Coronavirus is a ‘Personal Nightmare’ for People with OCD and Anxiety Disorders

For people with mental health conditions, COVID-19 is both their worst nightmare and sudden validation of their habits.  Here are some highlights from the article by Tyler Kingkade.:

  • “Uncertainty is the basis of all anxiety disorders, so in some ways, COVID-19 has set a fire to the foundation of anxiety,” said Christina Maxwell, a counselor at the Anxiety Treatment Center of Greater Chicago.
  • She’s also received calls from people who have never struggled with anxiety before but are now having difficulty coping with work or school changes, loss of income or being in close proximity to an estranged spouse for a long period of time.

In addition to the article quoted above, Christina has the following advice to offer:

  1. Limit your reading about the illness to 5 minutes a day.  Check the CDC, WHO, or local health authorities for updates and guidelines on how to respond.  Hours of endless social media surfing and reading posts from unreliable sources can exacerbate anxiety and contribute to a depressed mood.
  2. Contact your doctor ONLY if you present with the three main symptoms of COVID-19 and refrain from heading to the ER whenever possible.  Listen to doctors’ recommendations about how to proceed.
  3. Check in on elderly neighbors and offer to help.  Acts of kindness are proven to be an immediate mood booster (for both parties)!
  4. Maintain a daily schedule, sticking to regular sleep/wake times.  Get up and get dressed as if you were carrying out your regular duties.  Parents who are suddenly homeschooling and trying to work from home should get online and access recommendations from other parents who do this regularly (this is where social media can actually be helpful!) and contact their childrens’ teachers for recommendations.  Make a schedule WITH your kids!  It will be hard to limit screens and don’t try to be militant about it, but have a conversation about what will be best for the whole family.  Don’t be afraid to set limits, within reason.  Students, keeping a schedule will be helpful for you too!  Try to study for 45 minutes, with short breaks for texting friends, food breaks, a walk outside, and then get back to it.  Try to keep a normal work and/or school day schedule as much as possible.
  5. If you are working from home, create a work space void of distractions (television, pantry).
  6. Stay in contact with loved ones.  Calling is good, FaceTiming or Skyping is better!
  7. Practice gratitude and focus on the positive:  you still have running water, there are people working day and night to find a cure, etc.  It’s easy to slip into a doomsday mentality; remember that in the midst of a pandemic, goodness still abounds.
  8. Talk about your frustrations with close friends and family members, but don’t forget to also talk about what’s going well too.
  9. Go outside daily and for long periods of time.  Exercise and get your heart rate up if you can.
  10. Practice self-compassion and remember you are not alone.  Everyone is being impacted on some level and feels a range of emotions. It’s OK to feel this way and struggle – it’s part of the human condition.

I trust that this situation will pass eventually and we will adapt and learn to cope with whatever comes.  I want to make sure people have the resources to get through this time so they can come out on the other side stronger, with an increased awareness of their own resiliency and capacity for facing challenges head-on.  Ultimately, I have a belief that humans are resilient and capable of coping with incredible challenges.  We have a lot of evidence of this in our long history of existing!  So, while I have concerns, I also have incredible hope that my patients, who have already proven to be resilient, will continue to be so after this challenging time.

This post is for educational purposes only and not intended to diagnose mental health issues or serve as a treatment plan.  It is for the general public and not directed at any one person.