The surprising ways people with OCD responded to coronavirus: ‘I’ve been training for this my whole life’

“As soon as it became a reality that Covid was going to be a significant issue, it definitely made me feel really sad and concerned for some of my clients with OCD,” said Dr. Travis Osborne, who’s been treating people with OCD for more than a decade, “because I just knew that, for some of them, this is going to create more work.”

One thing he’s worried about is that the people he works with could take the new rules around hand-washing and social distancing to the extreme, he said. They could set a timer every time they wash their hands and start over again if they felt they missed a step, or they could avoid, say, grocery stores entirely because it’s impossible to always maintain six feet of distance there, or they could have trouble dropping these new habits once the pandemic is over.

“We’re really trying to help people limit the amount of new ritualizing they’re developing because of this,” Osborne said, “so that, at the end of this, they don’t have a whole bunch more symptoms to tackle that they didn’t have before.”

But, Osborne added, something else happened that he didn’t expect at all.

Like Chance Kennedy, some of the people Osborne works with see the pandemic as confirmation that unseen threats can be real. And some of them say, because of their OCD, they feel equipped to cope.