Social Distancing and Mental Health

Most of the world’s focus has been on helping those infected with COVID-19 and preventing further contagion. While successful, social distancing and self-isolation have been hard to bear, leaving more people contending with mental health issues.

I had an opportunity to speak with Elisabeth Mandel Goldberg, a family and marriage psychotherapist based in New York, about how these measures and the experience of the pandemic are affecting those with mental illness, a misunderstood and often stigmatized population.

According to Goldberg, the most common mental health conditions being affected are obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and addiction disorders—in ascending level of severity.

OCD and Anxiety

For those with obsessive-compulsive disorder, the measures to prevent infection and spread of the virus such as the washing of hands have normalized some symptoms of the disorder.

Goldberg suggests that those with OCD remind themselves that this situation is temporary, and even though some obsessive behaviors are being encouraged at the moment, that this pandemic will not last forever.

For those who struggle with anxiety, the uncertainty of this time has exacerbated the condition.

“People are losing sleep because they don’t know who’s going to get affected, they don’t know who’s going to die,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg advises those who stuck at home, struggling with anxiety who are stuck at home to clean their homes and themselves thoroughly. The act of cleaning itself allows someone with anxiety to remind themselves that they are doing everything that they can in the moment to help themselves and alleviates their compulsive worries of what might happen in the future.

Depression

One of the main symptoms of depression is social isolation, and social distancing has exacerbated this symptom. For people who are trying to manage depression, social distancing allows them to sleep in more than they should, to not go outside, and to cry because the media is sending the message that the world is ending. Most importantly, since those with depression are isolated, the potential for suicidal thoughts increases.

“When you describe the symptoms of depression it’s like a biofeedback loop because it fuels itself, so it’s a downward spiral of darkness and hopelessness encouraged by social distancing,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg recommends that those who are struggling with depression find a creative outlet to help alleviate their symptoms. Reading, writing, and music are all good creative activities. Exercise is also helpful, however those suffering from depression may not have the motivation to do so. Therefore, Goldberg recommends stretching, maintaining personal hygiene, and eating a balanced diet. If you know someone who is depressed and you call them they may not pick up, so sending an uplifting text message is a good idea, Goldberg said.

Bipolar Disorder

According to Goldberg, the pandemic is exacerbating hypomanic, manic, and mixed episodes for those with bipolar disorder.

For instance, the shortage of basic necessities is enabling those with bipolar disorder to search frantically for them, and they may get a high from spending, which could potentially induce a hypomanic episode.

Furthermore, significant life transitions can be a catalyst for manic episodes, Goldberg said.

Goldberg suggests that those with bipolar disorder should pay close attention to their spending habits, keep track of their supplies, and make a budget.

Addiction

Those who are struggling with drug and alcohol addictions are the most vulnerable population. Whether someone is at home alone, with their families, or with their significant other the pressure of having to be stuck in the same home can exacerbate addictive tendencies. They also may be out of work and lack a schedule. The only message they hear is stay home and don’t go outside, and that creates a lack of accountability for someone who has addictive tendencies.

“They feel like they have an excuse. They can say to themselves ‘I’m not doing anything wrong, I’m doing something right. At least I’m numbing the pain whereas other people have to deal with fear and anxiety, so I have a means of escape,’” Goldberg explained.

Goldberg believes that family members and friends can help a loved one who is struggling with addiction by sending uplifting text messages to them. If they live in the same home, Goldberg suggests family keep an eye on their loved one, engage in family activities, and keep track of the alcohol in the home.

Overall, Goldberg suggests keeping track of one’s finances, not sleeping too much, and limiting the amount of time they spend reading and watching the news about the pandemic. She also recommends limiting alcohol consumption and keeping in touch with family members. Remind yourself this is temporary, think about how you can feel a sense of control over your immediate surroundings, do something creative and enjoyable, and stay connected with friends and family.

Anxiety Symptoms: 6 Common Signs of Anxiety and What Causes Them

Though nearly any unexpected turn of events can cause anxiety symptoms to populate, there are common sources, according to experts. From finances and career, to current relationships and even family history, here are some of the most prevalent anxiety causes.

Your finances.

Though many people will suffer from financial anxiety when they’re barely making ends meet, Bradshaw says even those who have more than enough to get by may worry, too. When you or your partner lose your source of income, a huge medical or home damage bill shows up in your mailbox, or when you become a caretaker for a sick parent, you experience major financial strain. This can manifest through anxiety symptoms, and Bradshaw urges people to explore their relationship to money and what it means in their life. Often, by doing this, you’ll be able to pinpoint habits that need to change. “If you make choices that don’t align with your meaning, and therefore you can’t achieve desired goals, there will ll inevitably be some anxiety,” she says. For example, “if money means security and freedom, and you don’t manage your money in a way that allows you to experience security and freedom, this will certainly cause you anxiety.”

Your job.

Whether you have toxic coworkers or a micromanaging boss, dreading going into the office every day is a surefire way to trigger anxiety symptoms. As Bradshaw explains, most Americans spend a disproportionate amount of time at work or working, even when they’re home. For most people, email follows them all the way to bed, where our phone rests a few inches from our pillow. This constant nagging notion that you should be “on” creates anxious feelings. “We’re always accessible and expected to be available—this is a source of stress,” she says. “The workload is heavier and the workday is longer and seemingly endless with our devices keeping us tethered to our jobs even while on vacation.” 

If you can’t shake the ongoing thought that you hate your job—Bradshaw suggests chatting with a professional who can help you navigate feelings of uncertainty, lack of control and not having a sense of agency over yourself while at work.

RELATED: Stress-Relief Strategies That Will Make Your Job Less Intense

Your technological devices.

Most of us are guilty of giving our phones, computers, and tablets more attention than we do our partners, pets, or even our children. In an ever-connected world, it’s easy to check in, scroll, or read the latest news constantly. However, Lori Whatley, PhD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in the effects of digital device usage on individuals and relationships, says too much tech can cause anxiety symptoms because it over-stimulates the brain and nervous system, almost creating an addiction. 

“We can become anxious when we don’t have our tech with us and even have phantom vibrations when we’re away from our phones,” she says. “We can suffer from a fear of missing out when we leave our tech behind for a while and realize that we’re constantly thinking about it and wondering what others are doing and saying online that we’re missing.” When we start to feel nervous if separated from our gadgets, Whatley suggests talking to a nearby friend or colleague. This is because what we’re actually craving is connection and engagement, which our phones can provide in an instant. Striking up a conversation may have the same impact, and decrease those feelings.

RELATED: Time for a Digital Declutter: 8 Simple Ways to Cut Screen Time

Your family history.

