OCD and COVID - By Hannah

For everyone, the Coronavirus pandemic has been a challenging and scary period. However, for myself and all those with OCD, it has been an especially challenging time. OCD is a nasty and complex illness that can take many different forms, and it is likely that the pandemic has impacted most sufferers in some way.

The most obvious aspect that Covid-19 is likely to have affected is those with contamination obsessions. Being fuelled by irrational and scary thoughts of harm and ill health coming to yourself or loved ones, the increased message from the government of the importance of hygiene provides the perfect opportunity for OCD to hook in and manifest new anxieties and compulsions. OCD is likely to try and convince sufferers that this new focus on hygiene means their hand-washing and cleaning compulsions and being proved to be the correct thing to do by the constant government reminders, however this is not the case! One of the hardest aspects of recovery from OCD in my personal experience is that it twists and builds on everyday concerns people have. In the case of Covid, everyone is taking extra care to wash their hands. However, OCD takes this worry and inflates it 100x, causing sufferers to wash their hands far too excessively, being egged on by their OCD bully. Sadly, this in my experience can be extremely hard to recognise, as it is tricky to compare your mindset to that of a ‘normal’ person who doesn’t suffer from OCD. However, by keeping the knowledge of how OCD works in the back of your mind, you are already one step ahead and can be prepared to recognise how it twists your thoughts and be in a better position to fight back.

Looking at the pandemic more generally, it has given many people a lot of extra time on their hands. For me personally, this has been a struggle as it has given my OCD the opportunity to hook into worries with less distractions to keep them away. Engagement with obsessions is far easier to do when there are no homework deadlines that need to be met or plans to be made with friends. Although I have worked through my stage of ‘contamination OCD’ and have managed to keep away from engaging with my OCD in that aspect, I have certainly noticed that the extra time has posed its own challenge in terms of my struggle with other forms of OCD. My mind has been able to wander far more freely than it has when I was focused on my A levels and able to go out as and when I wanted. I have definitely noticed an increase in the volume of my ‘pure-o’ and checking obsessions which has been exhausting at times. I’m sure that many sufferers can relate to this, as in my experience OCD thrives on an empty mind, and the lockdown phase is unlikely to have helped this. However, my greatest piece of advice to anyone struggling with any form of obsession is to learn to accept them and recognise them for what they are: just thoughts, nothing more. This is extremely hard to do and has taken me years to get the hang of, however once you can sort thoughts into a ‘normal’ and ‘OCD’ category it can become easier to focus on the things that matter rather than horrible anxieties caused by OCD.

Despite the negative sides of the pandemic, there are still positives to be taken away in some sense. More free time has meant that there have been more opportunities for me to do things that I enjoy, which has helped relieve some of the stresses caused by my OCD. I have been trying to use my time to change my mindset to focus on the small victories I have over my OCD, rather than the times I struggle and it gets to me most. Although it sounds cheesy, by trying to adopt the ‘glass half full’ mindset, I have noticed an improvement to my whole state of mind in general. It is more important than ever to try and appreciate positivity’s in our lives where we can during these tricky times. If anyone is suffering at the moment, I remind you to remember that recovery isn’t linear or a straight line, and things are able to improve just as quickly as they are able to get worse.

Best of luck and stay strong,

Hannah xox

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