OCD & Coronavirus: Confessions Of An Anxious Mind

How worried should you be about the coronavirus?

This is a question that I can not answer – and to be honest, I was spending a lot of time googling but I have not been able to find any answer to it. But there is one thing I know: it has been a very difficult period for those who are suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or from any other anxiety disorder.

And I really do not want to downplay the risk or say that the mainstream media is creating needless panic because I am just a guy from Central Europe, who does not know too much about the current situation. All I want to do is to let people know what it feels like for an OCD sufferer to be exposed to the “coronavirus panic” 24/7 – in an era when shutting down social media and avoiding fake news is almost impossible.

Coronavirus and a day with OCD

Waking up in the morning. Feeling almost like P. Diddy. Spring is here and the sun shines brightly through the window pane. It’s an amazing feeling and you feel that your winter depression will soon be over.
But suddenly, a disturbing thought comes into your mind:

What if you will not be able to enjoy this beautiful spring because of this terrible coronavirus outbreak? You are not afraid of dying but what if one of your loved ones die from it?

So, you just need to check the news. You know that it is not the best thing to start your day with but you just need to know how many people are infected and how many of them have died. You just want to be sure that the risk of getting it is extremely low. But the numbers will scare you. There are more and more people who got the virus and a lot of them died overnight. It was not a good idea to check the statistics and you know that, but it does not mean that you can stop. You keep googling and the scary results will make you more and more anxious.

But soon, you need to leave for work. Did you lock the door? Now, that is something that you usually check a few times before leaving however this checking habit has gone ever since the outbreak began: because what if someone else touched the doorknob and it is contaminated? Let’s not touch it too many times because you can never know, can you? It’s always better to be safe than sorry. So you just lock the door and sanitize your hands and finally leave for work.


You are lucky enough – you do not have to take public transport to go to work. But walking to the office is not always a pleasant thing to do. Especially if you have unlimited mobile date. So you just need to check the news once more: in English and then in the other languages you speak. And the news are pretty scary – you knew they were going to be scary, but that does not mean you can just stop checking them.

And anyways, can you believe the news? What if the outbreak is much more serious than presented? What if they just downplay the risk? What if everyone you love will die? Or, what if the whole outbreak is just a lie? Who knows. You can never know, can you? So let’s keep checking the news – maybe you will get an answer to your questions.

And in the meantime, do no forget to touch your forehead every ten minutes to make sure that you do not have fever. Because what if your body temperature is too high? What if you have the coronavirus and you will infect everyone at he office? All of those innocent people will get sick because you were irresponsible. And if you think it over, you will see hat you had a lot of exposure: you are exremely likely to have the novel coronavirus. And this means that you are an evil person: you are ignoring the facts and you go to work and spend time with your friends while being infected. You are the one who will make them sick and you will be the one to blame for everything! Most of the people around you are not worried – they say that the risk is still pretty low. But what if your situation is exceptional?

You get o the office and your co-workers would want to shake hands with you. You really do not want to be rude so you shake hands with them but then you just have to run to the bathroom and wash your hands three times. Exactly three times because that is your lucky number and this lucky number.

Then you try to work on your new project, but you are just unable to. Not because you are lazy but because you just can not stop thinking about the virus. Again, you are not afraid of dying, but you are afraid of contaminating others and seeing your loved ones die.

You just want to run away. You do not want to talk about the virus or hear about it but you have no choice: it is all over the place. Everyone talks about it. If you open your Facebook, you will see all the terrifying news your friends posted. If you open your mails, you will find notifications about the potential risks. If you go on a coffee break, your co-workers will talk about the virus. At the beginning of the outbreak, you really wanted to avoid any situation that could potentially trigger your OCD, but at this point, it is no longer possible.

Finishing at work. And time to go out with your friends for a drink. You would normally enjoy going out but nowadays, it’s getting more and more difficult. First of all, you want to enjoy every moment of it, because you do not know what the future brings. What if there will be no more nights out?

