Obsessive Compulsive Disorder During COVID-19
The COVID-19 outbreak caused worldwide measures to be taken to prevent infections. Despite the lack of adequate number of studies, mental health professionals assume that these measures adversely affect people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) (especially those with a compulsion of cleaning).
With the COVID-19 outbreak, a large proportion of the world population were exposed to a large number of burdens, such as the risk of infection, social isolation, and economic insecurity.
Its effects on OCD and the compulsion of cleaning
With the arrival of the pandemic, the typically-meaningless or excessive ritualized washing behaviors of the patients were justified on official websites, and the patients’ fear of getting dirty started to rest on actual and solid foundations. Moreover, due to the panic shopping in general population (such as the stockpiling of soap, disinfectants), a number of patients with a compulsion of washing were concerned about the lack of the cleaning agents they need.
The change of severity in the symptoms of the people with OCD prior to the pandemic, the possible reasons of that change (economic factors, reduced mobility, interpersonal conflicts, the decreasing numbers of cleaning agents, etc.), and their COVID-19-related beliefs were assessed via an online questionnaire.
As per the results of the questionnaire, 72% of the participants reported an increase in their OCD symptoms. This increase was particularly stronger in those who have compulsion of washing, compared to those who don’t. Moreover, there was more avoidance behavior, yet no increase was detected in the obsessions.
The worsening of the symptoms was primarily related to the reduced mobility and interpersonal conflicts. Those who have a compulsion of washing had more hygiene-related dysfunctional beliefs, compared to those who don’t, and this was associated with the increase in the symptoms.
Of the participants with OCD, many were negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Easily-accessible and therapeutic interventions for OCD are needed to prevent the worsening in the long run.
– Jelinek, L., Moritz, S., Miegel, F., & Voderholzer, U. (2021). Obsessive-compulsive disorder during COVID-19: Turning a problem into an opportunity?. Journal of anxiety disorders, 77, 102329.