The Mighty Logo

To the People Saying 'What a Great Time to Be OCD!'

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

As we all know, the coronavirus (COVID-19) — the new-to-humans viral strain in the coronavirus family that causes symptoms like dry cough, fever and shortness of breath — has affected our world in a big way. It has even affected the way we talk on social media.

I keep seeing people post things like, “Now is the time to be OCD” or “COVID-19 is a great time to be OCD.” When I see these posts, I get a little angry, but I also laugh. I think, “Oh, how I wish they knew.”

I’m writing this with the hope that someone out there will see this and realize it is never a great time to “be OCD.” First of all, you cannot “be OCD,” OCD is not an adjective, it is a disorder, and a devastating one at that. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness characterized by intrusive thoughts or feelings (obsessions) that can lead an individual affected to engage in behaviors (compulsions) that alleviate the anxiety that can come with intrusive thoughts.

People do not understand that to have OCD means that you have obsessive thoughts, and as a result, carry out compulsions, in order to alleviate the anxiety. People with OCD who do clean and wash their hands are not doing so because they enjoy it. No one with OCD carries out their compulsions out of joy or fondness for the activity. My point being, OCD does not equate being neat, clean or a “germaphobe.”

So, how does the coronavirus affect me as a person with OCD?

For me, OCD manifests in a lot of different ways. For example, I tend to ruminate and have intrusive thoughts, which are relieved through mental compulsions, counting and checking. By definition, I obsessively think. And what am I thinking about? The coronavirus. When am I thinking about it? All. The. Time.

My brain is going a mile-a-minute and my fingers can barely keep up as I frantically type each concern into the Google search bar. If I’m not reading and rereading and rereading and rereading news articles and CDC press releases, I’m going over all of my interactions in my head. “Who did I come in contact with today?” “What if that guy running past me while I rode my bike gave it to me?” “Was that cough just a throat tickle, or do I have the virus?” “What if I unknowingly give the virus to someone and they die?” I check my temperature constantly.

I spend hours every single day looking up symptoms and reading articles. “What if I missed an important detail?” I spend hours every day in my head thinking about the virus. If I don’t use the yellow Dixie cups for mouthwash, I won’t get sick. If I do everything in multiples of four, my family and I will be safe.

I am currently a college student now taking online classes from my bedroom. The amount of work I have piling up is immense. I used to be relatively productive, and now I cannot go 10 minutes without needing to read about COVID-19. I spend so much of my time not doing school work and it is so frustrating.

Unfortunately, the media is enabling my OCD tendencies. I cannot even go on social media, look at my phone, turn on the TV, go on my computer, or even talk to people without hearing about the coronavirus. I want to stop thinking about the coronavirus, I want to be able to focus my attention on work or a book or a movie. I want to be able to sit through an online class without checking to see if there have been any COVID-19 updates. I want to go 10 minutes without checking the local Facebook page for town and county updates. My OCD has latched onto the coronavirus and it will not let go.

So, how does the coronavirus affect me, as a person with OCD?

No, I am not washing my hands excessively. No, I’m not cleaning and disinfecting constantly. I am, however, always in my head, thinking and worrying, checking and repeating. I am unable to control my unwanted thoughts and calm the chaos that is my mind.

Use this time of crisis to educate rather than perpetuate the stigma. OCD is not an adjective. It is not something that we strive for during a pandemic. OCD is a difficult and devastating disorder and I hope that after reading this you understand that.

**OCD affects all of us differently. This is just how it affects me, and I most certainly do not speak for all those with the disorder.

Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles:

Originally published: March 25, 2020
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home