Anxiety can be situational, genetic, and chemical, and that all three factors—your circumstances/environment, DNA, and chemical makeup—contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder, says Sarah Schewitz, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, Calif. “There are many neurotransmitters in our brain that impact our mood. The main ones that impact anxiety are serotonin, GABA, dopamine, and norepinephrine,” Schewitz explains. “If the levels or absorption of these neurotransmitters are off, it can cause anxiety.” This means if your mother or father suffered from anxiety, the odds you may experience it are higher, especially if you witnessed their symptoms firsthand. 

RELATED: 10 Ways to Guarantee an Effective Online Therapy Experience

Your relationships and friendships.

Your friend group can turn your whole life around with encouraging messages, long conversations, and even a meaningful hug. But what about when there’s stress in your friendships or your romantic relationships? You’ll probably experience heightened worry, since these people likely mean the world to you. Many people feel pressure from the outside world—including their closest community—to be their happiest, best, and most supportive, says Yvonne Thomas, PhD, a psychologist and psychotherapist in Los Angeles, Calif. When we feel as if we’re falling short, we often become overwhelmed, resulting in anxiety symptoms. The same is true when someone we trust and love disappoints or betrays us, or when we’re going through a huge transition. Even wonderful ones—like marriage or expecting a baby—can bring unexpected, negative emotions. More often than not, the best way to combat these thoughts and emotions is through talking them out with a professional.

You know the signs, now here are some of the best ways to cope if you’re struggling with anxiety, including therapy, stress management, and mindfulness meditation.

How Students with Anxiety Disorders are Adjusting to Quarantine

Illustration by Charlie Dodge.

During a time when people are being encouraged to stay at home and avoid interaction with others, Tisch first-year Charlie Anderson finds it difficult to avoid giving into their anxiety. For Anderson, anxiety takes the form of bodily-focused repetitive behaviors, such as hair-pulling and skin-picking. 

“Because I’m not in public anymore, there’s much less of a deterrent,” Anderson explained. “There’s hardly anything to stop me from pulling out my hair.” 

Repetitive hand-washing, though recommended by the CDC, can be problematic as well; using soap and hot water causes skin to dry out more easily, causing Anderson to want to pick at it. Despite this, they still feel the compulsion to use very hot water.

“I know I don’t have to use scalding hot water to wash my hands, but if I don’t, I feel like it’s not doing anything,” Anderson said. “And I understand how soap breaks down germs, but that logic doesn’t sync up with my anxiety.” 

With infection numbers continuously on the rise, institutions transitioning to remote instruction until further notice, the loss of millions of jobs and no clear idea of what the rest of the year will bring, many people have been struggling with feelings of fear and despair. But while a global pandemic can be stressful for everyone, it can take an especially hard toll on those with anxiety disorders.

Although everyone experiences stress and worry, people with anxiety disorders experience these feelings intensely and frequently enough that they interfere with daily activities. These disorders can take many different forms, such as generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder and others. The symptoms are numerous: restlessness, chest pain, panic attacks, hyperventilation, insomnia, a rapid heart rate and compulsive behaviors are among the most common. During a crisis, people with anxiety may feel their symptoms starting to flare up. 

Tisch sophomore Victoria Castro, who has obsessive-compulsive disorder, has experienced negative effects on her mental health as a result of prolonged social isolation. Going to class every day and interacting with other people used to be a way for Castro to distract herself from her obsessive thoughts, but due to COVID-19, she no longer has that coping mechanism.

“Being in quarantine makes every day a little bit harder, because my brain is always thinking,” Castro said. “I’m constantly, constantly thinking, and it’s really hard now to shut out those repetitive thoughts.” 

The stress brought on by these obsessive thoughts has physical effects as well, which interfere with her studies.  

“I’ve been in a sort of depressive state,” Castro said. “It physically feels harder to move. I don’t want to get up, I don’t want to do anything. I’ve had to email professors to tell them I don’t feel well enough to go to class today.” 

These feelings of anxiety and depression can take an enormous toll on students, many of whom are already struggling with other pressures resulting from COVID-19. Mental health is affected by many factors, and chief among them is often a feeling of security and stability. Sudden life changes, such as the relocation of one’s living situation, the loss of a predictable schedule and financial instability due to losing a job can all be stress-provoking, and those with anxiety may have a harder time adjusting to these changes. 

Though CAS sophomore Matt — who asked to keep his last name private — has social anxiety disorder, the most significant source of anxiety for him has been the financial consequences of the outbreak. 

“I lost my job because of COVID-19,” Matt said. “I applied for unemployment four weeks ago, and I’m still waiting to hear back. If I don’t get it, I don’t know what I’ll do.” 

NYU has been offering resources to students, ranging from financial aid appeals to coronavirus information to online counseling from the Health and Wellness Center. However, during a crisis as unprecedented and unpredictable as this, it seems there are no quick and easy solutions. 

News channels and social media platforms have been providing a continuous stream of updates, which can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is important to stay informed during a rapidly developing crisis, but on the other hand, the news can intensify the despair that many people are already feeling. For people with anxiety, being surrounded by constant disheartening reminders about the source of their worries can feel overwhelming, to the point where the only solution is to actively avoid exposure to them. 

“I felt bad for not keeping up with the news,” Anderson said. “But I knew if I did, I was just gonna shut down.”  

Anderson believes that the news directly impacts the emotional state of the public. Indeed, news coverage of the coronavirus outbreak has often been described as sensationalized and dramaticized. As a result, fear-mongering and false information have spread rampantly, leading to supply hoarding, anti-Asian racism and the ingestion of hydroxychloroquine and bleach

In addition to listening to the news, being surrounded by others who share anxious feelings can be both comforting and troubling. People with anxiety are now seeing their own excessive worries and behaviors reflected in the people around them, perhaps for the first time. It is strangely validating, but also a chilling reminder of the severity of the situation. 

“I want to be the only one who feels like the world is burning, because then the world isn’t burning, it’s just me,” Anderson said. 

Moreover, comments minimizing anxiety can sometimes come off as dismissive of more serious issues that people may be facing. 

“A lot of people have been telling me, ‘Everybody feels this way,’” Castro said. “And it makes me wonder: is what I’m feeling supposed to be this bad? Or am I just weak?” 

During a crisis, many people who have never dealt with mental health issues before may find themselves experiencing anxiety and depression for the first time. Mental illness can manifest differently in different people, and each individual experience will not necessarily fit the cookie-cutter mold of any particular disorder.

Though some may say anxiety is “all in your head,” as Castro has been told, it can be just as difficult to cope with and overcome as a physical injury.

Email Caitlin Hsu at [email protected]

Five most common anxiety disorders

Published Wednesday, May. 6, 2020, 12:21 pm

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Anxiety is a typical reaction to any threatening situation, and many people experience it at some point in their life. Human body’s automatic “fight or flight” response system is activated whenever there is a stressful situation. But for some people, it is more than just stress, and they continuously experience it every other day. When this anxiety becomes constant or starts to affect the daily life, work performance or relationships, it is a sign of an anxiety disorder.

