The national OCD charity, run by and for people with lived experience of OCD
Heather - Lockdown
'Clean hands regularly', 'clean surfaces regularly', 'avoid crowded areas', 'avoid contact'. Are these quotes from my thoughts or advice the government has been giving? The answer is both. The things I have been discouraged from doing for so long are now being advised in order to protect the entire world. Living with OCD during a pandemic is hell.
After suffering from obsessive thoughts around hygiene and germs such as 'if you don't wash your hands for 2 minutes right now you will die' and working so hard to limit my behaviours such as this, the advice being given reinforces these ideas in my head. The things going on at the moment can easily trigger a massive relapse in OCD behaviours for me and many others. I have tried looking at things that help with this, but the main thing that comes up is mindfulness. Yeah, mindfulness is useful and can be really helpful, but in my case, having not done much of it before, it is so hard to clear my mind while these thoughts are spiralling continuously. So what does help? I have tried some things to prevent relapsing back into behaviours that lead to my hands being sore and cracked from washing or that take hours out of my day. So I thought I would share them and hopefully help others!
1. Stick within the guidelines
While it is being reiterated many times that we should all be washing our hands much more than usual, it is only being said to wash them for 20 seconds when you get in after being outside or after going to the bathroom. For me reminding myself, or having someone else remind me helped me not to go back to washing after touching anything, or if I hadn't washed them in the last 30minutes.
2. Limit yourself
Similar to this, if you struggle with handwashing already, try to push yourself to not wash your hands more than once in a certain amount of time. Maybe start with once every 30 minutes if it's difficult, then increase to 1 hour, then 2 hours. This may be hard to start with, but wait it out. You'll probably find that the longer you sit with it, the level of anxiety will decrease. This can be done with all your compulsions; if you wait as long as you can, the anxiety often decreases.
3. Limit time on social media
While during lockdown you may spend more time on social media, seeing posts all over Facebook and on the news can provoke more anxiety around your obsessions, or cause more. You can limit the time you can spend on certain apps which can be helpful.
4. Be kind to yourself!
It is so difficult to resist every compulsion, and I know you can hate yourself for doing it, but you shouldn't beat yourself up about it. You can always ask others for reassurance. Even the fact that you're trying to resist the compulsions is an amazing start - even just reading this post!
5. Set yourself a routine
If you plan out what you can do each day, either plan the week ahead or every morning make a plan, then it can help you to have some sort of normality in your life.
While there are many different types of OCD, they are all incredibly difficult to deal with, and during a pandemic, this can worsen them in all sorts of ways. So do your best, and you can always keep in touch with others with similar struggles through things like Facebook groups, or by contacting me on the social media provided.
Please complete our short, anonymous feedback form about Heather's post