OCD is a mental health condition which affects approximately 1% of the population. It is characterised by:

  1. Obsessions – repetitive thoughts, urges or images which are unwanted or intrusive and cause anxiety
  2. Compulsions – actions performed to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsession

Someone with OCD may, amongst other things, have a fear of being infected or contaminated by bacteria or viruses, and this may lead to them repeatedly washing their hands or disinfecting their house, for example. These obsessions and compulsions are time consuming and cause distress or inability to function in everyday life.

The COVID-19 pandemic has bought with it a lot of anxiety for the general population, but for persons with OCD, this anxiety may reach unbearable levels. Below are some tips on managing Coronavirus anxiety when you have OCD:

– Give yourself permission to follow official guidelines: Aim to only wash your hands as frequently as told by health professionals, and only for 20 seconds at a time. If you are washing your hands so much that they are raw, you are washing them too much. Before washing your hands, consider logically whether there’s actually a chance you’ve picked up new germs since you last washed them.

– Limit information: Avoid the temptation to learn everything about COVID-19. It’s very tempting to constantly check the news to see how the situation is developing. Try to limit your news intake to a frequency and duration that works for you. Limit time spent on social media if this is a source of overwhelming information.

– Stay on top of your general wellbeing: Despite the fact that routines have changed, it’s important to keep eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep, as this has an impact on our mental health. There are a number of home workouts which can be done with minimal equipment, and you may now have more time to cook nutritious food.

– Maintain a support system: Although it may be difficult to meet face-to-face, it’s still important to remain in touch with family and friends. Get them to check up on you if you need that to feel accountable.

– Seek help from a professional: Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional if you feel like you need more support. If face-to-face therapy isn’t an option, look into services offering online therapy. It’s okay to need support, especially so during this time

– Be kind to yourself: these are challenging times, it’s normal to feel anxious in this scenario even if you don’t have OCD. Be understanding with yourself, what’s happening is not your fault. Tell yourself that you can do this, because you can!

OCD and Coronavirus Survival Tips. Accessed on 18/03/2020 from: https://www.ocduk.org/ocd-and-coronavirus-survival-tips/

I have OCD. Here’s how I’m dealing with coronavirus fears. Lux Alptraum. Accessed on 18/03/2020 from: https://www.vox.com/first-person/2020/3/10/21172206/coronavirus-covid-19-anxiety-depression-mental-health-ocd

Nicole Borg is a medical student at the University of Malta and a childminder with Willingness. She has experience working with children with neurodevelopmental disorders and a great interest in psychiatry and development.