There are many types of anxiety disorders, but in any form, they could be disabling and restricting a person to enjoy a healthy life. But it is necessary to know that it is not something bizarre , in-fact anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental disorders in the world. Regardless of the nature of an anxiety disorder, proper treatment, medical therapy and counselling can help to relieve its symptoms.

Here are the five most common anxiety disorders that everyone should know.

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a highly prevalent condition, and nearly everyone experiences it at some time. NHS explains generalized anxiety disorder as a long term condition which makes a person anxious in multiple situations instead of worrying about one specific thing. Sometimes it just shows up as excessive worrying on something which is not something to worry about for someone else—for example, preparing for an exam, leaving for a job interview or talking to a stranger. People having generalized anxiety disorder feel anxious all the times, and some of them also experience heart palpitations and frequent worrisome thoughts.

  1. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is another common anxiety disorder in which a person obsessively thinks about something and shows a compulsive behaviour. Although it sounds harmless, these unwanted thoughts and actions could hinder in routine life and affect it. For example, it is challenging for a person with the obsessive-compulsive disorder to meet someone or shake hands for the constant fear of getting germs from interacting with others. In a way, the compulsive actions of OCD are a defensive way to prevent anything bad from affecting the person, such as continuously washing hands after shaking hands with anyone.

OCD could show up in various forms; some of them are as follows.

  • Contamination; an urge to clean hands, body, surfaces or the house fearing contamination.
  • Checking; the constant feeling of self-examination or checking the surrounding for potential damage or loss.
  • Hoarding behavior; inability to abandon useless and old items.
  1. Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder is when a person continually experiences panic attacks. There is no standard definition of panic attacks; it just feels like an extremely stressful situation with no solution. Some people feel difficulty in breathing, palpitations and blackout when they have a panic attack. For others, it might not be as severe.

It is not uncommon to experience a panic attack once or twice in life. But when these attacks are repetitive, they are characterized as “panic disorder” which needs medical attention and care. The acute cases of panic attacks are sometimes mixed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder; however, both of these are different types of anxiety disorders.

Common signs of panic disorder are as follows.

  • An irresistible sense of fear and terror
  • Tingling sensations
  • Difficulty in breathing or choking
  • Digestive distress
  • Numbness, emotionlessness or inability to move the limbs
  1. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is common among people who have experienced something very shocking, dangerous or unforgettable. It is common for everyone to feel traumatized after such a situation, but some people find it hard to get over it. For example, surviving a war, child abuse, natural diester, rape or accident. National Institute of Mental Health characterizes post-traumatic stress disorder if a person experiences any of the following for at least one month.

  • One or more times re-experiencing sign
  • One or more times showing an avoiding behavior
  • Two or more times experiencing highly reactive symptoms.
  • Two or more-times extreme mood or behavioral changes

Everyone is susceptible to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at any time and age after experiencing a haunting event. The National Center for PTSD, reports that at least 7-8 out of every 100 people experience these symptoms at some time of their life. However, this risk is higher in women than in men.

  1. Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder is also known as social phobia. It could affect a person so adversely that leaving the house even for essentials becomes impossible for the constant fear of interacting with people. People with social anxiety disorder find it hard to continue a relationship and meet new people. They also feel troubled while going to work, doing groceries or going out for a walk. They think that other people would judge them for anything that they do. Some of the common symptoms of social anxiety are; excessive sweating, shaky voice, trembling, faster heart rate, blushing, or inability to speak.

Anxiety disorders could show up in different symptoms. If you suspect that you are experiencing any of the anxiety mentioned above disorders, it is necessary to get medical help. Alternatively, you can use conventional anxiety medicines for a short time to see how well your body responds to them. Do not hesitate to contact a professional for help or buy diazepam or any other anxiolytic medicine to cope up with the anxiety. More than half of patients of anxiety feel relieved after taking general medications and following lifestyle changes to manage stress.

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Woman with severe OCD reveals how she eats breakfast in eye-opening video

A woman who has severe obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) has shared an eye-opening video detailing the rituals she has to go through just to eat breakfast. 

Ashley Dawson, 26, told BuzzFeed News that she has experienced intrusive thoughts, ritualistic behaviors, and tics since she was four years old, but she wasn’t formally diagnosed with OCD until about seven years ago. 

A few months ago, she posted a video of her daily breakfast routine, revealing she has to blink, stretch her neck, and smell her food a certain number of times before she feels comfortable eating. 

Hard to handle: Ashley Dawson, a 26-year-old with severe obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), has shared a video detailing the rituals she has to go through just to eat breakfast Hard to handle: Ashley Dawson, a 26-year-old with severe obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), has shared a video detailing the rituals she has to go through just to eat breakfast

Hard to handle: Ashley Dawson, a 26-year-old with severe obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), has shared a video detailing the rituals she has to go through just to eat breakfast 

In the clip, Ashley is getting ready to eat rice cakes topped with avocado when she starts blinking.  

She then bends over and picks up her plate to smell her food nine times before she blinks again. After stretching her neck, she goes back to smelling her food. 

Ashley alternates between tapping her plate on the counter and smelling her food before she is ready to take a bite. 

She taps her chest and then picks up her first rice cake, smelling it two more times before taking a bite. She continues to smell it as she chews. 

The video has been viewed more than two million times, and thousands of commenters thanked her for sharing her experience.  

Routine: She has to blink, stretch her neck, and smell her food a certain number of times before she feels comfortable eating

Routine: She has to blink, stretch her neck, and smell her food a certain number of times before she feels comfortable eating

Going viral: The video has been viewed more than two million times, and thousands of commenters thanked her for sharing her experience Going viral: The video has been viewed more than two million times, and thousands of commenters thanked her for sharing her experience

Going viral: The video has been viewed more than two million times, and thousands of commenters thanked her for sharing her experience

‘It looks like you’re super tired of doing it. I’ve never seen OCD like this before so thank you for sharing,’ one person wrote. 

‘So tired of doing it! But I have to,’ Ashley responded. 

Another person noted that some people think having OCD ‘means keeping your room organized.’   

‘I am actually quite messy in areas of my life!’ Ashley commented. ‘And people are like ” thought you were OCD.”‘ 

According to the American Psychiatric Association, ‘OCD is an anxiety disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions).

‘The repetitive behaviors, such as hand washing, checking on things or cleaning, can significantly interfere with a person’s daily activities and social interactions.’ 

