ORLANDO, Fla. — Fears of transmitting coronavirus have everyone checking the news and being extra careful with handwashing. For people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, this crisis is particularly difficult. It can be hard to decide which behaviors are reasonable and which reflect excess anxiety.
“I would sit on the edge of my couch with baby wipes, a container of baby wipes and a can of Lysol,” explained Cathy Fowlkes.
“I would have to take five steps forward and five steps back for some reason, five became my number,” shared college professor Michelle Szydlowski.
Living with excessive fears that turn into obsessive thoughts that spark compulsive behaviors, and now coronavirus is intensifying all of it.
“I think that's the biggest issue for people with OCD is that everything is out of control,” continued Szydlowski.
With medication and therapy, Szydlowski was able to control her OCD until COVID-19 rattled her world.
“On the way to the store I actually had what I would describe as a panic attack,” stated Szydlowski.
Experts say the fear of the virus can intensify symptoms.
“I have actually seen that it's affecting people more in the way that their routines have changed,” said Kelsey Blahnik, Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
But there are ways to regain control.
“The number one thing would be to limit media absorption to maybe once a day,” continued Blahnik.
Follow the exposure by doing something positive. Write a gratitude journal, exercise or connect with someone.
“Have a trustworthy person nearby to help you decipher what are those obsessive thoughts and what are true thoughts,” shared Lauren Eadie, LMHC, Mental Health Counselor.
And don’t let your behaviors get out of control. Szydlowski hopes the pandemic will help to change opinions about OCD.
“It is somewhat liberating when I go to the CDC website and see them making recommendations of things that I was doing anyway, I feel like saying, yes,” smiled Szydlowski.
Although you may believe you are becoming OCD due to the coronavirus, experts say being overly organized or excessively clean are just personality traits. To be diagnosed with OCD, your actions and thoughts have to be followed with obsessive patterns. Once everything calms down, experts believe all of our anxiety levels will go back to normal. If you would like more info on OCD and ways to find help, go to the international OCD foundation at iocdf.org.