Why Excessive Hand Washing Is Not My Main “OCD Problem” During The Pandemic

What is it like to live with OCD in times of a pandemic?

Well, every person has their own answer to this question and I think it is time to share mine. The other day, I was reading through articles about OCD in the age of COVID-19 and one thing I noticed was that the mainstream media mainly focuses on excessive hand washing and cleaning but it does not really talk about many of the other struggles that people with OCD have recently been through.

Hmm.. does it surprise me? Not at all. For a long time, we were portrayed in the media as neat freaks. And I have the impression that since the pandemic began, we have been upgraded to neat freaks that other people can learn from. Or to “those poor neat freaks who have never needed help more than now.”

Do I wash my hands more frequently than usual? Of course I do. Will it make me feel anxious when I cannot wash my hands properly? Yes, it will.

But is excessive hand-washing my main “OCD problem”? No. My main struggle is my compulsive news checking.

I have OCD. I am a very social and outgoing person who has been forced to spend most of his time at home since the pandemic began. I have always been interested in reading news. I enjoy spending time on social media. And I am extremely worried about my loved ones’ health.

Well, this is all it takes. I have just given you a recipe for the ultimate OCD disaster.

When I open my eyes in the morning, the first thing I will normally do is checking coronavirus news and I have various reasons for doing so. Sometimes it is just pure reassurance seeking – I know that the situation couldn’t possibly get any better but I just really need to make sure that it didn’t get any worse. There are some mornings when I must – yes, MUST is definitely the right word! – read the news because if I do not do that, one of my loved ones will die. Oh my…it was so painful to write this down but that’s really the way how I feel sometimes.

During the day, I try to keep myself as busy as possible but unfortunately, I will always find some time to analyze the new coronavirus statistics.

What do I mean by “some time”? Well, it depends. On some days, it’s “only” an hour but on other days I can easily spend five hours trying to convince myself that coronavirus may not be too dangerous to my loved ones’. But I am just an armchair expert and the numbers that I find on the internet will usually make me even more confused. And let’s be honest – even if one day, I found something reassuring, it wouldn’t make me feel less worried because there’s always that terrible “what if”.

If you have OCD, I am sure you know the annoying “what if”. Let’s say that I manage to arrive to a conclusion that my loved ones are not considered to be at a higher risk from coronavirus. But does it mean they are perfectly safe? Of course not. It just feels like an endless cycle – sometimes, I am able to calm down and stop worrying but then, there’s either a “what if’ question popping up in my head or – even more often – there’s always someone who will start talking about the virus. And I do not want to be mean but I have to say that there are some people who actually enjoy spreading fear.

And I wish I were only reading the news and stats. Recently, I have found a few interesting threads on one of our local online forums and I can waste reading them. And well, most of the times there’s nothing reassuring on these online forums so today I decided to stop reading them completely. Let’s see how it will go.

I am not extremely worried about my own health. Of course, I know I am not invincible and I try to take good care of myself but I am more anxious about my loved ones’ safety. And this is the anxiety that makes me spend hours on reading the news. ‘Cause I always hope that one day, I’ll find an article that says it’s all over.

Why did I want to talk about this?

Dear readers – I love all of you – I think you noticed that I haven’t posted any COVID-19 related article for the last 4 months. You know the reason why? It is because I wanted to keep my blog a “safe-place” where you can browse through the articles without being constantly reminded of all the sad things happening around the globe. But today I felt that I just had to share this story with you because I am sure I am not the only person who “suffers from compulsive news checking” and I hope that reading this article will help those who are going through the same struggle.

How to stop compulsive news reading?

I do not want to be a hypocrite – I haven’t been able to fully overcome my news reading compulsion. (Guess that is pretty obvious considering the beginning of the article). But there are a few things that have helped me cut down on my compulsive news reading.

Delete Social Media Apps From Your Phone

As I mentioned earlier, I enjoy spending time on social media. Or well, should I say “I used to”? The first step that I took for getting things back under control was uninstalling social media apps from my phone. I have not deleted my accounts but I have uninstalled Facebook and Twitter. And I can tell you that I’ve been feeling so much better since I stopped looking at my newsfeed – like…my social media feed was literally scaring the sh**t out of me. And then, we all know that Facebook is not even the most reliable place to get your news from.

Create A News Reading Schedule – Or Should We Call It “Worry Schedule”?