Candid: Earlier this week, she posted a clip demonstrating the 'weird things' her OCD makes her do, including stare at sstrangers and raise her hand in class a certain number of times Candid: Earlier this week, she posted a clip demonstrating the 'weird things' her OCD makes her do, including stare at sstrangers and raise her hand in class a certain number of times

Candid: Earlier this week, she posted a clip demonstrating the ‘weird things’ her OCD makes her do, including stare at sstrangers and raise her hand in class a certain number of times 

Compulsions: Ashley explained that she has to sip her drink a certain number of times and high-five people in multiples of three Compulsions: Ashley explained that she has to sip her drink a certain number of times and high-five people in multiples of three

Compulsions:  Ashley explained that she has to sip her drink a certain number of times and high-five people in multiples of three 

Diagnosis: OCD is a disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations that make them feel driven to do something repetitively Diagnosis: OCD is a disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations that make them feel driven to do something repetitively

Diagnosis: OCD is a disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations that make them feel driven to do something repetitively

What is obsessive compulsive disorder?

Obsessive compulsive disorder, usually known as OCD, is a common mental health condition which makes people obsess over thoughts and develop behaviour they struggle to control.

It can affect anyone at any age but normally develops during young adulthood.

It can cause people to have repetitive unwanted or unpleasant thoughts.

People may also develop compulsive behaviour – a physical action or something mental – which they do over and over to try to relieve the obsessive thoughts.

The condition can be controlled and treatment usually involves psychological therapy or medication.  

It is not known why OCD occurs but risk factors include a family history of the condition, certain differences in brain chemicals, or big life events like childbirth or bereavement. 

People who are naturally tidy, methodical or anxious are also more likely to develop it.

Source: NHS 

Ashley told BuzzFeed News that she has also been diagnosed with depression, EDNOS, fibromyalgia, IBS, and Hashimoto’s disease. 

Her doctors believe her conditions may have been caused by a series of strep infections that induced Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS).

Ashley has been opening up about her OCD and what it really means to have the disorder in her TikTok videos. 

‘I spend so much time being ashamed of my OCD and trying to mask my tics, she said. 

‘After 26 years, I’ve figured out ways to make them look more natural so I don’t get so embarrassed.’ 

‘I wanted to show people what letting my tics run wild looks like, and I didn’t care if 2 people or 2,000 people saw it.’ 

Earlier this week, she posted a clip demonstrating the ‘weird things’ her OCD makes her do, including stare at complete strangers intensely, raise her hand in class a certain number of times, and repeat certain words over and over.  

‘The idea that people with OCD are just “clean freaks” is actually so damaging to the mental health community and to awareness,’ she told BuzzFeed News.

Ashley added: ‘It’s overwhelming to just be ourselves, but I want more people with OCD to feel free to be true to who they are.’

Gulftimes : Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

The continuous spread of Covid-19 has continued to impact fear in us and has become a nightmare to people living with anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The fear created by Covid-19 is responsible for the daily changes in habits of people living with these disorders. Based on data presented by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 2 million people live with OCD and more than 7 million are affected by an anxiety disorder. Covid-19 has created fear in the lives of many people but the people living with a mental disorder are the most affected because it adds more fear to the already existing. Fear has caused changes in thoughts and emotions of people living with such disorders because they fear to transfer the virus to others even when they do not have it or not showing any symptoms of it.
When people suffering from such disorders run out of disinfectants or sanitisers, it creates more panic because they believe that without them, there is a high chance of them getting the virus and spreading it to their loved ones. As the coronavirus continues to spread, a lot of things such as some services, events, and schools are being closed and several people are headed to a financial crisis. Many people are trying to reach out asking for help in different places such as the Crisis Text Line and on other different social media platforms. The most affecting factor that creates fear for people living with anxiety and OCD is the social distancing that is giving them more free time and is creating negative thoughts in their minds. Some of these patients go as far as escaping from mental facilities.
According to the Director of the Anxiety Disorder Treatment Center, Reid Wilson, every individual is exposed to a specific kind of fear all over the world. One of his patients suffering from OCD touched his nose with his hand, something that made the patient so worried from the fact that he might transfer the disease to other people including his doctor. This act made him nearly cancel his appointment. Another patient living with an anxiety disorder was worried about her daughter travelling, because she thinks she is exposed to the danger of being affected by the pandemic.
Since the basis of anxiety disorders is uncertainty, Covid-19 has created more unending problems for most anxiety foundations in many ways. The pandemic has increased the level of anxiety in patients that have made it difficult for them to cope up with daily activities. For those who have been affected in different ways such as loss of income, work changes, isolation among others are now experiencing difficulty in coping up with the changes. This has mostly affected the anxiety patients who were also recovering from their conditions. The Covid-19 fear has caused the relapse in such patients.  
Patients living with anxiety and OCD are living with fear in their daily lives and to some, it is not the fear of the virus, but the fear created by other people. People living without anxiety or OCD are affected by the spread of Covid-19 and their state of panic and hysteria, also increases the fear of people living with such disorders. As the virus continues to spread, people’s lives are changing, the number of infected people is increasing, and the number of deaths is increasing too, and this has caused a lot of panic in people. Those who live with anxiety and OCD disorder think that they are at a higher risk because of their conditions. This combines with other information in media, worsening their condition, and affects their daily activities that are exposing them to more risk of relapsing than ever. 
The normal life of people living with anxiety and OCD has become the normal life of everyone as all of them live with the fear of the pandemic. People panic and suddenly everyone needs the sanitiser and disinfectant wipes and if they don’t receive them, they get worried. 
All in all, it is important to note that fear, which has been created by the coronavirus pandemic has caused more damage everywhere and it is vital to find remedies for patients with OCD. Now we know how people with OCD feel every single day!




* The author is a consultant in Public Relations and Personality Types. Instagram: @Tipsbyhalahill

How to Deal with a Control Freak

If you live with a control
freak, you love them despite their constant need to make sure that everything goes
their way.

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If you work with one, you tolerate them because you like your job, you have bills to pay — and prison orange isn’t your color.

You can’t avoid all the control
freaks of the world, so you have to find a way to peacefully coexist with them.
It’s tough, but believe it or not, it can be done. Let’s start by understanding
the psychology behind the behavior.

What makes a control
freak tick?

Control freaks tend to have a psychological need to be in charge of things and people around them. This often includes circumstances that cannot be changed or even controlled. The need for control can stem from deeper psychological issues such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety disorders or personality disorders.

“People who try to dominate you can be exhausting and suffocating. They make you feel like you can’t breathe and you are trapped in their ways,” says psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD.

“Unfortunately, we all have control freaks of different degrees in our lives.  Sometimes it is a boss or friend.  It’s particularly difficult when it is a family member which creates a toxic and tricky world to navigate.  You often can’t just cut them out — you have to learn how to skillfully navigate their nature,” Dr. Albers explains.

Control freaks are always aware of what they’re doing, right?

