People all over the entire globe are currently working through the effects of COVID-19. The coronavirus outbreak has impacted the lives of many individuals, causing a wave of changes to take place in everyday life.

Those who were suffering from mental health disorders prior to the spread of the virus are, no doubt, experiencing serious challenges due to the co-occurrence of these issues. So, if you’ve been dealing with OCD in addition to the impact of the pandemic, you have likely encountered some hurdles. But, here at Discovery Institute, we are dedicated to offering you the information and assistance you need throughout this time.

An Overview of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Often called OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental health disorder that affects the way people think, feel, and behave. Individuals who suffer from OCD frequently experience unwanted or unwarranted obsessive thoughts. They often have pressing and invasive thoughts or ideas that they cannot control.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is also characterized by compulsive behavioral patterns. Those who suffer from OCD often struggle with compulsions as a result of obsessions. For instance, a person may have continuous thoughts of germs and remaining free from them. In an effort to appease those thoughts, the individual might frequently and excessively wash their hands.

Intense and uncontrollable fears, concerns, and challenges often affect the lives of those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder. It can cause individuals to struggle with day-to-day tasks and routines. Those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder often experience anxiety, which can certainly impact life in a negative way.

OCD is characterized by an intense need for control. This can cause the sufferer to feel completely hopeless when placed in situations they cannot control. As such, the current coronavirus pandemic is likely to cause many individuals who suffer from this mental health disorder to experience a lack of control and, as a result, hope.

The Effects of a Pandemic: Coronavirus and OCD

COVID-19, a serious and deadly virus, has affected everyone throughout the globe, whether directly or indirectly. Many individuals have lost their lives or the lives of loved ones due to this coronavirus. Others have lost jobs and income. Also, others have been impacted by the shelter-in-place or stay home orders and lockdowns.

Business owners have felt the negative financial impact of this pandemic as many of them have been unable to remain open throughout this time. Employees and employers alike are dealing with the changes that are continuing to unfold.

Without a doubt, everyone has been experiencing the difficulties that come with not being able to control anything. People have been taking preventative measures and precautions to avoid contracting or spreading the virus. But, being unable to cure or stop the virus completely has left countless people feeling hopeless and helpless.

But, for those who suffer from OCD, this lack of control and the overwhelming sense of hopelessness can have even more severe adverse effects. Obsessive-compulsive disorder often causes individuals to feel uneasy, anxious, and nervous in situations other people may deem bearable or easily manageable. So, now that a pandemic is in full effect, the impact on those who suffer from OCD is bound to be even more difficult to manage.

Coronavirus and OCD

All over the world, people are experiencing an understandable sense of fear and concern. What was once seen as “normalcy” is no longer reality. As people begin to adjust to what has now become normal, many individuals simply feel as though they are in a daze. Frequent handwashing, limited personal contact with others, mask-wearing, an increase in technology use, and much more are now daily activities.

Those who suffer from OCD may become overwhelmed by the fear of becoming ill or losing a loved one to the coronavirus. This can result in obsessions and compulsions that include the following:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Debilitating fear
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Constant worrying
  • Lack of sleep and rest
  • Excessive handwashing
  • Extreme thoughts of becoming ill
  • Constant checking on loved ones
  • Increased avoidance of people, places, and objects for fear of contracting or carrying the virus

Like most others, those who are living with OCD may struggle to feel safe and protected. But, these concerns are likely to experience these challenges in a more powerful and intense way. They can be debilitating and detrimental to the overall wellbeing and health of those suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder.

OCD and Addiction: How COVID-19 Impacts Dual Diagnosis Patients

Unfortunately, many people who are living with obsessive-compulsive disorder also suffer from addiction. Those who struggle with the effects of OCD may develop an alcohol use disorder or drug use disorder in addition to their mental health disorder. This often causes very severe and serious problems in the suffering individual’s life. 

When addiction and OCD co-occur, the effects can be life-altering. Addiction can cause one’s life to truly spiral out of control, an issue that those with OCD are very likely to have difficulty handling. A lack of control can cause people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder to feel helpless and may lead to severely unhealthy cognitive and behavioral patterns and processes.

Individuals may think about harming themselves or others. Or, they may show signs of a lack of self-care and concern for their personal well-being. This can lead to problems with interpersonal relationships, performance at work, studies at school, and other daily activities and routines.

