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Helping People With OCD During The COVID-19 Pandemic



For people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the pandemic can be particularly challenging because it can be difficult to differentiate between ‘reasonable’ and ‘excess’ anxiety regarding a crisis that has taken thousands of lives. OCD manifests itself in many ways, some of the most common of which include excessive cleaning. During the COVID-19 crisis, many people are also checking the news compulsively to see how ‘the curve’ is progressing, aiming to gain some sense of control over something that, in most parts of the world, has managed to evade human attempts to contain it. If you are living with a person with OCD, how can you help them during this time in history, a time when almost everyone you know is experiencing some level of anxiety and worry?


Following Recommended Behaviors

One way to approach the pandemic is to follow protocols that are officially recommended by the WHO and government authorities. These are based on sound research and should be followed to the "T". Recommendations (and, in some places, regulations) include wearing a mask in public, respecting social distancing rules in stores and in outdoor dining establishments, and moving within specific zones. You can help your loved one with OCD feel more understood by embracing these measures.


How Clean Is Too Clean?

It is important to wash hands and keep areas clean and virus-free without harming the skin through excessive washing or gel use. Hands should indeed be washed more often in these times, but this is mostly true when we are at work or in public areas. At home, it is enough to wash our hands when we get home and in the usual course of day (for instance, before cooking or eating, before touching medication or applying makeup, and the like). If your loved one is harming their skin, encourage them to give a therapist a call. Online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help them control the number of times they wash their hands and body. This can be done through the use of a journal and through the adoption of small behavioral changes that can affect they way an individual thinks and feels about COVID-19.


Embracing Calm

You can help a person with OCD by finding natural ways to lower stress and anxiety. Help can range from natural supplements for anxiety to yoga and mindfulness meditation. Some nootropic supplements that ease stress include B-Vitamins, L-theanine, Zinc and Omega-3 and 6. Don’t just take substances; move your body as well alongside your loved one. Try Tai Chi or pranayamic breathing, both of which are proven and powerful stress busters.


An Exercise In Acceptance

It is also important to encourage self-compassion in your loved one by being understanding of the stress that the pandemic is provoking. Across the globe, health authorities are reporting rising rates of anxiety and depression, provoked in no small part by social isolation and fear of contagion. On May 14, the United Nations stated that in terms of mental health, people with pre-existing mental conditions (including OCD, anxiety and depression) are one of the highest risk groups in terms of the mental effects of the pandemic. Dévora Kestel, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, pointed out that similar crises have “increased the number of people with mental health issues, leading to higher rates of suicide, for example, due to their mental health condition or substance abuse.” It is therefore a time for kindness, tolerance and the provision of help. Anybody who is struggling to cope should contact a mental health expert. Today, telemedicine is enabling countless people to have relief without needing to leave their homes.


If you live with a person with OCD, then you may have noticed they are more stressed than usual. Issues such as social isolation and economic hardship resulting from the pandemic are making symptoms worse for many people with mental conditions. It is important that those who are finding it hard to sleep, eat or function obtain professional help. Give your doctor a call and see how you can proceed. Finally, don’t forget to exercise compassion; if ever there was a time in which this quality was needed, it is right now.

Isabella Lovett worked in healthcare before becoming a full-time health and wellness writer.


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