Fear, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) AMIDThe COVID 19 Lockdown

Posted by Lingaraj Chakkarappan on Mon, Apr 13, 2020  
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The world continues to grapple with the growing novel coronavirus pandemic. COVID 19 is now rampaging through India and other countries. The constant flurry of news about the Pandemic has left people not only worry about themselves but also their kith and kin.

Ignoring mental health at the time of pandemic can be detrimental. A survey conducted by the Indian Psychiatric Society stated that the sudden rise in those suffering from mental illness shot up by 20% and one in every five Indian citizens may suffer from mental illness. Amid the lockdown the precipitating factors for the mental illness (anxiety and depression) could be fear of losing money in business, fear of losing jobs, and saving basic resources

As the COVID19 is spreading, anxiety and depression have increased among the individuals seeking regular psychiatric treatment. One spectrum of anxiety disorder is the obsessive-compulsivedisorder and a sudden discontinuation of the therapy amid the lockdown has become challenging for them

ForInstance, one such individual Mr. X who suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder had repetitive thoughts like contracting (COVID19) and spreading it to his family members. He simultaneously had repetitive behavior like continuous hand washing. (where as repetitive thought such as acquiring viral fever and behavior consisting of repetitive washing of hand several times a day  had been reduced as a part of theregular behavioral therapy three months ago). But off late or in the recent past (from march 24) whenever he touched plates, tumblers or anyutensil athome, he would be interrupted by intrusive thoughts of acquiring (COVID19 unlike viral fever in the past) and spreading it to his family members which lasted for one to two hours.

To alleviate the stress caused by these thoughts he was pushed to indulge in frequenthandwashing to the extreme of using a hand sanitizer hourly and using soap (seven to eight times) after handling any item at home. He could not resisttaking a bath several times per day(seven) assuming that any part of the body could spread the disease which had greatly precluded him from attending online company meetings and achieving scheduled targets.

 However free tele counselling by the Tamil Nadu clinical association helped him. Some of the therapies used were:

  1. Detailed explanation about the causes, epidemiology and prevalence of COVID19 around the world and in India had been discussed with the client. Few guidelines by the WHOlike washing the hands for 20 -25 seconds was recommended.
  2. His negative automatic thoughts like (I might get the disease whenever I touch any utensil at home) assumptions like (IfI get the disease then I will spread it to my family and everyone will die). His cognitive error like catastrophizing (everyone in family will die) were elicited. His negative thoughts and assumptions were modified using cognitive restructuring
  3. Relaxation was initiated


Contributed by : Karthikayani Murugan, MPhil clinical psychology 



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