Excessive substance use only intensifies these issues, causing those who suffer from OCD and addiction to experience grave challenges in their lives. This is why it is of utmost importance for those who suffer from OCD and addiction to seek help and hope, especially during this global pandemic.

Tips for Self-Care and Symptom Management Throughout Pandemic

If you are currently working through the effects of obsessive-compulsive disorder or even OCD and addiction, please seek help immediately. Perhaps, however, you are currently in recovery from substance dependence as you continue to live with OCD. In either case, it is important to take the best possible care of yourself.

During this time, it is necessary to work harder than ever to maintain mental, emotional, and physical health. So, even as curfews, lockdowns, and stay-home orders begin to lift, you can continue to take special care of your needs.

Here are some things you can do to maintain a healthy balance and take care of yourself while dealing with the impact of OCD during a pandemic:

Try not to read everything.

It’s tempting to look at every single update on the coronavirus, examining multiple accounts, stories, and coverage on the topic. But, while it’s absolutely important to stay informed on this matter, it can become overwhelming and mentally draining. 

With updates continuously changing and knowledge on the virus continuously evolving, keeping up can be exhausting. Stay up-to-date, but try to avoid reading every little bit of news that comes out. 

You may even consider having a friend or family member give you updates as needed. This will help to prevent any anxiety that may come with closely following the news.

Get the proper amount of rest.

Be sure to get enough sleep at night and rest during the day when you can. It’s certainly difficult to do this when anxiety levels are high. But, do your best to find things that help you to relax and rest more easily.

This may include calming music. Create a playlist that can help you to calm down and relax before bed. You may also engage in nightly stretches, which can help yo relax your muscles and release tension in your body.

Participate in activities that you enjoy.

While going out and about is still somewhat limited, you may find that you can have fun right there at home. If you like to paint or draw, you might consider taking up that hobby again. Go for bike rides if you feel comfortable doing so. (It is not probable that you will encounter crowds of people and it ensures that you get some fresh air!

You can also spend time with your family or roommates. Watch fun movies, listen to music, play instruments, read, do at-home workouts, and more!

Take a break from social media.

Although social media is a great platform where you can keep up with what’s going on in the world, it can be harmful. Social media platforms are often flooded with information and full of things that elicit emotions. It can be hard to maintain a balance as social media can be quite time-consuming.

Feel free to step away from it from time to time to clear your mind. This may prove to improve your mental and emotional health.

Be kind to your mind.

Your thoughts may be invasive. Your mind might be cluttered. You may feel mentally tired. But, be kind to your mind. You are going through something you’ve never had to face before. This pandemic is a new experience and it can be hard to work through all of the challenges that come with it. 

Taking time to think positive thoughts and engage in active self-care can help you tremendously. You may also find telehealth resources such as therapy and counseling to be very helpful throughout this time.

Contact Discovery Institute for Help Today!

Here at Discovery Institute of New Jersey, we understand the undeniable and absolute necessity of having services and resources at the disposal of those who need them. Our team is well aware of the needs people have regarding OCD, other mental health disorders, and substance use disorders.

But, we are also aware of the fact that each person who comes to us for help has unique and specific needs. Our team knows that every patient is in need of an individualized approach to treatment. So, we strive to offer this kind of assistance to each person who enters our recovery center.

If you have been struggling with the challenging effects of OCD during the coronavirus pandemic, please know that we are here to help. Even as the lockdown and stay home orders lift, the lingering effects of COVID-19 remain to impact people’s lives. So, rest assured that we will take full consideration of your needs as you reach out to us for help.

As our world works through the uncomfortable and unforeseen changes caused by this pandemic, Discovery Institute is here for you. Whether you are struggling with OCD and addiction or another dual diagnosis, we can assist you! 

You are not alone in your struggle and you do not need to try to work through it by yourself. Having support and guidance from professionals who understand will be of great importance during your journey to recovery and health. 

Please contact us here at Discovery Institute today to speak to one of our representatives. We will work to address your concerns and direct you toward the resources and services you need. We will work to help you move forward, toward a mentally, emotionally, and physically healthier version of yourself. Don’t wait; today is your day to begin a new journey!

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.