Why COVID-19 is hell for Hongkongers with OCD – ABS

Nearly everything about the coronavirus pandemic seems tailor-made to increase the anxiety of Hongkongers living with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

From washing their hands dozens of times a day, to locking themselves in their homes to avoid human contact, as well as relentless worrying about vaccine side effects, Covid-19 has exacerbated a mental health condition Hong Kong therapists have watched steadily grow during the city’s two-year battle with the virus.

Minal Mahtani, founder of the non-profit group OCD and Anxiety Support Hong Kong, said calls to her helpline and email inquiries have quadrupled from about 20 a week in the pre-pandemic era to nealy 80 now.

Worryingly, the numbers have remained stubbornly high despite the near-elimination of coronavirus cases in the city.

“Covid-19 has turned all our lives upside down. A lot of us feel a sense of unpredictability and lack of control about the future,” Mahtani said, citing general uncertainty over being able to travel and visit family members overseas. She added that OCD symptoms and severity were worsening among patients.

According to medical literature, OCD affects about 2 per cent of the global population. Obsession, according to Mahtani, is characterized by unwanted thoughts playing in one’s mind, like a “non-stop broken tape recorder” or a “bad song you can’t get out of your head”, to the degree that a patient cannot properly function in daily life.

That, in turn, leads to compulsive behavior, such as frequent hand-washing or repetition of certain acts, to provide relief from those thoughts.

Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority does not provide a breakdown of different categories of mental illnesses, but said the number of psychiatric patients treated at public hospitals had increased every year from 240,900 in 2016-17, to 275,800 in 2020-21.

It added the latest figures may well have been higher had Covid-19 not forced the suspension of some non-essential services.

Mahtani said it was clear to her the coronavirus had exacerbated “Contamination OCD” and “harm OCD”, in which the excessive fear of catching germs and infecting themselves or loved ones led some patients to hoard and overuse soap or refuse to leave their homes simply to avoid touching lift buttons.

“The slightest cough, or fever or dry throat they feel, they will jump to conclusions and think ‘I have Covid-19, I am going to die, this is going to be the world’s biggest problem’,” she explained.

OCD has also got harder to treat, according to Mahtani.

In the past, Mahtani and the four counsellors at her NGO used cognitive behavioural therapy to challenge a patient’s irrational thoughts, employing the “exposure response prevention” method. For example, a therapist might take their patient to a public place and have them touch a doorknob for 20 seconds to illustrate no harm would result.

But that simple exercise became impossible due to the very real threat of the coronavirus, Mahtani said, while handling irrational thoughts became all the more difficult amid a steady stream of health messaging focused on frequent hand-washing and avoidance of public spaces.

More recently, OCD patients have come in asking for help in allaying their fears about Covid-19 vaccines. Mahtani suggested the government could arrange for more qualified therapists at vaccination centres to calm OCD patients’ nerves during the 15-minute wait before and after the inoculation, a period that could be unbearable for those anxious about possible side effects.

Psychiatrist Dr Ivan Mak Wing-chit explained that while some OCD patients could trace their condition back to genetic factors and family history, others could have acquired it due to environmental factors such as pressure in their lives.

“I have seen more patients with OCD during Covid-19, with some having a relapse after having recovered from it some time ago,” he said. In one case, a patient was diagnosed with OCD after displaying symptoms such as excessive fear of Covid-19 contamination on shoes.

Mahtani said despite some progress made in recent years, OCD remained a largely misunderstood disease in the public mind.

“Some people think it’s just washing your hands, or being violent, when in fact they don’t choose to have OCD,” she said. “Blaming or ridiculing them is not the answer, supporting them is the way forward.”

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

The 16 Best Anxiety Podcasts for 2022

Best overall

The Anxiety Podcast

The Anxiety Podcast is our top choice of anxiety podcasts because it’s well-rounded and focuses on topics familiar to everyone who experiences anxiety, including:

  • “Moving Forward When You Feel Stuck”
  • “Why You Should Go Offline”
  • “Is Anxiety Holding You Back at Work?”

Tim JP Collins, who hosts this podcast, interviews people who have stories about anxiety that you’ll be able to relate to. The interviews are raw and honest. People are vulnerable and share stories of what’s going on with them.

Each week Tim also tells a personal story or describes a skill or technique that you can use, too. He has a history of anxiety and panic attacks himself and wants to share with you the stories and techniques that he feels allowed him to recover. The podcast aims to support anyone facing anxiety, stress, or panic attacks.

What we like

  • Tim has a communication style as if he’s talking to a friend, and sometimes he’s really funny!
  • There are regular weekly episodes, about 400, so far.
  • The podcast has a 4.7 rating on Apple.

What to look out for

  • Tim does sometimes digress a bit when he’s telling his stories (but then don’t we all when we’re talking to friends?).
  • He doesn’t have a professional mental health provider license.

Best for humor

The Mental Illness Happy Hour

Comedian Paul Gilmartin has hosted this weekly podcast for 6 years. It’s not exclusively about anxiety, but it does discuss anxiety quite often. Episodes cover:

Gilmartin hosts artists, comedians, and professional medical providers as guests. The content is serious, but Gilmartin and his guests often infuse a humorous tone. As Gilmartin says in one of his podcast intros: “I’m not a therapist; I’m a clown.”

What we like

  • Episodes have a light tone but serious content.
  • The podcast has a long history.
  • It features respected experts in the psychology field as well as artists and comedians who tell of their anxiety experiences.

What to look out for

  • Listeners must be ready to appreciate humor regarding mental illness.

Best for when you’re feeling anxious

Calmer You

This weekly podcast is hosted by Chloe Brotheridge, a hypnotherapist and author of the book “The Anxiety Solution.” She addresses topics such as how to reduce negative thinking and manage anxiety. One recent episode of this podcast did a deep dive into how to manage stress and be productive while working from home.

She and her guests offer practical techniques and exercises to practice when you’re feeling anxious. Consider tuning in to an episode like “Breathwork for Anxiety” or “Autumn Anxiety” for help right away during an anxious moment.

