by: Jinny Blitz
The pandemic has changed much of our lives, but one thing experts are particularly concerned about is its toll on our mental health. While the virus containment measures aim to reduce the progression of the pandemic, they have also increased the risk of serious mental health disorders.
In particular, the fear of getting infected, along with the importance given to personal hygiene, may have affected patients who are living with obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD. Obsessive-compulsive disorder has a prevalence rate of 1% to 3% in the general population, and some studies suggest that women are at a greater risk of OCD than men. It’s also often misconstrued in mainstream media, leading to people ridiculing or minimizing the experience of someone with OCD. Here are some grounding quotes about this often misunderstood disorder:
“Yes, I have OCD. No, it isn’t about being a ‘neat freak.’”
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) manifests when people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions). Usually, people who have OCD engage in repetitive behaviors like hand washing, showering, checking on things, or cleaning, which can interfere with their daily lives.
However, most people believe in common misconceptions that anyone who is extra neat and organized has OCD. In fact, there are many different types of obsessive thoughts that OCD patients may fixate upon, including harm obsessions, sexual obsessions, or pathological guilt.
“OCD is the disorder of doubt. Stop all doubt & you will stop OCD.”
When you live with OCD, the distressing thoughts are persistent. Many patients have to stick to rigid, repetitive behaviors; otherwise, not performing could lead to great distress. OCD is caused by genetic and hereditary factors, specifically some chemical, structural, and functional abnormalities in the brain.
Patients liken the experience to living in a broken machine, where the thoughts in your head get stuck and keep going around. Even if they know or suspect their obsessions aren’t realistic, it’s difficult for them to disengage. OCD cannot be resolved by logic or reasoning. Even if you’ve turned off the stove, the disorder will tell you to check again and again.
“Recovery takes time. Don’t get discouraged.”
Often, OCD begins in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. The average age symptoms appear is 19 years old. The diagnosis of OCD requires the presence of obsessions and/or compulsions that are time-consuming, cause significant distress, and impair social functioning.
Although OCD is a chronic illness, it is treatable enough that patients can gain substantial control over their symptoms. Patients learn coping strategies in psychotherapy and take prescribed OCD medications.
“I’m in charge of how I feel and today I choose happiness.”
Rather than finding a final cure, handling OCD is all about the day-to-day management of the symptoms. People who have OCD don’t need to be miserable or give up on their goals; they can lead normal, fulfilling lives with the right coping strategies and treatment.
Living well with OCD largely depends on your ability to become an expert on your own condition. By learning your triggers, you can minimize stress and keep intrusive thoughts out.
If you suspect you have OCD, early diagnosis and treatment are essential to minimize its risks. Fortunately, researchers have found that internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy can provide patients access to healthcare professionals, without compromising OCD care. Getting medical support — even if it’s just a telehealth consultation — can be helpful. Checking in with professionals who have healthcare management credentials can be beneficial, as they receive training in psychology. Moreover, these healthcare professionals also have a broader perspective on health; they see health in relation to all the other aspects of your life. This way, OCD can be seen as a condition that impacts your daily living and your interactions with others.
You can also ask your general practitioner about the right steps for treatment. Remember, you’re not alone. Part of learning to cope when things don’t go your way is by asking for support from your loved ones. With enough patience and a clear plan of action, you can work through the tough times together.