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!
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- 5 common misconceptions about OCD
- How The Mainstream Media Sold Our Mental Health For Clicks
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,