Not necessarily. It might seem like they have agendas to take over our lives and the world, but that’s not the case. Dr. Albers says fear is often a motivator in their desire to control. Anxiety is another reason for their behavior.

“People
who have control issues experience a lot of anxiety. They try to control things
to reduce their anxiety level. Finding other positive ways to reduce their
anxiety can help divert or shut down their need to control others.”

Changing your perspective can make them a little easier to deal with

The term “control freak” is a pretty charged one when you think about it. ” ‘Control freak’ can be a negative term that makes you automatically feel angry and indicates that people are abnormal,” says Dr. Albers. She recommends reframing the term by saying that people with control issues “like to take charge of things.” That can help take your negative association with these individuals down a notch.

Bullying is never the way to go

People with control issues may
tap dance on your last nerve, but don’t take the low road when interacting with
them.

“Remember that it is never okay to bully them. Sometimes control freaks genuinely don’t realize that their behavior is coming across that way.  Labeling it as such can sometimes shine a different light on it for the controller,” says Dr. Albers. She also recommends not hurling insults at people who struggle with control issues. 

“With
these individuals, it’s important to get to the root of what is driving the
need for control. If it’s due to a psychological disorder, telling the person
that they’re acting like a jerk isn’t going to fix the problem.”

How to stay calm when dealing with someone with control issues 

In a work situation, you have a glimmer of hope because you don’t have to spend your days and nights with the source of your frustration. Living with someone who has control issues might be more of a challenge. Thankfully, Dr. Albers has some pointers for both scenarios.

How to handle a controlling coworker or
boss

It’s in our nature to be polite
or to try to keep the peace at work. We’re with our coworkers 40 or more hours
a week. The last thing we want is a tense or tumultuous work environment. On
the other hand, it’s not fair for you to be on edge every day because you have
to interact with a controlling officemate.

There’s a fine balance to coexisting with a control freak in the workplace — and it doesn’t mean that you always have to be the sacrificial lamb.

Dr. Albers suggests taking this route.

“When someone with control issues tries to take over at work, calmly point out how it makes you feel in the moment at the exact moment when it’s happening. Don’t let it fester so you explode later. It helps to connect the feeling and the event clearly.  For example, you could say something like, ‘Right now you are telling me how I should run the meeting tomorrow.  I feel like you don’t trust me to do a good job.’ ”

If your coworker or boss is allergic to the word “no,” Dr. Albers suggests using “gentle nos.”  This means, instead of telling the person “no” with a little bass and a lot of “get out of my face” behind it, try saying something along the lines of, “What I am going to do is…” or “Another way of doing this is…” 

With a controlling person, Dr. Albers says that a firm “no” can escalate the situation. “The word “no” can be very triggering and fighting words for someone who has control issues.”

How to
handle a loved one with control issues

To be clear, we’re not referring to a situation where someone is extremely controlling or abusive. If you are in a situation like that, please know there is help, and we encourage you to seek it for your safety and sanity.

In
this case, we’re referring to someone who might be a little too particular or
peculiar about the little things. They could be a partner, a friend or even a
family member.

When dealing with loved ones with control issues, Dr. Albers recommends picking your battles. Some things are worth holding your ground and doing them your way. She encourages you to know your limits and be very clear about them. Don’t ask the person for their opinion when you’re planning something or even doing the simplest tasks.

“Don’t invite opinions. Instead of saying, ‘What do you think about…’ say, ‘I am doing this,’ ” adds Dr. Albers.

If
you spend a lot of time with a person who has control issues, shave that time
down a little to make things less stressful. And when you talk to them, only
give high-level details about what’s going on in your personal or professional
life. This way, they won’t have the opportunity to critique your decisions.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Some things aren’t worth the time or energy. When it comes to minor tasks or things that really aren’t relevant, don’t argue. “Sometimes it is just easier to allow people with control issues to do things their way. For instance, if it doesn’t truly matter where you eat lunch or dinner, let them decide,” says Dr. Albers.  “But giving them complete control across the board is not good for you or your relationship. This will only cause resentment and anger.”

You can make things more manageable by giving your coworker or loved one positive and constructive ways to challenge their controlling nature. Give them tasks that you aren’t enthusiastic about. This doesn’t mean punishing them with horrible projects. You can assign them mundane tasks that they really enjoy doing. And once they complete those projects, thank them for “taking charge.” (Wink, wink.) 

Surround yourself with
supportive people

It can be overwhelming when you have to deal with a control freak on a daily basis. That’s why you need a supportive network of people who will back you up and allow you to vent.

“Be sure to talk to others. A controlling person knows how to make you feel guilty, or feel like you are doing something wrong or unwise if you don’t follow their advice. That’s why it’s always good to check in with a neutral party or another family member to reinforce that your opinion matters and is valid,” says Dr. Albers.

 

How anxiety and OCD are complicated by the pandemic


As a child, Pierre Frigon was always afraid that there was a ghost in his house. He would obsessively check each room for an hour before he went to bed, or else he wouldn’t be able to sleep.

As he got older his fears intensified, developing into germophobia and obsessive compulsive disorder.

“I never felt what I was doing was based on logic,” Frigon said. “It was more like a feeling.”

His anxiety led him to constantly wash his hands, take excessively long showers, and count the number of times he scrubbed until he reached fifty.

That was long before he got help to manage his symptoms, but he understands better than most how the added burden the COVID-19 pandemic is weighing on an estimated three million Canadians with anxiety or mood disorders.

Mark Antczak is a clinical counsellor with Anxiety Canada and says few will understand the toll the pandemic is taking on people with anxiety or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

“We are having a big flare up of symptoms because we are living in pretty unprecedented times during the pandemic,” Antczak said.

OCD is characterized by excessive worrying and a need for control. Those struggling with the disorder will perform a variety of actions in an attempt to regain a sense of control, and prevent their fears from being realized.

“The OCD can latch onto very specific ways of getting a sense of certainty, when in reality we’re never actually able to get it,” Antczak said.

Within the context of the pandemic, these compulsions stem from a fear of catching COVID-19. Often, the actions taken to prevent this outcome are exacerbated safety measures, which can actually put the individual at a greater risk of harm.

“I heard a couple of instances where people are bleaching their produce, or boiling it for periods of time,” Antczak said. “People are really scrubbing their bodies to a point where it’s almost raw, and their hands or parts of their body are actually even cracking or bleeding.”

Not only does this excessive washing make anxiety worse, but it can lead to a risk of infection due to open wounds.

Frigon said it’s almost impossible to think logically when consumed by anxiety.

“You do these things because you feel better, not because you actually know it’s helping,” he said.

Frigon reached his breaking point with his disorder two years ago, and decided to seek help. Through therapy, he learned coping strategies which have enabled him to get through the pandemic without falling back into old habits.

