes where they simply avoid everyone – including close friends and family.
The fact is, those battling with OCD need others to act as a ballast during difficult times. For example, your OCD may be pushing you into actions that are unnecessary and time-consuming – even damaging.
The CDC offers guidelines on how to stay safe and healthy during this crisis. Therefore, weighing up your habits against these recommendations is wise, and may highlight areas where you could be overdoing it.
Yes, you should be washing your hands and sanitizing your environment. Yet a caring friend will be able to help you set healthy limits to avoid spiraling into a cycle of compulsion. Social distancing is important, but you are not required to completely isolate yourself.
Perhaps your OCD treatment program has offered suggestions on how to ask for and receive help from your loved ones as you traverse this difficult time. It may be that your family doesn’t fully understand your challenges, but it’s just as likely that they want to help you in any way they can. Locking yourself in a room with only your OCD for company is not a healthy choice.
Dealing with OCD is like being told you are constantly in peril. Your mind is desperately trying to protect you from perceived dangers triggering emotional and chemical responses. It’s exhausting.
If you can, try to keep these points in mind:
- Your OCD may well take advantage of COVID-19 fears
- When looking for information, go only to legitimate sources
- Avoid stressful people or situations that trigger you
- Talk to your OCD therapist when you need to
- Give yourself permission to set basic safety guidelines
- Get regular feedback from friends and family on your concerns
- Keep an eye on your physical health and wellbeing
- Stay active and busy
OCD can be an isolating disorder for many reasons. If you are able to, make time to reach out to people who can lift your spirits, empathize with you, or distract you from your own thoughts.
Seeking OCD Treatment
Have you been silently battling with OCD symptoms? Are you struggling to cope in these difficult times? It may be that even now you’ve got your browser open with a search for “OCD therapist near me.”
Ask for assistance from a qualified professional who not only understands your difficulties but can offer relief.
Reach out to us for help and take a positive step to get your life back. And remember, be kind to yourself – you’re doing the best you can.