They said social isolation would be a good practice. So you do not know what to do. You feel guilty to go out with your friends because you may be responsible for accelerating the spread of the virus but on the other hand you really do not want to be alone with your disturbing thoughts.

But then, going out will not solve your issues anyway. Because you have to check the news at least once in ten minutes. And you have to wash your hands every time you touch something. Which means once a minute. You try to control yourself. You try not to speak about the virus and try not to run to the bathroom to wash your hands. But you just give up.

And then, there’s one of your friends who always make fun of everything. Which is pretty okay in most of the situations but this time he starts coughing and says that he surely has the new coronavirus. You almost forgot about the whole thing but then he obviously needed to remind you!

You do not want to go home anymore because you’re afraid of infecting your loved ones, but you have to. But before going home, you just have to call your best friend to talk about the coronavirus while walking around your block. Seeking reassurance? Yes, maybe but both of you are terribly scared of it. At least you have someone who looks at the newest statistics together with you.

After looking at the coronavirus topic from every single point of view, you just feel more anxious. Because you realize that you do not know anything. That you do not know what is the truth. Overreacting media? Conspiracy? Real risk? The next Black Death? Is there anyone who knows? Google will not be able to give you an answer. You just go home and want to sleep but you can not.

And even if you fall asleep, will it solve your problems? Tomorrow will be a new day full of fears. Full of terrifying news and panic. And you just feel guilty – guilty for worrying about your OCD while there are a lot of people dying. And you feel uncertain because you do not know what is going on. Only one thing is certain: tomorrow will be another day full of uncertainty.


So the only thing we can do is to embrace uncertainty and to take all necessary precautions. May God protect us.

Final thoughts

Again, I do not want to downplay the risks and I know that this outbreak is very serious. And while it’s important to be cautious, there are a lot of people on the internet who enjoy creating needless panic, so I posted this article to let the world know what it feels like for an OCD sufferers to go through all this uncertainty and panic surrounding the novel coronavirus. So all I can say is: think before you share!

Further Reading

Your Story

As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than writing my stories: reading yours! So please share your experiences in the comment section!

Blessings,

Mark

14 thoughts on “OCD & Coronavirus: Confessions Of An Anxious Mind

  1. Thanks Mark! I’ve been wondering how it must be for you at the moment. It really is a nightmarish situation for you especially! And I was also thinking the same thing about how irresponsible all the needless panic-creating is! (And I mean specifically the needless stuff). Things really do look much worse in the news than in reality, however bad they may be in reality. I mean, ironicallyβ€” for me, checking a reliable source of detailed stats daily has been anxiety-REDUCING for me.

    I have some counter-points and points of optimism to make:

    β€”The death rate varies hugely between countries (factor of 10). And now that several countries have had a large number of cases, we have some useful statistics about the death rate etc. The death rate is lowest in countries that have done the most testingβ€” because they also catch the less-serious cases. South Korea has done the most testing by far, AND has had one of the highest numbers of cases. Their cases are leveling out, as with in China, and the death rate is currently less than 1%. Which is still higher than influenza, but it’s still possible that the death rate could come out as 10x the influenza rate, which is not too bad. The actual number of active cases in China in the beginning was bound to have been much higher than recordedβ€” bringing the death rate down there too.

    β€”The number of active cases in China is now less than 20,000 and reducing as rapidly as it rose. 60,000 people have recovered (I’m really frustrated with how the mainstream media only report total cases rather than active).

    β€”Social isolation appears to be working effectively as a containment measure.

    β€”Why is it impossible to shut down from social media?

    Overall, I recognise the situation is not desirable, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not been too bad yet. I’m lucky to not suffer this kind of OCD. One of the 6 UK deaths happened in a hospital a couple of streets away from me, actually. My overall message is that there’s a good amount of optimism to be taken from the stats. But yeah, I realise this makes NO DIFFERENCE to irrational OCD, but maybe it helps the rational part of the brain!