I read the news every single morning even before the pandemic started and I do not want to give up on staying up-to-date. But when you read the news, it’s just so difficult not to get carried away and start reading literally every new article about the current situation.

And my personal solution to this problem was to come up with a news reading schedule: I have decided to allow myself 2 hours per day when I can read all the news and worry about them. And I am proud to say that most of the time I stick to the schedule – of course, 2 hours is still a crazy long time to spend on reading apocalyptic articles but my long term plan is to reduce my “worry time” to half an hour.

Go For A Walk – Without Your Phone!

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you probably now that I love walking the streets of my city. And I used to take my phone to my daily walks but I do not do that anymore!

Decide Where You Get Your News

Another thing that’s important is to make sure you get your news from reliable sources. The internet can be a dangerous place and it’s sometimes difficult to spot fake news. And while fake news is the biggest danger, another thing that I have noticed over the last few months is that some news sites are “more panicky” than others. Again, I am not telling you to bury your head in the sand but if you have anxiety problems, I think it’s better for you to get your news from sites that do not use sensationalist deadlines.

Seek Professional Help

I would like to emphasize that I am not a professional therapist – I am just a guy who’s been struggling with OCD for a few years now and I hope I can help people by talking about my experiences. However, the first step to recovery is seeking professional help!

Further Reading

Your Feelings

How has the pandemic affected your mental health? Did it make your OCD worse? Do you also find it difficult to stop reading the news? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section!

Love you all,

Mark

32 thoughts on “Why Excessive Hand Washing Is Not My Main “OCD Problem” During The Pandemic

    1. Hi Alexandra,

      hahaha That’s something that I have been planning to do for soooo long. I keep telling myself that I should get up earlier in the morning and go for a workout but so far..well….no success ๐Ÿ˜€

      How have you beeen? (Long time no see, sorry I kind of disappeared for some time ’cause there were a lot of things going on)

      Sending you love โค

      Mark

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I am glad to read that you are doing good โค actually, considering the circumstances I have been doing pretty good too.

        I will! I will go running tomorrow morning.

        Huge hugs

        Mark

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Buy some dumbbells! I thoroughly recommend it! Also pressups are one of the most efficient body-weight exercises or exercises without equipment that you can do ๐Ÿ˜„. Do some pressups when you feel the need to do compulsions perhaps.

        I’ve also recently got back into jugglingโ€” to use as an activity to take my attention away from OCD. I can really recommend that as well and it’s even a decent physical warm-up.

        Like

  1. Hi Mark ! You offer some very good suggestions.
    And you remind us that some people enjoy spreading fear, and fear is contagious.

    We have been very isolated during the pandemic. Travel to the island has been severely restricted.

    I have been reminded, that life is full of so many uncertainties (what if?).
    However, one certainty I cling to is that God is completely trustworthy, and he loves us all. ๐Ÿ˜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sally

      I am happy that you have found my suggestions helpful.

      And unfortunately yes – there are indeed many people who enjoy spreading fear and I could never understand why they do. Probably it is a way for them to deal with their own feelings….

      We also have many travel restrictions here – Hungary is a relatively small country so internal traveling within the country hasn’t been too much restricted but traveling abroad has become almost impossible (I mean you can go abroad but when you come back, you will need to spend 10 days in quarantine). The reason why it is a difficult situation for many people is that many of us have relatives in neighboring countries and we haven’t been able to see them for a crazy long time ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      Yes, God is always there for us and that’s what matters the most โค

      Blessings

      Mark

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello. This article was very interesting. I also spend a huge amount of time reading the news thinking about my family and friends, and worst cheking a real on time count, in the morning I open the browser and spend the all day seeing the numbers. I guess that I overcome this when the situation get better in my country. Now it’s growing again, I try to ocupy my time painting, and doing creative stuff to not open things related with Covid.
    This is the way I found for not having so much check and cumpolsive thoughts about this.
    Sorry for my bad english, it’s not my native language.
    Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Irina,

      I am glad you have found my article interesting.
      In my country, the situation got much better during the summer – and I spent less time reading the news and looking at the stats. But since the beginning of September, there have been a lot of new cases and this has obviously taken a toll on my mental health.

      Painting is a great way to keep yourself busy โค and I just looove your works of art!