What we like

  • It often features psychology professionals as guests.
  • The tone is upbeat, yet calming.
  • The podcast offers regular weekly episodes.

What to look out for

  • You’ll her a lot about the hosts’ other products, including online courses, books, and an app.

Best for generalized anxiety disorder

Anxiety Slayer

This weekly podcast focuses on lessening anxiety in its many forms and ways of popping up in our lives. The podcast is a wide-ranging mix of supportive chats, meditations, breathing methods, and other techniques. Reviewers say it’s especially useful when they’re going through a rough time.

Hosts Shann Vander Leek and Ananga Sivyer offer in-depth discussions about anxiety, including panic attacks, stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You’ll hear about techniques and conversations you can use to pick yourself up during and after anxiety attacks.

What we like

  • This pocast has been online for 12 years.
  • Discussions are upbeat and informative.
  • The podcast has a 4.4 rating on Apple.

What to look out for

  • The audio for one of the hosts is soft and sometimes hard to hear.

Best for work anxiety

The Anxious Achiever

This podcast, presented by Harvard Business Review, features candid stories from business, technology, and entertainment leaders about their experiences with anxiety. The great thing about this podcast is that it focuses equally on transforming the workplace and yourself.

It is now in its fifth season and is hosted by Morra Aarons-Mele. She is the founder of the marketing agency Women Online and author of the book “Hiding in the Bathroom.” Each episode focuses on an aspect of anxiety in the workplace that doesn’t get talked about often.

For example, one episode discusses the question: How can we navigate a world that feels like a pressure cooker without letting our anxieties harm others? Another episode asks: Why is it, even in a world where people are encouraged to be more open, mental health remains one of the last things people disclose at work?

What we like

  • The podcast features honest conversations about seldom-discussed challenges of handling anxiety at work.
  • Both the host and her guests have experience in varied business environments.
  • The podcast has a 4.7 rating on Apple.

What to look out for

  • All work situations are different, so you’ll want to evaluate how you can best apply this podcast’s suggestions to your specific situation.

Best for social anxiety

Your Social Anxiety Bestie

Host Sadie Hall was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and perfectionism in 2018. Since then, she has been exploring tools and solutions and sharing them on her podcast. “I’m on the road to recovery, and I want to take you with me,” she says in her introduction.

Sadie talks in the tone of a best friend who cares about you and wants to help you get out and enjoy yourself, even while you’re living with social anxiety.

What we like

  • Sadie includes interviews with experts and people with long experience with social anxiety.
  • Her tone is compassionate and upbeat.
  • It has a 5.0 rating on Apple.

What to look out for

  • The podcast schedule tends to be irregular.

Best for LGBTQIA+

LGBTQA

Though not specifically about anxiety, this podcast features weekly interviews with what it calls “the most interesting LGBTQ+ people in the world.” But the topics often touch on mental health issues, such as the interview titled “A Love Letter to Anyone Who Has Ever Felt Despair.”

We believe that this podcast could give your confidence and mental health a boost. Each episode is a deep dive into the joys and challenges of being LGBTQIA+. Recent guests include Melissa Etheridge, Pete Buttigieg, and Roxane Gay.

The podcast is hosted by Jeffrey Masters and produced by The Advocate magazine and the Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

What we like

  • The interviews offer inspiration and support.
  • You get a chance to hear well-known, successful people talk about being LGBTQIA+.

What to look out for

  • Content and language are often adult-oriented.

Best for teens

The Teen Life Coach

Sami Halvorsen hosts this podcast to help teen girls handle anxiety and related issues. She calls herself a Teen Anxiety Coach and says that she always compared herself to others and struggled with anxiety as a young girl. She has completed a life coach certification program to help others manage their anxiety.

She says her mission is to help girls develop confidence and face their fears. Recent podcast episodes include:

  • “Feeling Trapped”
  • “Getting Your Homework Done”
  • “What It Really Takes to Get Into College”

What we like

  • The host has personal experience in teen anxiety.
  • There are regular weekly episodes.
  • The podcast has a 4.8 rating on Apple.

What to look out for

  • Anxiety is only one of many mental health issues that this podcast discusses.
  • Content is geared mostly for teenage girls, although all are welcome.

Best for parenting

The AT Parenting Survival Podcast

This podcast is hosted by Natasha Daniels, who founded the Anxious Toddlers (AT) community and is the author of “How to Parent Your Anxious Toddler” and “Anxiety Sucks! A Teen Survival Guide.” She was a child therapist in private practice for 16 years and is now a full-time mom to three amazing-but-anxious children.

This podcast is about how to help your children with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). No issues are off the table. For example, she has addressed topics such as:

  • Can my kid catch anxiety?
  • Why can’t we make our kid’s anxiety or OCD go away?
  • What if my child and I both have anxiety?

What we like

  • The podcast combines the outlook of a therapist and mom.
  • There are regular weekly podcasts.
  • The podcast has a 4.9 Apple rating.

What to look out for

  • The content focuses on OCD and anxiety.

Best for People of Color

Yeah No, I’m Not OK

Diane Guerrero, who hosts this podcast, says she started it because she wants to change the dynamic for young People of Color who are disproportionately affected by mental health issues but are not getting the resources they need. She invites listeners to “bring your complicated feelings and spend time with people who are rooting for you.”

She says that while growing up, almost everyone in her family or community was affected by mental health issues, but no one talked about it. She was taught to say that she was OK even when she really wasn’t.

The Yeah No, I’m Not Ok podcast wants to change all that. Guerrero wants to start a mental health revolution by having people openly talk about how they feel. She features conversations with friends, colleagues, activists, and healthcare professionals who have had mental health experiences that have changed their lives.

The podcast is presented in collaboration with LAist Studios.

What we like

  • The podcast offers frank, supportive conversations about difficult personal and cultural issues.
  • The conversations extend a hand especially to People of Color.
  • The podcast has a 4.8 Apple rating.

What to look out for

  • The style is emotionally raw and contains adult language.

