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Frequent hand washing. Physical distancing turning into self-isolation. Fear of contracting the virus. For patients with contamination obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the COVID-19 health guidelines have been especially challenging.
"Fears that used to seem exaggerated are now being reviewed and discussed by the media, lawmakers, co-workers, friends, family, acquaintances—everyone is talking about COVID-19," explains Brenda Bailey, PhD, clinical supervisor of OCD and Anxiety in Oconomowoc. "Our behaviors have drastically changed to look more like contamination OCD rituals and compulsions. OCD thrives on these changes and will push the sufferer to do more and be even more cautious."
Individuals with contamination OCD have an excessive fear of contaminating themselves or others, though no two patients' concerns are exactly alike. These may range from anxiety over contracting or spreading a disease to being contaminated by an essence such as the aging process. Dr. Bailey says that patients experiencing this type of OCD during COVID-19 tend to take the CDC's guidelines a step further.
"The CDC recommends wearing a mask when you cannot maintain a distance of six-feet from others, but those with contamination OCD may wear a mask when stepping only a foot outside their home, when in their own car by themselves, or may even choose to not leave their home at all," says Dr. Bailey. "While there is a threat of illness, behaviors that go above and beyond recommendations serve to further catastrophize the threat of illness and promote more fears and compulsions."
Just as the rest of the world has changed due to COVID-19, the approach to treating contamination OCD at Rogers has been altered to follow CDC guidelines. Dr. Bailey says that because the only guarantee to not get COVID-19 is to completely disengage from society, treatment now focuses on helping people learn to function in a world experiencing a pandemic. Brad Riemann, PhD, chief clinical officer, also discussed this topic in a recent New York Times article.
If you or someone you know are experiencing symptoms that interfere with daily functioning or activities that are important to you, it may be time to seek help. Rogers provides OCD and anxiety treatment for children, adolescents, and adults throughout the country. Call 800-767-4411 or request a free, confidential screening online.
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