coronavirus ocd
How to Manage OCD Symptoms During the Coronavirus Isolation Periods

Our global society is facing unprecedented times as coronavirus (COVID-19) threatens public health and our economy. Around the world, people are being ordered to shelter in place, stop working(or work from home), and limit travel. Most of us are living a very different lifestyle than we were several days (and for some weeks) ago. In this time of uncertainty, it can be difficult to remain positive and prioritize our mental health.

Although everyone is affected by the coronavirus pandemic, people who suffer from mental health disorders, like OCD, are among the most vulnerable. Stress is often a trigger of OCD obsessions and compulsions, especially in response to situations that are uncontrollable. People who have OCD might also be struggling to adjust to a new daily routine without the ability to get in-person therapy or even leave their homes.

Dealing with Social Distancing and OCD

The first case of coronavirus in the United States was reported in Washington State on January 21. Just two months later, the number of cases has skyrocketed. While doctors still don’t know much about the novel coronavirus, they do know that it’s significantly more contagious than the seasonal flu. Because of that, public health officials have recommended that everyone in the U.S., and in most other countries, practice social distancing.

Social distancing requires people to stay at least six feet away from each other at all times. It’s thought to slow the spread of coronavirus, which is transmitted through coughing, sneezing, talking and even breathing. Social distancing also works to keep symptom-free carriers from unknowingly affecting high-risk populations, including seniors and immunocompromised people.

 While social distancing has been mandated to help reduce the spread of the virus, many people with OCD might find themselves dealing with increased symptoms during this time. Severe obsessions and compulsions can be triggered by situations that are uncontrollable. At a time when stress is running high, people with OCD might be more likely to perform habits that ease their anxiety and make them feel more in control. 

Because we’re dealing with a global health crisis, OCD sufferers who are obsessed with cleanliness may be struggling the most. It can easily feel like the coronavirus is lurking around every corner, triggering people with OCD to excessively wash their hands or clean their houses. While good health practices are vital at this time, people who have obsessions related to cleaning and hygiene might find it especially difficult to control their symptoms. 

Take Advantage of Virtual Treatment 

Most people are confined to their homes for the time being, so it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get treatment in-person. But if you suffer from OCD, it’s an important time to keep up with your treatment and prioritize your mental health. Even if you can’t see your therapist in person, there are a number of ways you can stay in touch virtually.

Ask your therapist if you can continue your regular sessions via phone or video chat. That way, you can still get the support you need on an ongoing basis. It’s also important that you keep taking your medication as instructed. Don’t be tempted to ration your medication, or only take it as needed. Sometimes, you can also speak to your pharmacist about getting an extra month’s supply of your prescription if you’re worried about getting to the pharmacy.

If you’ve been in treatment for a while, your therapist has probably helped you develop tools to manage your OCD symptoms in a healthy way. Now is a great time to put those tools to good use and practice them. Instead of letting stress get the best of you, work on implementing your coping strategies to calm your anxieties. 

At-Home Methods for Coping with OCD

Maintaining professional treatment from your home will go a long way in helping you manage your OCD during this time. However, there are also a variety of things you can do at home to keep yourself feeling mentally and physically healthy. 

  1. Get enough sleep

If you’re dealing with anxiety, getting adequate sleep can be difficult. But getting enough sleep will keep you from feeling nervous, irritable or out of control when your OCD symptoms flare-up. Getting quality sleep also strengthens your immune system, which is important for everyone right now. Create a consistent sleep schedule for yourself and stick to it every day. Before bed, make sure you’re avoiding screens and doing something relaxing, like reading or meditating.

  1. Eat a healthy diet

When you’re stuck at home all day, it can be tempting to turn to your stockpile of junk food every time you’re hungry. If you struggle with OCD, keeping your blood sugar at a consistent level throughout the day will help you avoid mood swings, which can make you feel anxious. Fill your free time by cooking healthy meals with fresh ingredients if they’re available. If you can make it to the grocery store once a week, make sure you’re loading up on produce and protein that will fuel your brain and body.

  1. Exercise regularly

Staying active on a daily basis is an effective way to manage your OCD symptoms and instantly reduce anxiety. And there’s no better time to start an exercise routine than when you’re out of work and looking for ways to stay busy. With most gyms being closed, many fitness studios are offering free online classes or programs that you can stream from your laptop. Try to find a class you like and commit to it every day. As the weather gets nicer, make sure you’re getting outside for a walk, bike ride, or even a hike if you’re allowed to leave your home.

OCD Treatment at Pulse

If you’re looking for OCD treatment during this time, know that Pulse is still open to the community and providing TMS services. We’re taking the necessary precautions to keep our treatment center clean and safe based on the latest guidelines in order to keep our clients and staff healthy. We are increasing sanitation and are abiding by the recommended personal zones between everyone. Don’t let this situation stop you from treating your OCD, let Pulse TMS in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara continue (or start!) your OCD treatment. Take care of yourselves, everyone.

Feel free to contact us at (310) 846-8460 to speak with a member of our team today.

Article By: Chris Howard
Director of Community Outreach & Education Chris Howard has been working in the mental health field since 2010 after seeing the long-term effects of mental illness within his own family. He is a graduate of UCLA where he received his B.A. in Psychology. Having worked closely with those struggling with addiction, Chris considers the concept of community to be an essential part of treatment and advocates for wellness approaches that integrate both leading conventional therapies, as well as holistic practices like yoga and meditation.