Best for older people

The Anxiety Guy

This podcast is not directed mainly toward older people, but it has such a simple, straightforward approach toward anxiety that it seems a good choice for those who are aging. Also, the host’s voice is soothing, he speaks slowly, and he always starts at the beginning without assuming any experience or viewpoint on the part of the listener.

This podcast mainly focuses on anxiety, health anxiety, and depression. Dennis Simsek, the host, is a former professional tennis player who experienced difficulties with anxiety panic disorder and anxiety for 6 years. He shares his experiences openly and frames them with information about anxiety and mental health in general.

What we like

  • It offers a straightforward, nonjudgmental look at anxiety based on personal experience and medical information.
  • The podcast has a 4.7 rating on Apple.
  • It has regular weekly episodes.

What to look out for

  • Keep in mind that much of this podcast reflects one person’s experience of anxiety, which may differ from your own.

Best for guided meditation

Meditation Minis Podcast

This podcast offers short guided meditations to calm anxiety, overcome negative thinking, and boost your confidence levels. If you want to meditate but don’t have enough time or focus to do it, this podcast may be a good option for you.

Most meditations here are 10 minutes or less. Some “extended minis” last 20 minutes.

Meditation Minis’ provide guided support for specific issues as well as general calming. The meditations are led by Chel Hamilton and come from various sources, not reflecting any particular religion or ideology. Chel presents them in a neutral, non-religious way.

What we like

  • Content is neutral and not attached to any program or religion.
  • The meditation leader’s voicer is calm and soothing.
  • The podcast has a 4.8 rating on Apple.

What to look out for

  • It’s important not to listen to these soothing meditations when you need to be alert, such as when you’re driving.

Best doctor-led

Anxious in Austin

The Anxious in Austin podcast is hosted by two Austin psychologists, Dr. Marianne Stout and Dr. Thomas Smithyman. They discuss treatment options for anxiety to help you better understand anxiety. In their professional practices, they specialize in anxiety disorders and OCD.

What we like

  • The podcast is hosted by two experienced psychologists.
  • They discuss current issues, such as coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and dealing with burnout.
  • It has a 4.9 rating on Apple.

What to look out for

  • The episode schedule is irregular, with breaks of one to several months between podcasts.

Best for a scientific approach

Your Anxiety Toolkit

Your Anxiety Toolkit podcast offers usable, science-based tools for people who live with mental health conditions, especially anxiety, panic, and OCD. The host is Kimberley Quinlan, a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT). The tone here is compassion and helpfulness.

She says her podcast has three goals:

  • to provide you with extra tools to manage your anxiety
  • to inspire you
  • to provide you with one big, fat virtual hug (because experiencing anxiety ain’t easy)

What we like

  • This podcast has regular weekly podcasts.
  • Guests offer fresh looks at anxiety, sometimes not what you’re expecting.
  • Kimberley is enthusiastic and compassionate. You’ll feel one of your BFFs is talking to you.

What to look out for

  • This is a huggy atmosphere — but don’t worry, it’s virtual!

Best for lifestyle changes

The Anxiety Coaches Podcast

The Anxiety Coaches Podcast, hosted by Gina Ryan, focuses on managing anxiety through lifestyle changes. She emphasizes the importance of trusting yourself and moving forward with new actions. In other words, how to stop worrying and start living.

She and her guests help you learn how anxiety works and how you can calm your body and mind to break the anxiety cycle. She deals primarily with anxiety, panic, and PTSD.

What we like

  • The podcast discusses lifestyle changes that can help you manage your anxiety.
  • The host is an experienced life coach.
  • The podcast has a 4.7 Apple rating.

What to look out for

  • The podcast is free, but the host also conducts one-on-one life coaching for a fee.

Best for sleep

Get Sleepy

This podcast offers sleep stories and meditations to help you fall asleep. Reviewers point out that the stories often help distract them from worries and anxiety long enough to drop off to sleep. Here are some examples:

  • “A Moonlit Autumn Hike”
  • “Sea Glass at Sunset”
  • “Stargazing in Joshua Tree”

If the idea of a “sleep story” makes you roll your eyes, try giving one a chance. It’s different from a regular story or audiobook in that the plot does not have tension and increasing drama. Instead, it starts with relaxation and moves toward even more relaxation. Most reviewers say they fall asleep during the first half of the story.

What we like

  • The podcast has interesting and beautiful stories.
  • In our experience, the stories really do help you fall asleep.
  • The podcast has a 4.6 rating on Apple.

What to look out for

  • Unless you buy the premium version, there are several minutes of advertising at the beginning of each story. If you’re just about ready to drop off to sleep, this might disrupt it.
  • Some narrators are better than others. Thomas gets the best reviews.

Obsessiveness or OCD? How to Tell the Difference

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m so OCD,” to describe a strong desire for neatness? Despite what stereotypes might suggest that is not a sign of obsessive- compulsive disorder (OCD).

OCD is more than a desire to a keep a clean house, maintain a schedule, or read everything you can about a favorite celebrity. It’s a chronic and long-lasting mental health condition marked by uncontrollable recurring thoughts or behaviors that must be repeated over and over in order to quell extreme anxiety.

Left untreated, OCD can significantly impact every area of one’s life from school to work to relationships to one’s ability to participate in everyday activities. It can even confine people to their homes for fear they may not be able to perform their rituals or manage their symptoms in other ways.

In other words, there are big differences between simply being obsessive and having OCD — and while both involve obsessive thinking, that’s where the similarities end.

COVID-19 has made it “really tough” for people with anxiety disorders

click to enlarge CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM Mental health professionals have reported surging demand from people seeking therapy since the start of the pandemic.

To learn more about how things have changed, Pittsburgh’s NPR News Station WESA’s health and science reporter Sarah Boden spoke with psychiatrists, therapists, and social workers about what they’re observing in their own practices.