    It was a great post Mark, and I’m sure it’s going to be comforting to a lot of OCD sufferers. I’m kind of worried my comment may be triggering now…πŸ€”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Robin,

      Indeed, I really hope this post will be comforting for OCD sufferers – it is important to know that you are not alone with this anxiety.

      Honestly, I do not know whether the media is being irresponsible or whether they just present the real situation but it’s getting out of control. But then a lot of people on social media are irresponsible as there are a lot of fake news and conspiracy theories that obviously do not help…..

      Same here! Reading statistics calms me down, however, the only thing is that I really need to be careful not to end up with a new compulsion. Like at the moment, I can still control my “statistics and news checking” habit, but it is becoming more and more difficult. But I have been living with OCD for a long time and for the moment I am still able to keep it under control.

      it is absolutely true what you say about the death rate. Especially because there may be a lot of people who do not go to the hospital because they do not feel “that sick”. Especially in countries which are hardly hit by the virus – like I can imagine a lot of people are actually scared to go to the doctor because they’re afraid they may catch the virus at the hospital. (maybe its only my theory but this would explain the difference in the death rates)

      Hungary has just declared a state of emergency. At the moment we do not have too many infections but that can obviously change.

      Why is it impossible to shut down from social media?

      Of course it is not, but I am addicted to social media πŸ˜€ nothing to do with my OCD but I was growing up using social media and …for me it’s pretty hard to spend a day without looking at Facebook. :)))

      Your comment is not triggering at all! Actually it’s pretty reassuring.

      Blessings

      Rob

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cool, thanks Mark! That was really interesting.

        I really hope the whole thing doesn’t set you back with OCD stuff. I guess it’s one perfect exposure for you, right? πŸ˜†.

        Can totally see how statistics could become a compulsion, for you. I can see your point about social media, I guess you started it earlier than me. It reminds me a lot of smoking, actually. It’s probably about the same addictiveness. And you see that the people who grew up with it from an early age, find it really hard to drop it, despite knowing of the potential harmful effects. I do think it’s sad, that a lot of people would find it hard to even try stopping for a short time, just for the comparison at the least. I say all the same things about porn. I think porn is the most addictive thing created by man, actually! Anyway, another story πŸ˜†.

        Like

  2. Very good post Mark. What I find odd for me being someone that suffers from GAD and OCD tendencies is that I’m not overly worried about this virus as I thought I would be. I feel like derealization is contributing to my odd calmness though.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is very hard to go through the day like that. I guess we all share some thoughts you’ve described. I also wonder if the media is correct on reporting and the big question: what if? As I don’t suffer OCD I don’t share your feelings but my worries are about a possible quarantine. I just know, while living in my head filled with dark thoughts, I try to get out. I try not to worry and to enjoy some moments and try to see a possible brighter future. But when I feel locked up already in my head because of the mental struggles, the last thing I need is being physically confined to a place.
    We all struggle in our own way, but to share those stories can makes us feel less alone. Thank you for sharing yours!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is very hard indeed! And as for the media: its impossible to know if they are correct. What I would assume is that the number of infected people is higher than reported – because a lot of people may not even go to the doctor – but at the same time, this could mean a lower death rate. But I am not an expert at this topic so I only rely on what the media reports + my intuition.
      Oh yes! the quarantine is also pretty scary. My plan is to relocate to my country house before it happens because having a garden would make it slightly easier to survive – but let’s hope this whole thing will soon be over.
      Me too I am trying to worry less πŸ™‚ and thanks for God the weather is beautiful here so that makes this situation slightly easier.

      Blessings

      Rob

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have the same plan to travel out of the city. Our government is ‘taking a deeper look at the situation’ and we are expecting some new measurements. They are always so worried about the economy that it makes it difficult for them to make decisions. I mean I want to get out too ‘before it happens’.
        Let’s hope it won’t be so scary are we think and that things will be taken care of in a reasonable and timely manner.
        Take care!

        Like

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