OCD and me: Advice for people coping with the condition

The pandemic and lockdown has been tough for many people, but for those with pre-existing mental health conditions it's been particularly challenging.

OCD Action says it saw a 110% increase in demand for its helpline - and 85% of people with the condition, who were asked, said it had worsened during lockdown.

A further 64% said they experienced new, intrusive thoughts due to the pandemic.

How can I manage my OCD?

  • Try self-help methods

There are several self-help methods for OCD which are based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

A list of resources can be found on OCD-UK.

You can also ask your local GP about a reading scheme called "Books on Prescription". It's supported by most UK libraries and books can be checked out for free.

  • Set a routine, even if you're working from home

With schools, colleges, universities and many offices all closed it could be easy to fall out of routine and leave more time for ruminating.

The charity MIND urges people to aim to do things at a similar time each day, whether that's eating, exercising, showering or calling friends.

If you do find you have extra time on your hands, and you're spending more time thinking about and acting on compulsions, then try and incorporate extra activities.

This could be anything to keep distracted - from painting, learning a new language, cooking or catching up on a show.

A regular sleeping pattern is also advised.

  • Talk - Sharing your obsessive thoughts will make them feel less powerful

Make sure you maintain a support structure.

Try and check in with friends and relatives daily and speak to them about how you're feeling - even if it's a socially distanced meeting or a virtual chat.

If you don't feel comfortable sharing your thoughts with someone close then peer support is another option - Try entering online forums or attending local OCD help groups.

  • Control exposure to news and social media

Taking in too much negative information on what is happening around us can make us feel uneasy, anxious or distressed.

For many people with OCD the Public Health message stressed in the media during the pandemic will heighten urges such as hand washing, cleaning and avoiding "unsanitary" situations.

The news can also trigger "checking" compulsions - so a limit should be set for how many times you check the news each day.

  • Learn to let go and don't be too hard on yourself

Stress and anxiety can make OCD worse, to avoid this try practicing relaxation techniques and mindfulness.

Many people with OCD report that they may feel "ashamed" or "embarrassed" for acting on compulsions, but try not to be too hard on yourself and remember that recovery takes time.

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