In the following conversation, Boden spoke with Kristen Walker of the Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh. Walker is a cognitive behavioral therapist who focuses on treating anxiety disorders, which can cause people to fixate on worst case scenarios.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

In many ways, COVID-19 and other recent events have confirmed our greatest fears. How do you help patients navigate this?
One of the things that can be really effective is helping people focus on what they can and can’t control: “Well, I have control over wearing a mask. I have control over whether I exercise. I have control over whether I eat a healthy meal.” And all those things help manage some of that external anxiety.

I know that clinicians want to be careful to not over-pathologize a patient. But I do wonder, since March 2020, are more people developing anxiety disorders?
In my experience with folks I’ve been seeing, yes. I mean, in order to have that anxiety disorder, there are clinical markers that need to be met: feelings of being on edge, constant worry, difficulty sleeping, having a startle response, maybe avoidance of people in situations. All of those different kinds of things are hallmarks of what we would consider an anxiety disorder.

And are we just talking generalized [anxiety]? Or are you seeing all different types of anxiety disorders?
All different kinds. The social anxiety disorder has been tough for folks. One of the things we typically encourage folks with social anxiety disorder to do is to go out there, get in public, meet people, do things to do those exposures. And that’s been pretty limited with COVID.

Besides social anxiety disorder, I’m wondering how the pandemic has impacted other anxiety disorders like, for example agoraphobia, which is a fear of leaving your home, being in, I guess, unfamiliar places or places you can’t control the environment.
People with agoraphobia tend to not leave their home or I mean, if they do leave their home, they tend to stick close to a routine. Somewhere where they know that they can get out safely. So it’s harder for people to kind of rationalize for themselves. “Oh, even though this feels really uncomfortable, this is going to be a good thing for me to go,” because now there’s this added layer of COVID-19.

Yeah, it’s so interesting. You’re talking about the sort of exposure therapy, I guess you could call it, [that] in some ways the exact opposite of what the public health guidance was at certain points earlier in 2020.
Yes, yes. That’s completely contraindicated for somebody with agoraphobia, or social anxiety.

I also want to ask about obsessive-compulsive disorder. I think in media, we might see this portrayed as somebody who’s constantly washing their hands, or always on the lookout for some sort of danger or calamity in the real world. How have people with this diagnosis been impacted by the pandemic?
The pandemic has been really tough. If somebody does have more of a fear of germs, for example, when they wash their hands they immediately feel better. And what that does is it brings down the anxiety for a temporary time period. Eventually it spikes back up and higher. Now, all of a sudden there’s the CDC guidelines coming out, especially early on in the pandemic where you were being told, wipe down your groceries, leave your deliveries outside for a couple of days, make sure you’re washing your hands. So that was really tough to navigate.

I suppose, really with any anxiety disorder, the behaviors are not always irrational. It’s just calibrating that sort of alertness or protective behaviors to the situation. But suddenly we’re in a situation where a lot of those behaviors are being reinforced.
Right. Right. Because it reinforces the need or the urge to isolate.

Looking towards the future, what do you think the long term effects will be of the pandemic on your clients?
It’s going to take time to reacclimate to being out there in the world again. So I think it’s going to require support, patience, care, gentleness for each other.


This story was produced as part of “Pittsburgh’s Missing Bridges,” a collaborative reporting project by the Pittsburgh Media Partnership. Check out more of Sarah Boden’s work here: wesa.fm/people/sarah-boden

7 Major Types of Anxiety Disorders and How to ID Them

Everybody experiences nervousness from time to time—it’s simply a part of being human. Think about the last time you gave a presentation, had a really tight work deadline, or even went on a first date. You probably felt nervous about any of those situations, right? That’s to be expected because stress is a necessary response that has kept people vigilant for millions of years. (Thankfully, you probably don’t need to be worried about being attacked by a wild animal, like our ancestors who had slightly different stressors.)

Anxiety, on the other hand, is excessive worry that doesn’t go away even in the absence of a stressor. So, for us, that means we have may have persistent worries or fear about a potential event or maybe nothing we can pinpoint. If our ancestors worried about the potential of an animal attack (not just stress in the face of one), they, indeed, experienced anxiety too. 

“Lots of people have worries in general, but they can function and it doesn’t interfere with their work or school or relationships,” Jessi Gold, M.D., assistant professor at the Department of Psychiatry at the Washington University of Medicine in St. Louis, tells SELF. “But it’s not problematic because it’s not crossing a threshold in which it’s really interfering with your life.”

However, many people do experience a type of anxiety that rears its ugly head daily, spurring emotional and physical symptoms that can be really tough to cope with. In fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), anxiety disorders affect over 40 million adults in the United States. Generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and phobias are just a few of the common types of anxiety disorders that people live with every day, and they each have a unique set of symptoms that can impact a person differently.

So, how can you tell if your everyday worry is something more serious? Ahead, experts explain how to familiarize yourself with the different types of anxiety disorders, what to know about treatment, and when to consider seeking help—because you shouldn’t have to just live with it.

All anxiety disorders cause chronic and persistent forms of distress and discomfort, which can include emotional and physical symptoms, but they differ from one another based on the specific trigger of the anxiety, Jenny C. Yip, Psy.D., clinical psychologist and owner of the Renewed Freedom Center in Los Angeles, tells SELF.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobia disorders are among the most common types of anxiety disorders. Other common anxiety disorders include post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Let’s dive into what each of these types of anxiety disorders looks like.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) causes excessive worry and anxiety that is persistent for at least six months and is significant enough to disrupt a person’s normal ability to function, meaning it gets in the way of doing everyday things like meeting a friend for dinner, finishing work tasks, or even just driving to pick up the kids from school. While we all inevitably experience anxiety in our day-to-day lives, people with GAD experience this anxiety much more severely and frequently than others.

If you have GAD, you might experience the following symptoms, per the NIMH:

  1. Constant or frequent worry or distress
  2. Underlying feelings of restlessness or being on-edge
  3. Increased fatigue
  4. Trouble concentrating or focusing
  5. Increased irritability or anger
  6. Tight muscles and muscle soreness
  7. Trouble sleeping or periods of insomnia

Feeling stress from work, school, finances, socializing, and other everyday situations can all be triggers for excessive anxiety in people with GAD.

