What This Clinical Psychologist Wants You To Know About OCD & COVID-19

So, is the situation a lot worse for people with OCD? Truthfully, that depends. Some people who were already dealing with fears regarding contamination or illness are having a harder time, including those who have not been previously diagnosed with OCD. And yet, there are others who are doing pretty well by using the skills they’ve already developed to deal with the anxiety and uncertainty of their obsessions and compulsions.

One month into “stay at home,” the client mentioned above told me her OCD has “calmed down” to pre-COVID-19 levels. She’s staying at home, we meet through video conferencing, and she’s regularly practicing the skills she’s developed over years of managing her OCD—because there’s nothing like a global pandemic to reinforce and strengthen the skills you’ve been practicing.

OCD is about anxiety, uncertainty, and fear—and a drive for control and certainty. Successfully addressing symptoms of OCD is about learning to tolerate discomfort, challenging thoughts born from catastrophizing and overgeneralization, and learning to live with the unknown instead of engaging in compulsive thoughts or behaviors. This is where everyone can take a lesson from those who have been dealing with OCD. The practice of accepting anxiety instead of trying to ignore or overpower those feelings, and treating yourself with compassion are key practices.