Coronavirus and OCD: A Good Thing or a Nightmare?

Blog-Coronavirus and OCD A Good Thing or a Nightmare

Are you one of those people who compulsively wash your hands, won’t touch doorknobs, and refuses to shake hands with people. These are common symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and if you’ve been diagnosed with this condition you may feel like you typically overreact to a fear of germs or contamination.

But with the coronavirus (now called COVID-19), which the World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC have now classified as a pandemic, your compulsive hand-washing may be a good thing! This may actually be a time when being obsessed with avoiding germs is beneficial for your health and may protect you from contracting the virus.

However, as anyone with OCD knows, that likely won’t soothe your obsessive worries. In fact, with the COVID-19 outbreak, you may be overwhelmed with anxious thoughts about the virus.

Facing COVID-19 When You Have OCD

People with OCD often have intrusive recurring thoughts that include fears of getting sick or of harm coming to a family member or loved one. With a global epidemic looming large, it can exacerbate feelings of stress and anxiety. And those compulsive behaviors that interfere with your everyday life can become even more time-consuming and more disruptive.

They may keep you from getting to work on time, or from going to work at all. They may cause you to cancel social engagements and to avoid any crowded areas, effectively leading to social isolation and increased feelings of panic.

5 Don’ts for Managing OCD During an Epidemic

1. Don’t go down the rabbit hole.

You may be tempted to watch the news 24/7 for the latest updates on COVID-19, or you may feel compelled to scour the internet for every bit of information you can find on the virus, but this will only ratchet up your anxiety. Limit your exposure to news about the virus to no more than 5 minutes a day, preferably in the morning. It’s best not to watch disturbing news at night right before going to bed because this can interfere with restful sleep. And not getting enough sleep can depress your immune system and make you more vulnerable to the illness.

2. Don’t overdo it on the CDC guidelines.

The CDC offers specific recommendations to protect yourself from the virus. For example, it advises that you wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This doesn’t mean you should wash your hands twice as long a hundred times a day. If you’re rubbing your skin raw and leaving it chafed, you’re actually increasing susceptibility by creating ways for the virus to infect your body.

3. Don’t isolate yourself.

Avoiding large crowds, shaking hands, and close contact with anyone who is sick is recommended. However, going into voluntary self-quarantine is likely to ramp up anxious thoughts and worries. Even if you need to work from home or keep your kids home from school, lean on your support network to help you deal with it. Make it a point to reach out to friends and family to talk about your concerns.

4. Don’t get stuck.

Be aware of obsessive worries that start looping in your head and tell yourself to “stop!” Understand that having OCD is associated with too much activity in an area of the brain called the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG). Looping worries are a sign that your ACG has gotten stuck. There are ways to get unstuck. For example, write down the fearful thought and ask yourself if it is true. It is also very helpful to distract yourself by singing a song you love, reciting a prayer, or play with your dog or cat to take your mind off the worrisome thought.

5. Don’t feed your fears with sugar.

When anxious thoughts hit, you may experience cravings for simple carbohydrates that will give you an immediate boost of the “don’t worry, be happy” neurotransmitter serotonin. But the temporary mood boost from candy, cookies, and cake will lead to a crash that increases feelings of anxiety, which causes even more cravings. Instead, focus on smart “feel better fast” foods, such as eating complex carbs—think sweet potatoes—which offer a more slow-release, sustained rise in serotonin without the crash.

If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, or other mental health issues, you aren’t alone—45% of Americans say the coronavirus pandemic has impacted their mental health. Just because you’re sheltering at home doesn’t mean you have to wait for the pandemic to be over before seeking help. In fact, during these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever and waiting to get treatment is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time. 

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples, as well as in-clinic brain scanning to help our patients. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk

14 Comments

  1. My though is we all need to turn back to our Lord Jesus to help us,not just in the time but everyday of our lives., He has brought us through difficult times before and he will bring us through again. Only trust and mean it not just until this is over but everyday and every night. God is our provider and he loves us and will look after us. He always has and will continue to do so. TRUST NOW AND ALWAYS . God has been so good to us. Just believe and live a life that is pleasing to our Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN.

    Comment by Blanch — March 23, 2020 @ 4:57 AM

  2. Thank you! I just want to express my gratitude for the messaging you are putting out, especially right now during the pandemic crisis. It is very helpful even to those of us who do not have a diagnosed condition or who are not under your care. (After all, isn’t it true that we are all a little OCD right now in our quest to try and get the accurate information about this virus!) It takes a lot of effort and care to write about these subjects and I read them carefully, as well as heed the advice you are putting out. Today’s reminder was particularly helpful, as I am finding myself taking in a bit too much news, especially since I have to do more on the computer now at home. Also, may I make a suggestion for a topic: the personality disorder of narcissism or narcissistic sociopathic behavior? I think that many people are really needed to be able to identify behaviors being seen on T.V. by certain leaders and need to know when to seek information elsewhere as a result. Again, thank you for your dedication to science and your willingness to help everyone.