“The biggest thing you have to do is become uncomfortable and start challenging yourself with facing your biggest fears,” he said. “Becoming more and more comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

The isolation of the pandemic can make recovery particularly difficult.

“Right now for someone to be able to actively deal with (their OCD), especially if they’re in a really bad spot, could be tough,” Frigon said.

But isolation also presents a unique opportunity to tackle compulsive behaviours. While distractions of school and work can make living with anxiety easier, they can also distract from the need to seek help.

“They keep you at enough of a level where you don’t have to deal with your issues, but they’re still there,” he said.

One of the key components of recovering from an anxiety disorder is recognizing intrusive thoughts without acting on them, Antczak said.

“Like with all anxiety disorders, OCD is making people think that the threat of COVID is higher than it actually is,” he said. “We know anxiety is an overestimation of threat, and an underestimation of ability to cope.”

The first step in Frigon’s recovery was reducing the number of times he washed himself in the shower, until he forgot about counting altogether.

Over time, he realized that the threat of germs was significantly less than his disorder had led him to believe.

“It’s tough, and it takes a long time,” Frigon said.

“The important thing is to just keep fighting it no matter what, because it’s not a great way to live.”

Anxiety Canada offers a free app to provide expert designed support and coping strategies for users struggling with anxiety.

Anyone experiencing an urgent mental health crisis can contact the B.C. CMHA crisis line 24/7 at 310-6789.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won’t censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © iNFOnews, 2020

What is OCD? Symptoms, causes, and treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder – Insider

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that is made up of intrusive, unwanted thoughts that become obsessions, and repetitive compulsions that impact daily life. 
  • Obsessions and compulsions are often related to irrational fears about contamination, perfectionism, making mistakes, superstition, and sexual or religious thoughts. 
  • OCD can be treated effectively with therapy and medication, though it is first important for the patient to recognize their obsessions and compulsions. 
  • This article was medically reviewed by David A. Merrill, MD, PhD, psychiatrist and director of the Pacific Brain Health Center at Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center. 
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness that affects about 1% of the US population

OCD is made up of two distinct symptoms: obsession and compulsions. Although rare, someone can be diagnosed with OCD if they only have one of these symptoms, says Gregory Sayer, MD, board-certified psychiatrist and faculty psychiatrist at NYU Langone Health. 

Here’s what you need to know about obsessions and compulsions, what causes OCD, and how to treat it effectively. 

OCD symptoms 

For someone with OCD, obsessions are thoughts, feelings, or impulses that are experienced again and again. The obsessions are intrusive — they severely impact daily life — and the person often feels disgusted by them. 

“A person with OCD may realize their obsessive intrusive thoughts don’t make sense, but they can’t seem to stop them,” says Roseann Capanna-Hodge, a psychologist. 

To try to avoid these obsessions, patients develop compulsions, which are overly repetitive behaviors that they believe will help them counteract or overcome the obsessive thoughts. 

“Compulsions are behaviors that individuals with OCD feel compelled to do repeatedly,” says Capanna-Hodge. “OCD causes a person to feel they have to do rituals to do things in a certain way to make them feel less anxious… but in reality [compulsions] heighten anxiety.”

Common types of obsessions and compulsions include:

  • Contamination: Being overly concerned about dirt, germs, or other perceived contaminants. People with OCD might wash their hands and then still think they’re dirty, Sayer says. Sometimes, they wash so much that their hands become cracked or bleed. 
  • Perfectionism: Fears about being exact, balanced, or perfect. “Feeling something isn’t exactly aligned or ordered would lead to ordering, measuring, rearranging,” says Sayer. This can include repetitively cleaning your living space or constantly reordering your daily schedule, even when it isn’t necessary. 
  • Causing harm or making mistakes: Fear of danger, or hurting oneself or someone else, can lead to repetitive safety measures. For example, people with this obsession might constantly check to make sure they’ve locked the door or turned off the oven. 
  • Superstition and prevention: Some people with OCD obsess over the idea that a negative consequence will occur if they do something wrong. “They will compulsively engage in a behaviour that they think will undo the bad luck such as arranging items in a perfect symmetry or counting every window they see,” Sayer says. 
  • Sexual or religious thoughts: People with these obsessions might constantly fixate on prayer, deprive themselves of sex, or have unwanted sexual thoughts. 

What causes OCD?

Scientists believe that OCD originates in the brain, and potentially has to do with abnormal function of neurotransmitters like serotonin.

“While the exact cause of OCD is still not known, there are clear contributors to the development of OCD,” says Gail Saltz, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine.

For example, people with a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with OCD are more likely to have the condition themselves — both due to genetics and the environment they’re raised in. 

A 2019 twin study published in the journal European Psychiatry found that stressful life events increased the risk of experiencing obsessive-compulsive symptoms. The study found that 48% of obsessive-compulsive symptoms were influenced by genetics, while 52% were influenced by environmental factors. 

Prenatal development may also play a role in the development of OCD: a 2016 study of siblings found premature births, those with low or high birth weights, and those whose mother smoked during pregnancy had a higher risk of developing OCD. 

In addition, people with autism are twice as likely as the general population to develop OCD, according to a 2015 study, although scientists are still working to understand the relationship between the two disorders. 

OCD treatment

The first step in treating OCD is recognizing that you have a problem and getting a diagnosis from a psychiatrist, says Patricia Celan, MD, a psychiatry resident at Dalhousie University in Canada. 

Although some worry is normal, spending an hour or more worrying each day could signal a bigger problem. “If your symptoms are impeding your ability to have a normal social life or perform well at school or work, then you may have OCD,” Celan says. 

The most effective treatment for OCD is a combination of medication and cognitive-behavioral behavioral therapy. About 70% of people who try this combination will see improvement, according to the International OCD Foundation. However, before you can start a treatment plan you need to acknowledge that your obsessions or compulsions are problematic. 

“A person who is in denial may be unwilling to take the medication or engage in the therapy needed for recovery, and therapy definitely will be ineffective if you’re not able to recognize when an obsession or compulsion is irrational,” Celan says. 

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is the most common form of cognitive behavioral therapy used to treat OCD. It involves people with OCD triggering their obsessive thoughts, then challenging themselves not to compulsively respond to the obsession. Two-thirds of people who go through ERP will experience some relief for their symptoms. 

In addition, medication can reduce OCD symptoms by about 40 to 60%. The class of antidepressants called serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) can increase serotonin in the brain. Scientists aren’t sure why, but this helps with symptoms of OCD. Many of these medications take 6-8 weeks to take full effect, although many people see some effect in 1-2 weeks. 

Treatment for OCD might not get rid of all obsessions and compulsions, but it should reduce their severity, giving the person more freedom to go about their daily life unhindered. 

