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Contamination OCD and a Pandemic

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To find help, visit the International OCD Foundation’s website.

You’re afraid the groceries you bring in will make you sick. You’re afraid the person coughing will make you sick. You’re afraid anything, really, can make you sick.

We’re all afraid. We are self-quarantined, practicing social distancing, cleaning things we normally wouldn’t, stocking up wipes and hand sanitizer. Most precautions are sensible given the unknown factors of this coronavirus.

As someone with contamination OCD, this is all very confusing. Everything everyone is doing is what I was told not to do in therapy. But that was before the new normal. It has been mental chaos trying to balance therapy with this new normal; as of today, the therapy rules I have to follow have changed to be able to follow CDC guidelines without letting the OCD take over.

Everyone is afraid, stressed out, taking many extra precautions. But please check in on your friends, especially those you know that have any mental disorder. I can only speak from the perspective of those that have OCD:

I promise there are people whose OCD is telling them it is their fault there is a pandemic and the guilt is overwhelming.

I promise there are people whose OCD is telling them they need to do X behavior or someone in their family will die and it will be their fault.

I promise there are people whose OCD has them scrubbing all surfaces of their house or washing their hands and arms late into the night and early morning in an attempt to protect themselves and their families.

Some of us are handling it well.

Others, I know, are not.

Others still, like myself, are just barely hanging on to the progress we’ve made.

All of us, though, you too, are navigating uncharted waters.

Let’s help each other in this new normal.
Originally published: March 21, 2020
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