Back to top.

Panic disorder develops when a person consistently experiences panic attacks, which are periods of sudden, intense feelings of terror and anxiety. It can feel like an overwhelming sense of dread or—extra scary in some cases—like you are physically having a heart attack. These panic attacks can appear out of the blue or can have specific triggers, such as traumatic memories, stress-inducing situations, or an escalated conflict with a loved one.

According to the NIMH, panic attacks may cause you to experience the following symptoms:

Healthwise: OCD can run in families, is often misdiagnosed

“I’m so OCD.” How many times have you heard someone say this? Perhaps they were describing a personality trait such as perfectionism, neatness, or the strong desire for order. Talk to someone with OCD, and they may tell you something otherwise.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, more commonly known as OCD, is an anxiety disorder. It is said to affect 1 in 100 people. The person living with OCD has little control over intrusive and unwanted thoughts. These intrusive and unwanted thoughts can then lead to actions or compulsions.

For instance, “I am afraid to hug my mother because if I hug my mother, I could catch a fatal disease and die. I will not hug my mother, and I will not visit my mother because if I do, I might die.”

The overpowering fear of catching a fatal disease has prevented the person living with OCD of a vital relationship.

Or, “I want to go for a walk. But, if I move forward, I need to stop and check the ground. I cannot move forward without stopping and checking the ground.”

Going for a simple walk becomes torturous. To someone not living with OCD, these scenarios might seem like a joke, or something easily controlled thanks to mind over matter. For the individual struggling with OCD, this is no laughing matter.

Some people grapple with unwanted sexual thoughts, others struggle with self-harm or injurious thoughts. Recent studies have suggested that people living with OCD are 10 times more likely to die by suicide than those who are not living with the condition.

How does the person living with OCD differ from the person living a seemingly normal life? According to some research, those with OCD might have differences in the brains and genes than those unbothered by the condition.

OCD can begin as early as 8 years old, and can run in families. Treatment for the disorder can include medication, cognitive therapy, behavioral and alternative therapy.

Currently the study team at Coastal Connecticut Research in New London is conducting a clinical trial evaluating an investigational add-on medication designed to boost current treatments for people living with OCD who are taking either an SSRI or clomipramine. Some individuals might be living with these intrusive thoughts and actions, and are living undiagnosed or untreated.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a complex anxiety disorder which manifests itself differently among those who suffer from it. Ideally, we can continue to make inroads in regards to providing a better quality of life to those individuals whose lives are seemingly in a holding pattern thanks to the condition.

If you wish to learn more about current nationwide OCD research, contact Coastal Connecticut Research at (860)443-4567 or email marylou@ccrstudies.com. Visit ccrstudies.com to learn more.

MaryLou Gannotti is the Director of Public Relations and Communications at Coastal Connecticut Research in New London where she oversees community outreach.

 

You, Me & Anxiety Make 3: Everyday Tips

The good news is that there are things you can do to make sure anxiety doesn’t dominate your relationship.

Planning

Whenever possible, try to identify your partner’s triggers and plan for them ahead of time. Consider giving yourself plenty of time to talk through and work through challenges so that you can arrive at a compromise.

Jenkins says that she likes having her clients use the “Three Ts” activity:

  1. Tag
  2. Tease
  3. Toss

“Tag the trigger or anxious thought, tease it out by asking how much is accurate and how much is anxiety, then toss what is not working and keep what is accurate,” she explains.

Flexibility

Even with plans, things will happen that might cause your spouse to feel anxious. So Adams suggests, “When planning an activity or event, have a backup plan just in case.”

You might also want to consider having a signal between the two of you so that your spouse can let you know easily if they need to change the plan, suggests Stefanie Juliano, a clinical counselor in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.

When unexpected roadblocks appear

Your spouse will likely respond anxiously to unexpected events, so aim to be their support system.

“Let them know, ‘It’s OK, I’m here for you’ and that they’re in a safe space where they’re seen and understood, [and try] a soothing, supporting tone when talking to them,” suggests Adams.

Support rather than ‘fix’

It’s not your job to “fix” their anxiety, but you can acknowledge the work you see them doing to manage their anxiety.

As their life partner, you could learn when to push and when to back off, and try to avoid accusing your partner of “imagining” things or overreacting.

Instead, Adams says, “Have a calm conversation on what’s triggering their behavior, and what can you do together to help one another in this particular situation.”

Communication

It can be hurtful to your spouse if you assume that you know what they need or how they’re feeling. Instead, it might be beneficial to make time to talk and listen to each other.

These regular discussions can also help you have some structure for when you tackle difficult topics, like finances, upcoming events, chores, parenting, or work.

You might also find it helpful to use “I” statements rather than “you” statements because they’ll help emphasize your own feelings and sound less accusatory.

When the marriage itself is difficult

If your partner has long been managing a diagnosed anxiety disorder or they’re just beginning the road to treatment, you may want to offer to join in on their therapy now and then.

You might want to consider your own therapy to be an ally and fortify your mental well-being as well.

Adams says that couples counseling might help reinforce the idea that you’re a team and foster “the idea that you can go and move past obstacles together.”

OCD rates have surged in adults, children during the COVID pandemic — but it’s harder to spot

Mental health experts say there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people presenting and being diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder since the beginning of the pandemic.

A psychiatrist and children’s clinical psychologist say the increase has been apparent among both age groups, with COVID exacerbating sufferers’ symptoms and making the condition more difficult to treat.

Psychologist Cassie Lavell, from the Children’s Centre for Anxiety and OCD on the Gold Coast, has observed a nearly 50 per cent increase in patients over three months.

LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic

“We’ve seen a steep increase in enquiries since the first lockdown,” she said.

“It’s not good; kids are waiting longer without treatment and their symptoms getting worse.”

What is OCD?

Ms Lavell said OCD impacts about 2 per cent of the population and is characterised by obsessions and compulsions; with fixations being intrusive or repetitive thoughts “that get stuck in the person’s head and are difficult to let go of”.

