Coronavirus: How to cope with excessive hand washing and compulsive behaviours – BBC World Service

published on July 9, 2020

For somebody who has OCD, this is really,really alarmingPeople with OCD may havevarious different sorts of obsessionsand the fear of contamination is one ofthe main ones, but also other obsessionsmay be around order or countingFor those people have been through treatment, their psychological treatment for OCDwill be teaching them that theenvironment and the world is not thefeared place that they think it is, sofor some people it will potentially

Undermine the treatment It will makepeople think that they were right allalong and that they were right to befearfulA core feature of OCD isif somebody feels that their compulsive act hasn't been done properlythey often then feel compelled to redoit, to reassure themselves that they havedone the compulsion properly So for hand washing that can sometimes being what

Motivates people to keep on washingtheir hands because they will think 'OhI'm not sure that I washed the base ofmy thumb properly, I'm going to have torepeat that,' and then they may start tofixate on 'Oh I didn't count that time somaybe I didn't wash it for 20 secondsthat time,' and that may then lead to arepeated chain of hand washingBeing told to self-isolate cancause some concern because it could

Make the person think that this is a serious situation and 'I was right to fear this'It may also bring about some reliefbecause for somebody who is anxious, theymight find it difficult to leave thehouse anyway but they also may haveavoided in the past, going out, becausethey fear that they cannot control theenvironment outside the houseI think that some positive things that people

Can do so they don't make the conditionworse is staying in touch with people,if they are self-isolating, make sure thatthere is still phone contact, make surethat there is contact via a videomessaging platform, so that they stayconnected to people Make sure that theydo things that are distracting, so thingsthey might enjoy doing jobs around thehouse which might be distract them from thesethoughts, that's another key message And the third thing is to make sure that

You follow the advice but don'tupscale and excessively hand wash andexcessively clean because that is goingto make the situation worseIt would only usually be if somebody hada pre-disposition to OCD, so of coursethere is the risk that in this outbreak,that people could become very focused onsomething and could become veryobsessed with hand washing and that thatrepetition and that temporary reliefthat that brings may set off a

Pattern of obsessive compulsive symptoms so it is possible It's not a high risk,it's not the case that the coronavirusis going to, you know, excessivelyincrease the incidence of OCD in thecountry or in the world, but it ispossible that for some individuals itmay lead to OCD symptoms and it maybring that diagnosis about

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