“We know an OCD treatment is effective when it significantly reduces obsessions and compulsions and the person can function at home, school, and work,” Capanna-Hodge says. “They are able to participate in their daily activities and have normal relationships.”

If you’re joking about having OCD, you probably don’t have it

If you’re like everyone else, you’re probably washing your hands frequently now. You’re afraid to touch things when you’re out of your house. These are logical responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s common to hear people who are being extra careful these days to joke around and say things such as, “I’m so OCD!” If you’re joking about obsessive-compulsive disorder, chances are you don’t have it.

I do have OCD. Let me tell you a little bit about my experience.

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Sharing the full story, not just the headlines

As a teenager, I spent most mornings on the floor of my closet crying, trying to get dressed for school. I’d put on a pair of jeans, then I’d have an obsessive thought about the jeans. A common one was that my mum would die or that I’d kill my sister if I wore them. Panicked, I’d take them off and sit paralysed in my closet.


This cycle would continue until most of my clothing was off-limits. To make my anxiety go away, I would stuff the “tainted” clothing deep into my dresser, because if those jeans weren’t on my body, my mum would live another day and I wouldn’t kill my sister.

When I was 14, I was sitting in my bedroom in Montgomery County, Maryland, reading Teen Vogue and, sandwiched between the tips and quizzes, was an article about obsessive-compulsive disorder. The article described what it’s like to have OCD, and I saw myself clearly in it. I finally had a name for my debilitating anxiety. There were others like me – so many that Teen Vogue wrote an article about us. It gave me hope.

Throughout my teens and early twenties, my obsessive thoughts evolved into things such as “What if I am not who I think I am?” “What if I’m a bad person?” and “What if I abuse a stranger or someone I love?”

I felt so much shame. I thought that I must be a monster. I became very skilled at hiding my compulsive behaviours (behaviours performed to lessen my distress) from my family. I would have an obsessive thought (“If I open the microwave door once, my mum will die”), followed by a compulsion (opening the microwave door twice). Other times my compulsions happened in my head. I would have an anxiety-inducing thought – “I will hurt that stranger” – followed by an anxiety-lessening thought (the compulsion) – “I will help that stranger” – that would “cancel out” the scary one.

I wasn’t diagnosed with OCD until I sought help from a professional in my early twenties. Today, at age 32, I can happily say that (touch wood) my OCD is mostly dormant. I attribute that to the tools I picked up in cognitive behavioural therapy and to sharing my stories with others, so it’s not weighing on me as a heavy secret. I feel lucky it hasn’t reared its head lately, especially during this global pandemic.

But I’ve noticed “OCD” used incorrectly in recent weeks, mostly in mainstream media and social media, which is frustrating to those of us who have it. So I called John Chamberlain, a clinical psychologist in Silver Spring, Maryland, to help me explain what OCD is and why it’s harmful to throw around the term. Chamberlain practices cognitive behavioural therapy and specialises in the treatment of OCD and social anxiety disorder.

He says that anxiety in average doses is not a disorder and that it exists to protect us from a real threat.

“When it is working well, anxiety is healthy and might even help to keep us alive,” he says. “OCD is obsessive-compulsive disorder. Anxiety disorders happen when your anxiety system in your brain is not doing its job well.”

Here are five myths about OCD, as explained by Chamberlain.

OCD means being very orderly or tidy

A common misconception is that if you are orderly, tidy, careful about not getting sick, particular about your surroundings, you have OCD. In fact, OCD is a psychological disorder that is painful, distressing, often debilitating. If you are able to toss it out casually and laugh about it, and move on with your life without distress, you don’t have OCD.

People with OCD enjoy performing rituals

OCD is when the anxiety centre goes off the rails. It’s when you have this scary bully in your head that is telling you that bad things are going to happen and that you need to do certain rituals to keep the bad things from happening. In reality, you don’t really need to do those rituals because the bad things are not really going to happen.

OCD sufferers are mostly concerned with cleanliness

Obsessions can be about religion. For example, a worry that you are going to anger God. Or you might think that you are going to impulsively kill somebody. You might think that you’re not the sexuality that you identify with. You might fear that you’re a pedophile even though the idea of sexual contact with children is repulsive to you. A particularly tragic thing about OCD is that sufferers can fear they will commit heinous acts, such as murder or paedophilia, and the idea is so horrendous that they won’t talk about it because they think others will suspect them of being actually capable of committing these acts – when the opposite is actually true. OCD goes far beyond fearing contamination or messiness.

Only those with OCD have intrusive thoughts

What distinguishes between OCD and non-OCD sufferers is that OCD sufferers’ thoughts tend to stick. They keep going back to it. They keep arguing with it. They keep trying to dispel it.

People without OCD have what I call the “Nah response”. Those people might think, “Maybe I have cancer,” and instead of that thought sticking in their brains, they will probably respond with, “Nah, it’s probably nothing.”

OCD sufferers now feel more comfortable because everyone is hand-washing a lot

OCD thrives on uncertainty. It is often referred to as “the doubting disease”, and if ever there was a time when we had uncertainty about something that we needed to have certainty about, now is it. Before the coronavirus pandemic, clients who suffer with contamination OCD had been working really hard to wash their hands less. Now they are being told to wash their hands with great frequency. This has been a very confusing thing for people with contamination OCD. We spend a lot of time in session trying to figure out what’s rational and what’s not. Trying to figure out what’s a necessary precaution and what’s an extreme precaution and trying to figure out what public health information we can trust. The bottom line is, this is NOT a good time to have OCD. It’s never a good time to have OCD.

© The Washington Post

If It’s Not One Pandemic, It’s Another

Over a decade ago, in 2009, we were faced with SFA, swine flu anxiety. Today, it’s COVID-19 angst. On Friday, Governor Cuomo warned that another global pandemic “will happen again…bank on it.”

Whether you call it “mysophobia,” “germophobia,” “bacillophobia,” or “bacteriophobia,” pandemic fever has got lots of people just plain scared of contact with dirt, germs, and others are fearful of touching even their own hands.  These particular pathological fears are commonly associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, today in 2020 or at any time, including 2009 when I first began writing about pandemics. It seems if anxiety or depression run in families, people are more likely to experience these unhealthy fears.

Monk, the fictional police detective, Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, Megan Fox, the late Howard Hughes, President Donald Trump, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lawrence are some famed people who share in being popularized germophobes.  But you, your next-door neighbor and millions of Americans have joined the club of concerned Lysol and Clorox appliers (and bathers!) and are taking a hard, fretful look at kitchen sponges, computer keyboards, dirty laundry, exercise equipment, shopping carts, elevator buttons, and grocery check-out line counters. 

What should you look for to know if you’re simply having a healthy concern about catching the current bug or have a case of mysophobia?

