Therapist warns of Covid-19 impact on OCD sufferers

Therapist warns of Covid-19 impact on OCD sufferers

One client spoke of how news of the pandemic made them feel justified in their belief that the world was inundated with germs. 

A THERAPIST warned of the destructive toll Covid-19 may have on obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) sufferers.

While underlying physical health issues have been referred to a great deal in relation to coronavirus, cognitive behavioural therapist Paul McCarthy said we must be compassionate towards people with underlying mental health conditions too.

One client spoke of how news of the pandemic made them feel justified in their belief that the world was inundated with germs. 

“They were saying that when they heard the news it was like hearing the voice of their OCD saying, ‘I told you. There are germs everywhere and things could end badly if I touch things’,” Mr McCarthy said. 

“It was like that part of their brain had been telling them “you were right all along.”

The issue is finding balance in our response to the crisis. “I think every human being is worrying at the moment,” he said. “If they weren’t experiencing any worry whatsoever I would be questioning their grasp on reality. Worrying is an innate system we have to protect us from danger. It’s when we do it excessively that it becomes a problem.”

He explained the voice of OCD can be very powerful. “The voice in your head might think they are an expert but they’re not,” he said. “Instead, we need to focus on the advice of real experts. The World Health Organisation and HSE issue advice on how long and often we should be washing our hands. Any more than this for an OCD suffer can result in the condition spiralling out of control. 20 seconds can turn into 50 seconds and so on until it’s uncontrollable.”

He urged people with the condition not to give up hope during these difficult times where self-isolation has become the norm: “Their OCD might have a bump on the road but there is still hope that you can have a life after all this pans out.”

Mr McCarthy reminded people in self-isolation not to be afraid to reach out, pointing out that many counsellors and CBT therapists are still operating through skype or by phone.

The therapist said that he has been astonished at the resilience of his clients with General Anxiety Disorder in the wake of the covid-19 crisis.

“You would expect that this would be a tipping point for people with anxiety but it has had the opposite effect,” he said. “The results have been interesting. This is a tangible problem that poses a real threat to civilisation but it is still the worry of what might happen that results in excess worry for people. In truth they have been more worried on a Sunday night about what may or may not happen in work the next morning than the current pandemic.

“There is a lot of hope among people. They realise that we’re going to make it through this.”

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