OCD: The impact of COVID-19 on this mental illness

Thirty-three-year-old, Meenakshi Rao (name changed), had already been diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). However, with counselling and medication, she was coping with this mental illness. COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown altered her path to recovery, causing a relapse.

Meenakshi’s spouse, Ketan (name changed), shares, “Meenakshi has been suffering from OCD for a while. COVID-19 has only worsened her condition. She was not only cleaning the house more than five times, but also insisting that both of us clean and wash our hands excessively. So, much so, the skin on her hands started peeling, and she can no longer use water.”

COVID-19 has led to a relapse in some OCD patients

Meenakshi is one of many people suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, whose condition has relapsed post the pandemic. Psychiatrist Parul Tank shares, “Due to the pandemic, all OCDs have relapsed. For, those not in the know, Obsessive-compulsive disorder  is a mental illness that causes repeated unwanted thoughts or obsessions or the urge to do something over and over again (compulsions). Some people can have both obsessions and compulsions.”

She goes on to explain that in Meenakshi’s case she has an OCD about contamination due to contact with germs. This has only heightened due to COVID-19. People suffering from this type of OCD have a pathological doubt. They feel something bad can happen, and this fear leads to a relapse in many patients.

What is OCD? Types and symptoms

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder. People suffering from it have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions). It makes them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions). The repetitive behaviours, such as hand washing, checking on things or cleaning, can significantly interfere with a person’s daily activities and social interactions.

Understanding obsessions and compulsions

According to APA, obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that cause distressing emotions such as anxiety or disgust.Typical obsessions include excessive concerns about contamination or harm, the need for symmetry or exactness, or forbidden sexual or religious thoughts. Compulsions are repetitive behaviours or mental acts.  A person feels driven to perform these in response to an obsession. In the most severe cases, a constant repetition of rituals may fill the day, making a normal routine impossible.

OCD cure and treatment

Parul goes on to share that 80 percent of OCD symptoms can go away with medicine. A combination of counselling and medication can really help people suffering from this mental illness.