  • avoiding places perceived as germ-filled
  • spending excessive time cleaning and decontaminating
  • washing hands obsessively
  • refusing to share personal items
  • avoiding physical contact with others
  • fearing contamination of children
  • avoiding crowds or animals

Those with mysophobia may encounter feelings of panic, increased heart rate, nausea, shortness of breath and sweating. Further, this fear of germs interferes significantly with daily life and relationships. If that’s you, you know it, and so do others around you.

From HIV beginning in the 1980s, claiming the lives of 37.9 million people  to the swine flu pandemic between April 2009 and April 2010 affecting 60.8 million people with about 12,469 deaths, to cholera reaching pandemic proportions seven times over the past two centuries, with the most recent being between 1961 and 1975 with about 4,000 deaths, to the Spanish flu of 1918 to 1920 killing 50 million worldwide, to SARS infecting about 8,000 people in 29 countries with a 10% mortality rate, and of course there was the Black Death in the 1300’s killing about 75-200 million people, we ought to be experts in understanding that pandemics end, that there will always be another one, that physical distancing and quarantine measures work and that we are better equipped to deal with widespread illnesses than ever before.

Microscopic bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa have risen to the top of many of our minds as we stare in panic at objects in our lives, especially people.  Admit it, you are more frequently using your elbows, covered of course, to touch anything.  In fact, if you look up hand sanitizers on Google, you’ll be deluged with 63,100,000 sites. 

For people who live with any type of significant anxiety, including OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) about contamination and germs, times like these are especially difficult.  When I say, “times like these,” I’m quoting from an article I wrote in 2009 about Swine Flu! What’s changed? The line between the worries of people with OCD and everyday concerns can be quite fuzzy. Worries about a possible pandemic from COVID-19 make the line even blurrier than usual.

Current conditions may have you wondering:

  • Should I wash my hands every ten minutes?
  • Should I wash for at least twenty minutes each time I wash?
  • Should I use a mix of harsh bleach, alcohol, and soap each time I wash?
  • Should I wear a mask everywhere I go?
  • Should I confine myself to my house for the next couple of months?

Folks, those questions came from 2009! What’s changed? 

I reviewed the CDC recommendations back in the Swine Flu days and found these recommendations:

  • Cover your nose when you sneeze.
  • Wash your hands often, especially after sneezing.
  • Use soap or alcohol-based hand cleaner.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth prior to washing your hands or using sanitizer.
  • Stay away from obviously sick people.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.
  • Call your doctor for advice if you feel sick.

Today, the CDC suggests the following to protect yourself against COVID-19. What’s different? Here are the CDC’s suggestions for our 2020 pandemic:

Clean your hands often:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact:

Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others:

  • You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.
  • Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.
    • Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.
  • Do NOT use a facemask meant for a healthcare worker.
  • Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.

Cover coughs and sneezes:

  • If you are in a private setting and do not have on your cloth face covering, remember to always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Throw used tissues in the trash.
  • Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Clean and disinfect:

  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
  • If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
  • Then, use a household disinfectant. Most common EPA-registered household disinfectantexternal icon will work.

So if all of this swine flu talk, I mean COVID-19, has raised your anxiety, there’s always humor – not that anyone contracting an illness is something to laugh about, especially when it may lead to death.  There used to be an iPhone app of swine flu jokes at a site called appshopper.com. It’s no longer available. Who wants to develop help to reduce anxiety over COVID-19? 

Anxiety is a “going to” disorder. It’s quite unlikely that anyone will feel anxiety, fear, worry or concern without thinking something is “going to” happen, and believe that what is “going to” happen will be “terrible, horrible and awful.” Perhaps questioning that “going to” prediction (“Am I certain it will happen?”), perhaps reframing the predicted “awful” outcome to something that’s “just bad” or “inconvenient,” that’s “a hassle, but not really a horror,” to one that’s not necessarily “horrible,” will also help. Assuring yourself that you can tolerate it, can bear it, can deal with it even though you may not prefer doing so, will also go a long way in reducing these unhealthy negative emotions and move them into the range of healthy negative emotions.

After all, New York’s Governor urged, “Let’s not put our heads in the sand and think this is the only pandemic we’ll ever have.” COVID-19 isn’t over and already we’re anticipating another round of this disease, and new ones to come. 

Stay healthy, hopeful and thinking well!

Antibodies could provide new treatment for OCD

Mice with high levels of this protein were also found to exhibit behaviours that are characteristic of anxiety and stress, such as digging and excessive grooming.

When the researchers treated the mice with an antibody that neutralised Imood, the animals’ anxiety levels reduced.

The findings have led the researchers to file a patent application for the antibody and they are now working with a drug company to develop a potential treatment for human patients.

“There is mounting evidence that the immune system plays an important role in mental disorders,” said Professor Fulvio D’Acquisto, a professor of immunology at the University of Roehampton and honorary professor of Immunopharmacology at Queen Mary University of London, who led the research. “And in fact people with auto-immune diseases are known to have higher than average rates of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and OCD. Our findings overturn a lot of the conventional thinking about mental health disorders being solely caused by the central nervous system.”

Professor D’Acquisto, whose findings are published in the journal Brain Behavior and Immunity, first identified Imood by chance while studying a different protein called Annexin-A1 and the role it plays in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and lupus.

He had created transgenic mice to over-express this protein in their T-cells, one of the main cells responsible for the development of autoimmune diseases, but found the mice showed more anxiety than normal. When he and his team analysed the genes expressed in the animals’ T-cells, they discovered one gene in particular was especially active. The protein produced from this gene was what they eventually named Immuno-moodulin, or Imood.

When the anxious mice were given an antibody that blocked Imood, their behaviour returned to normal in a couple of days.

The researchers tested the immune cells from 23 patients with OCD and 20 healthy volunteers. They found Imood expression was around six times higher in the OCD patients.

Other recent research by scientists elsewhere have also found the same protein may also play a role in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

Professor D’Acquisto believes Imood does not directly regulate brain functions in a classical way, for example by changing the levels of chemical signals in neurons. Instead, it may influence genes in brain cells that have been linked to mental disorders like OCD.

“This is work we still have to do to understand the role of Imood,” he said. “We also want to do more work with larger samples of patients to see if we can replicate what we saw in the small number we looked at in our study.”

In the meantime, Professor D’Acquisto and Dr Dianne Cooper, a Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, are working with the biopharmaceutical company UCB to develop antibodies against Imood that can be used in humans and to understand how this could be used to treat patients with mental disorders.

“It is early still, but the discovery of antibodies — instead of the classical chemical drugs — for the treatment of mental disorders could radically change the life of these patients as we foresee a reduced chance of side effects,” he said. Professor D’Acquisto estimates it could take up to five years before a treatment can be taken to clinical trials.