I think it was at my February OCD Group in Seattle that someone asked me how I felt about the coronavirus, especially in light of my contamination OCD.
Now, this was the beginning of February, so there was no quarantine or stay-at-home orders in the USA yet. Covid-19 wasn’t really on our radar in a big way. I answered honestly, which for me at the time was that I wasn’t too worried about it because my contamination OCD doesn’t care so much about me catching illnesses or getting sick but rather whether or not I spread an illness or disease to someone else unknowingly.
Also, I knew that if I allowed myself to freak out about the coronavirus, it could be a sticky OCD slope. I didn’t want my OCD to latch on to it and make life even harder than it inevitably would be.
Don’t Let OCD Take Control
Of course, it’s not a past tense event. It’s still happening. We are still in the midst of this pandemic. So I guess I can start switching to present tense…. I still have to be careful to not allow my OCD and anxiety to get over excited and hyper-vigilant regarding the coronavirus.
I know that if I “clicked” into panic mode and starting worrying excessively about hand washing, for instance, I would very quickly fall back into my compulsions. That’s a place I don’t really want to go.
In March, Seattle was the epicenter of cases. I tried hard not to freak out but rather stocked up on things like tissues, hand soap, and lotion (since I know how raw and dry hands can get when over washed). We tried to do what was asked and what was logical—we quarantined and stayed away from others. I still mostly do online grocery shopping with delivery. We wear masks when we are outside. We limit our interactions with people outside of our immediate family.
However, based on my past experiences with my contamination OCD, I have not allowed myself to do things like buy/use hand sanitizer or sanitize my groceries. I remember Jon Hershfield saying (at an OCD Conference we went to) something like “that’s for other people,” when it came to hand sanitizer. I try to remember that when it comes to things I know my OCD could get excited about.
Words of Warning
When it comes to my advice for others (with or without OCD) in dealing with a worldwide pandemic, I would say to be careful. Follow the advice of medical experts. For those of us with OCD, that also means to follow the advice of your therapist or doctor.
Wear a mask when you go outside!
Avoid crowds, reunions, big events, unnecessary shopping trips, etc.
Keep doing home church.
Wash your hands when you come back from being outside/touching things and before you eat. Use lotion.
Be respectful of other people. Be smart!