She said they are usually quite distressing and range from things like contamination concerns, harm coming to themselves or loved ones, or the need for repetition of certain things.

The compulsions are usually designed to provide relief of those obsessions.

Ms Lavell said some people are diagnosed with “pure O” which is the obsessions without any compulsions.

a woman smiling
Cassie Lavell says there has been an increase in the number of children presenting with OCD during the pandemic.(Supplied: Cassie Lavell)

COVID masking symptoms

Victorian adult psychiatrist Professor Mal Hopwood said the COVID-19 pandemic had significantly impacted the mental health of many people with OCD and taken away common coping mechanisms.

“Issues of routine may be very important in their life, intrusive thoughts related to COVID could disturb their equilibrium and provoke enormous anxiety,” he said.

He said those with the condition risk becoming more withdrawn, anxious and depressed.

“[For] some of them, it’s increasing their intrusive thoughts; for others, it’s the social isolation.”

Woman with short pink hair pours hand sanitizer onto her palm with a smile on her face.
COVID has masked some people’s symptoms, including the use of hand sanitiser and avoiding surfaces.(Supplied)

According to Ms Lavell, the pandemic had made treating OCD more difficult due to it masking some sufferer’s symptoms, including the normalisation of hand sanitiser usage and avoidance of touching surfaces.

“The lines are going a little blurred in terms of what we can do with people in therapy,” she said.

“It’s a bit of a challenge for people with contamination OCD; it’s definitely an extra complication.”

Professor Hopwood said despite access to treatment being made more difficult, he urged people to persist.

“Mental health professionals are only accessible remotely at the minute, so people aren’t finding it easy to access treatment,” he said.

“People are suffering in silence.

“The thing to reinforce is that OCD is very treatable in the vast majority of cases.

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Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder: OCPD Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)?

OCPD is characterized by an intense and pervasive preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and control (both mental and interpersonal)1. Individuals with OCPD may be rigid and stubborn, insisting that others do things according to their strict standards. They may exhibit these behaviors at the expense of flexibility, openess, and efficiency.

OCPD is often mistaken for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). While both disorders can co-exist (and have similar names), they are quite distinct.

OCPD: Symptoms and Diagnosis in Adults

OCPD is one of several personality disorders listed in the DSM-5. A personality disorder is characterized by rigid and unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning, and behaving. A person with a personality disorder has trouble perceiving and relating to situations and people. This causes significant problems and limitations in relationships, social activities, work, and school.

To merit an OCPD diagnosis, an individual must exhibit at least four of the following symptoms, which typically begin in early adulthood:

  • Preoccupation or fixation with details, rules, schedules, organization, and lists — even to the extent that the prevailing point of the activity is lost.
  • Perfectionism that interferes with completion of the task. Individuals with OCPD often demonstrate a sense of righteousness about the way things “should be done.” It may include an overwhelming need for order.
  • Excessive devotion to work and productivity (not due to financial necessity), resulting in neglect of leisure activities and friends.
  • Excessive conscientiousness, fastidiousness, and inflexibility regarding ethical and moral issues and values.
  • Unwillingness to throw out worn-out or worthless objects, even those with no sentimental value.
  • Reluctance to delegate or work with other people unless those people agree to do things exactly “the right way.”
  • A miserly approach to spending for themselves and others because money is something to be saved for future disasters.
  • Rigidity and stubbornness. Such rigidity often manifests in a sense of hypermorality.

[Get This Free Download: Is It More Than Just ADHD?]

OCPD is one of the most prevalent personality disorders in the general population, with an estimated prevalence between 2.1 and 8%1 2 3. The disorder is diagnosed in twice as many men as women.1 There is no single etiological factor that is responsible for the presence of OCPD.

OCPD: Other Signs

Individuals with OCPD are often excessively careful and prone to repetition, paying extraordinary attention to detail and repeatedly checking for mistakes. They are often oblivious to how their behaviors affect others.

Individuals with OCPD may feel like they don’t have time to take off from work. And when they do, they are very uncomfortable — unless they take some work along with them. If and when they do spend time with friends, it is often in the form of a sport or other organized activity. Even then, the game could be turned into a highly structured task.

Individuals with OCPD will often intellectualize their emotions and rely overly on logic to deal with situations and other people, forgetting the role emotion may play in interpersonal situations. They display restricted affect and a lack of empathy. The lack of empathy is less out of malice and more out of what they view as “the way it is” in a hyperlogical manner.

[Read: When ‘Perfect’ Is No Good at All]

More possible signs of OCPD:

  • Trouble going along with anyone else’s ideas; may reject offers for help because they believe no one else can do it right
  • Difficulty with prioritizing, decision-making, and meeting deadlines especially in the absence of clearly defined rules and established procedures
  • Occupational difficulties and distress, particularly when facing new situations that require flexibility and compromise
  • Prone to anger in situations where they can’t maintain control of their physical or interpersonal environment
  • May display excessive deference to an authority they respect, and excessive resistant to one they don’t
  • Discomfort around emotionally expressive individuals

OCPD vs. OCD: What’s the Difference?

OCD is characterized by obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are intrusive in nature and cause distress and anxiety. Often, a person will try to ignore an obsession or neutralize it by some thought or action. Even though logic may inform them that this is irrational, it is still very difficult to pass it off.

Compulsions are repetitive physical behaviors (such as hand washing or praying) or mental acts (such as saying words silently, counting, creating images) that a person feels compelled to do in order to undo or cope with an obsession.

OCPD is not characterized by intrusive thoughts, images or urges, or by repetitive behaviors performed in response. Instead, OCPD involves pervasive, extreme patterns of excessive perfectionism and control.