    Comment by Anne Erickson, BSN, MBA — March 23, 2020 @ 6:20 AM

  3. Blanch,
    Such absolute Truth in yours and Gods precious words! Reading your comment above put a smile on my face and a better start to my day! May God continue to Bless you in every way.
    Sincerely,
    J.Lee

    Comment by J Lee — March 23, 2020 @ 7:27 AM

  4. Blanch, you are “SPOT ON”. This is where our thoughts should be, on Him and only Him, not just in this crisis, but always. God is in COMPLETE control of what’s going on with this virus now and with everything that has happened in the past and what will happen in the future. So, TRUST in His ability to carry us through this “storm” and into the future. And remember that we dont have the ability to do things on our own. “May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep our hearts and MINDS in Christ Jesus”.

    Comment by Peggy — March 23, 2020 @ 7:37 AM

  5. Jesus shares your worries and cares. You’ll never be left all alone. for he stands beside you to comfort and guide you, he always looks out for his own.
    By: Brandt.

    Comment by Della K Hines — March 23, 2020 @ 9:36 AM

  6. for answered prayer we thank you Lord,
    We know you’re always there.
    To hear us when we call on you,
    We are grateful for your care.
    By: Branon

    Comment by Della K Hines — March 23, 2020 @ 9:44 AM

  7. I can’t begin to put into words how much all of your messages mean to me. I struggle with depression and anxiety and even tho I am being
    treated it still raises its ugly head!!! I am such a fan of this organization of Amen Clinics that I keep praying to win the lottery and become a patient , by that I mean I can then afford it . I tell so many people about this organization and Dr. Amen and call friends when I see him appear on Public TV. He is the only person that I have encountered that “gets it” .

    We are so lucky to have the healthy resources available to us in this day and age that no one has to suffer!!

    I want to take this opportunity to thank them to make this important comment page available to us all. I love reading all of your comments and
    especially today in the midst of this sad experience that we are having in our country, when I opened this up and read Blanche’s message and then continued on to the replies , my spirit immediately lifted and I actually feel peace right now . I just love it when people are so authentic and
    share their truth and I wish more people would be open to this as it is so healing!!

    Thank you all and stay well!!! Peace, Love and Joy to all of you!!!!! barbara xoxoxo

    Comment by barbara pfister — March 23, 2020 @ 10:09 AM

  8. Sending peace and love to all!!!

    Comment by barbara pfister — March 23, 2020 @ 10:11 AM

  9. Oh pleeeeze. What a bunch of hooey.

    Comment by S Peck — March 23, 2020 @ 11:31 AM

  10. HI Blanch
    God bless us all at this time shakings. Despite and despite what difficulties we may have come through. We in the Oceania region love you all.

    Comment by Hi Blanch. God is still on His throne and He will remember His own. Though trials may press us and burdens distress us, He will never leave us alone. His promise is true, He will never forget you. God is still on His throne. — March 24, 2020 @ 12:23 AM

  11. Hello. As a therapist who specializes in OCD, I want to discourage people from using the Thought Stopping technique. Though it can work for other types of anxiety and troublesome thoughts, it is much more likely to make intrusive thoughts with OCD worse. I have had clients that came from other therapists who were having them use thought stopping, and just stopping that technique helped a lot. Refer to http://www.iocdf.org for lots of great information and advice on dealing with OCD, as well as http://www.peaceofmind.com. Better to strive to accept the thoughts and limit reaction to them, so they can be relegated to the background. Thought stopping is a strong reaction to the thoughts, and we know it makes it much more likely the intrusive thoughts will increase.

    Comment by Jill R Stevens — March 24, 2020 @ 7:46 AM

  12. Sunday, Dr David Jeremiah shared the prayer of Jehoshaphat. 2 Chronicles 20:12 – it basically says, Oh Lord we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you. God defeated their enemies. It’s a very interesting passage. For those of us who are musically inclined, it’s very encouraging.

    Comment by Helene Demling — March 24, 2020 @ 3:51 PM

  13. I pray one day you come to realize what Jesus has done for you in your life that you don’t even know. Then you will have the Lord’s peace which is incomprehensible. There will come a time when you could really need it. Grace & Peace.

    Comment by Helene — March 25, 2020 @ 8:35 AM

  14. I pray one day you come to realize that Jesus and Santa Claus are myths invented to make children behave. Time to grow up, people! Accept reality, stop relying on made-up stuff.

    Comment by S Peck — March 26, 2020 @ 1:06 AM

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