      I too should start doing something more creative 'cause nowadays, I normally watch Netflix to distract myself from thinking about coronavirus….and well, watching Netflix does help but it is not the most productive thing to do ๐Ÿ˜€

      Thank you for reading

      Hugs

      Mark

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good suggestions. When I am at the barn, grooming, tacking up my horse, riding, untacking grooming and settling him in his stall I do not have a phone on me. It is about two hours of blissful peace. Every once in a while I have to stick to music only on the radio and not listen to any news. Stay well Mark and keep getting outdoors and walking when you can.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Anne,

      Horse riding in nature is one of the most peaceful activities I can imagine โค and I am actually planning to go horse riding some time in October (it would be so beautiful with all the colorful autumn leaves!)

      Yes – sometimes it is better to stick to music only. Thats what I do too.

      Stay safe โค

      Mark

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, sir.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Alexandra’s recommendation of working out. I have been running for ten years and it is amazing how much better I feel for 4-6 hours after I complete my run. Come to think of it, I have a date with my treadmill in 45 minutes…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As an author, I’m almost REQUIRED to say – ditch the news, read a book! Lot’s of books! Let the stories carry you away from real life for a while and give you something to enjoy while you’re at it! I’m concerned about my family and friends too, and yes, my own health and safety. I’m trying to keep things as normal as possible but it’s not easy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Alexander,

      You are totally right! Reading a good book will always cheer me up โค I have a lot of books on my reading list – including the ones you have sent me and thank you again for that. It's just so nice to escape reality and get carried away by a great story.

      What book are you reading at the moment?

      And well yes, I too am trying to keep things as normal as possible which in my case is pretty difficult because before the pandemic I used to have a very active social life and I was travelling a lot with work. And nowadays I just have to look for other things to do in order to keep myself busy :))))

      Stay safe,

      Mark

      Liked by 1 person

  6. If anything good can come out of this mess itโ€™s that people will get better at social distancing and cleanliness. Even before the pandemic I would get upset with people I didnโ€™t know who would invade my personal space. If I was out I also would never eat anything with my hands or touch anything on my face without washing my hands good. These are things people should have always been doing anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes! I fully agree with you. I just hate when people invade my personal space – especially when it’s strangers.
      One thing that I hope will stay the same even after the pandemic is over, is social distancing while queuing in the supermarket. (Hard to explain why but I just feel so anxious when someone stands close behind me)
      And well, when it comes to hand washing I am pretty much the same. I would wash my hands very often even before the pandemic like hand washing is always the first thing I’ll do when I get home and I too am unable to eat anything without washing my hands first.

      Thank you for reading โค

      Stay safe,

      Mark

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Thank you for being so honest and open here, Mark. I really feel for you – over the last couple of weeks especially what has started as a quick 5 minute check of the news has turned into falling down a rabbit hole and getting stuck in it for a couple hours, so much so it gets to the point where I don’t want to even get out of bed. You’ve given some really good tips here too – I found that only checking reputable news sources helps and setting myself ‘worry time’ have been good ways to curb it. Limiting my social media use has been so helpful too. Stay safe and take care x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Amy!

      I am sorry to read that you’ve been struggling with the same problem. Unfortunately, it’s so easy to fall down that rabbit hole especially that the internet is full of shocking headlines one cannot help but click….

      And I am so glad you have found my tips useful. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Stay safe and take care โค

      Mark

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s so bad but I’ve literally just had to play dumb these last few days and have no interaction with the news – I’ve blocked covid and any related phrases from my timeline and I’ll quickly scroll past anything my friends on social media share – it’s really not the healthiest way of dealing it but I think at the moment I have to do what’s best for me! xx

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey there! Such a great and detailed post and brave of you to admit youโ€™ve not totally overcome your compulsion yet. Itโ€™s still okay to give advice to others. Keep up the work, youโ€™re doing great ๐Ÿ˜Š

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this awesome post. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think it is really helpful especially because there is such a continuum, that we can all relate to this on a certain level–and then you give hints to those of us with actual OCD about how to deal when the news checking is absorbed into being one of our real compulsions. ๐Ÿ™‚ I appreciated this way of looking at it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there,

      Thank you so much for reading! And I am glad you have found it helpful.

      And well yes – I have many friends who do not actually have OCD but who are also kind of obsessed about checking the news. And it’s a difficult situation because even if you do not read the news yourself, there’ll always be someone talking about the pandemic.

      But I am sure things will soon get better! ๐Ÿ™‚ As well as our OCD

      Stay safe,

      Mark

      Like

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