Other differences:

  • People with OCD see their thoughts as distressing and sometimes irrational. They wish to not have obsessive thoughts. People with OCPD think their way is the “right and best way” and don’t see a need to change. Other people feel distressed by the OCPD person’s rules.
  • Patients with OCD see their symptoms as disabling and unhelpful in managing their lives. People with OCPD see their symptoms as helpful, and are wedded to them
  • Many people with OCD are motivated to seek treatment. Typically, people with OCPD don’t believe they need treatment. They believe that everyone else around them should change, not themselves, to make things better.
  • Family members and co-workers of people with OCPD often feel controlled by the demands and rules of the person with the disorder. It can result in a lot of conflict. It is difficult to relate to or sympathize with the person with OCPD.

Though OCD and OCPD are distinct, the two disorders frequently co-occur4.

OCPD and ADHD: Is There a Link?

Studies find that individuals with ADHD are generally at higher risk of development of any of the personality disorders, including OCPD. A 2017 study found in a sample of 439 undergraduate college students that four personality disorders were significant predictors of ADHD, one of which was OCPD5.

Clinical experience has shown that patients with ADHD may develop highly perfectionistic standards and rules in reaction to their executive functioning deficits6. The harsh and negative messaging that they received over the years has made them obsess about doing things “the right way.”

OCPD: Treatments

Treatment of OCPD usually comprises cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)7and psychotherapy, which aims to improve a person’s understanding of themselves. The goal is not to change the values of a person, per se, but to couch their values in a more adaptive way for living life. This includes promoting flexibility and lessening rigidity in all aspects of life. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which aims to align someone with a sense of balanced, valued living, can be helpful.

There are few large sample studies of people with OCPD. However, reports suggest that treatment can lead to greater insight and mindful awareness into how someone’s OCPD symptoms affect others.

In addition to psychotherapy, antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may be helpful for managing some symptoms of OCPD8.

OCPD often exists with other conditions, notably OCD, eating disorders9, autism spectrum disorder10, and, sometimes, ADHD. Therefore, treating OCPD traits can help in treating a comorbid disorder. Likewise, treating the comorbid disorder can help relax some of the rigidity that is associated with OCPD. In the end, the prognosis depends on a person’s willingness to change and their commitment to treatment.

OCPD Symptom Diagnosis and Treatment: Next Steps


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Sources

1American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

2Volkert, J., Gablonski, T. C., Rabung, S. (2018). Prevalence of personality disorders in the general adult population in Western countries: systematic review and meta-analysis. The British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science, 213(6), 709–715. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.2018.202

3Samuel, D. B., Widiger, T. A. (2010). A comparison of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder scales. Journal of personality assessment, 92(3), 232–240. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223891003670182

4Pozza, A., Starcevic, V., Ferretti, F., Pedani, C., Crispino, R., Governi, G., Luchi, S., Gallorini, A., Lochner, C., Coluccia, A. (2021). Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder Co-occurring in Individuals with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Harvard review of psychiatry, 29(2), 95–107. https://doi.org/10.1097/HRP.0000000000000287

5Smith, T. E., Samuel, D. B. (2017). A Multi-method Examination of the Links Between ADHD and Personality Disorder. Journal of personality disorders, 31(1), 26–48. https://doi.org/10.1521/pedi_2016_30_236

6Chamberlain, S. R., Redden, S. A., Stein, D. J., Lochner, C., Grant, J. E. (2017). Impact of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder symptoms in Internet users. Annals of clinical psychiatry : official journal of the American Academy of Clinical Psychiatrists, 29(3), 173–181.

7Diedrich, A., Voderholzer, U. (2015). Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder: a current review. Current psychiatry reports, 17(2), 2. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-014-0547-8

8Alex, R., Ferriter, M., Jones, H., Huband, N., Duggan, C., Völlm, B. A., Stoffers, J., Lieb, K. (2010). Pharmacological interventions for obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (5), CD008517. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD008517

Winnipeggers work out with pumpkins to raise money for mental health

Who needs to pump iron when you can use a pumpkin?

On the day before Halloween, Winnipeggers clad in costumes and workout gear gathered to exercise in support of mental health.

Johnny Fukumoto, co-owner of Fukumoto Fitness, hosted the 12th annual Bring-A-Buddy Pumpkin Charity Workout to raise money for the Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba on Saturday.

“We just want people to be able to talk about their struggles. A lot of people feel alone and feel embarrassed. And we want to also make sure people know that when they exercise consistently, they’re likely to feel a little bit better,” Fukumoto said.

“The focus is on mental health and helping people feel connected with each other in the community.”

A person dressed up as a Teletubby works out using a pumpkin at Fukumoto Fitness on Saturday. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

All of the money raised on Saturday went to the Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba, which helps people struggling with phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and panic and anxiety disorders.

The association provides self-help, cognitive behavioural therapy, support groups and resources for children, adolescents, adults, families, employers and health-care professionals.

Fukumoto wants people who struggle with these disorders to know they aren’t alone.

“I just encourage people, if you do struggle with anxiety or depression or anything, to know that there are people who will not judge you and can support you in all the free resources that are available in Winnipeg and Manitoba,” he said.

“We encourage you to reach out and see how you can get some help.”


If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or having a mental health crisis, there is help out there. Contact the Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line toll-free at 1-877-435-7170 (1-877-HELP170) or the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.

You can also text CONNECT to 686868 and get immediate support from a crisis responder through the Crisis Text Line, powered by Kids Help Phone.

Or contact Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (phone) | 45645 (text, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. CT only) | crisisservicescanada.ca

5 common types of anxiety disorders and their symptoms

A man suffering from insomnia.

Feeling anxious from time to time is common, especially when a person is dealing with sudden stressors and issues. However, when anxiety becomes persistent, unwarranted, or excessive, it can affect how someone enjoys their life, decreasing their ability to work, and making it a challenge for them to maintain relationships.

According to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), “Anxiety is an unwarranted or inappropriate fear or response to a vague or ill-defined threat.” Yahoo Life SEA has compiled a list of five different types of anxiety and their symptoms that you can look out for, along with ways to seek help.

1. Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

Persons suffering from GAD can go through their day unnecessarily worrying excessively. According to the Singapore Association of Mental Health (SAMH), these people “anticipate disaster and obsess about problems with their health, wealth, family and work.”

Physical symptoms for GAD include insomnia, restlessness, fatigue and difficulties in concentrating. In addition, these people are easily startled and have difficulty relaxing. They are also usually highly irritable.

2. Social anxiety disorder

Those who suffer from social anxiety disorder can be overly anxious and self-conscious in everyday social situations. They worry that they are being judged and watched by others, and can be overly worried about a social event for days or weeks before. This anxiety can interfere with their daily lives, affecting the quality of their work.

Persons with social phobia may find it challenging to make and keep friends. Physical symptoms can include profuse sweating, nausea, fast heart rate, and blushing.

Obsessive compulsive disorder concept. Woman obsessively washing her hands.

3. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

According to the Institute of Mental Health, post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) is a “major psychological disorder that affects many people who survive major traumatic experiences.” Those who have PTSD will experience a “distinct pattern of symptoms that develop in the aftermath of an acute and traumatic event”, and these symptoms can last for years.

Symptoms of PTSD include recurring intrusive thoughts, intense psychological distress, especially when exposed to cues that resemble the traumatic event, and avoidance of things associated with the event.

4. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

The common misconception about OCD is that a person wants things to be tidied or cleaned. However, OCD is more than that. According to Singhealth, persons suffering from OCD have “persistent and upsetting thoughts (obsessions) that lead to anxiety,” and “they use repetitive behaviours or mental acts (compulsions) to alleviate the anxiety.”

Symptoms of OCD include an irrational fear of hurting someone, a desire to hoard, a need for symmetry and exactness, and fears of contamination from dirt or germs.

5. Panic disorder

Panic disorder is characterised by pangs of fear that happen out of a sudden. It can happen any time, regardless of what you are doing, and gives a sense of unreality or fear of impending doom.

Persons who have panic disorder cannot predict their next panic attack and tend to worry excessively about when the next attack will occur. Panic disorder attacks are usually accompanied by breathlessness, a pounding heart, and fears of losing control.

Treatment for anxiety disorders includes medication, psychotherapy, stress management techniques and more. You can check out the IMH’s website and SAMH’s website to see what are the solutions available according to your needs.

Fluvoxamine Antidepressant May Reduce Risk of Severe COVID-19, Trial Suggests

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, scientists have searched for an easily accessible medication that can help treat the virus. Merck recently announced that it is planning to seek an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for its antiviral, molnupiravir. And now, it seems, there’s another promising—but surprising— medication that may be helpful in keeping high-risk patients out of the hospital: the antidepressant fluvoxamine.

A large, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial published in The Lancet on Wednesday analyzed the effects of the drug, which is currently used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression, on patients with COVID-19. The researchers randomly assigned 741 patients fluvoxamine and 756 were given a placebo. The researchers discovered that the group that was given fluvoxamine were 1/3 less likely to need to be hospitalized or undergo prolonged medical observation than the placebo group.

Some patients with COVID-19 stopped taking fluvoxamine over side effects but, in those who continued with the medication, one patient died compared to 12 who were given the placebo. Fluvoxamine also lowered the risk of patients being hospitalized by 2/3.

The study was eventually stopped “for superiority,” meaning it was halted because fluvoxamine was deemed effective in groups that were given the medication.

There are a lot of questions surrounding fluvoxamine and COVID-19 based on these results, and fair. Here’s what you need to know about this readily available medication and why it might help fight severe complications from COVID-19.

What is fluvoxamine?

Fluvoxamine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) approved by the FDA to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It’s also used to treat other conditions like anxiety and depression, says infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. However, the NIH points out, fluvoxamine is not currently FDA-approved for the treatment of any infection, including COVID-19.

What does the data say?

The Lancet study isn’t the first to suggest that fluvoxamine may help fight COVID-19. Data published in JAMA from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 152 patients with mild COVID-19 that also found fluvoxamine was beneficial. For the trial, 80 were given fluvoxamine and 72 were given a placebo. At the end of the trial, five people in the placebo group and one in the fluvoxamine group were hospitalized. However, only 76% of the participants actually finished the study and 20% of the stopped responding to the electronic survey. “Due to the study’s reliance on participant self-reports and missing data, it is difficult to draw definitive conclusions about the efficacy of fluvoxamine for the treatment of COVID-19,” the NIH says.

Another study, this one observational, analyzed the effect of fluvoxamine on people with mild forms of COVID-19. Those patients were given the option of taking 50 milligrams of fluvoxamine twice a day for 14 days or nothing. Of the 113 people who were offered fluvoxamine, 65 took the medication. More of the patients in that group had symptoms of the virus, the researchers noted. At the end of the 14-day trial, none of the patients who took fluvoxamine had symptoms of COVID-19, while 60% of those who did not undergo treatment did. None of the fluvoxamine patients were hospitalized and six of those who did not take the medication were.

Why might fluvoxamine work against COVID-19?

It’s not entirely clear at this point. The NIH points out that fluvoxamine has anti-inflammatory effects. Specifically, it’s been found to bind to a specific receptor in immune cells, lowering the production of cytokines, which are small proteins released by cells as part of your body’s immune response and inflammation.

Still, “it’s not clear what the mechanism of action is,” says Thomas Russo, M.D., professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York. Fluvoxamine isn’t an antiviral medication, and Dr. Russo points out that “early on, antivirals make a little more sense for treatment of a virus like COVID-19 because they tamp down on replication.” (If a virus can’t replicate, it won’t spread and continue to make a person sick, he explains.) “But it’s often when people get more severely ill that anti-inflammatories help,” Dr. Russo says.

Still, Dr. Russo says, “the data is intriguing.” Dr. Adalja agrees. “There appears to be a real signal that merits more consideration as an inexpensive and readily available oral medication that decreases hospitalization risk significantly,” he says. That “would be very welcome as specific antivirals are likely months away,” he adds.

Again, fluvoxamine isn’t currently recommended for use as a treatment for COVID-19, but Dr. Adalja says that could change. “It will be important for the NIH and Infectious Diseases Society of America to assess the evidence and provide recommendations for use,” he says.