Understanding How COVID-19 Affects Individuals With OCD

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

Recent studies have been published that highlight the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). But what can we take away from these studies and apply to care for ourselves, our loved ones, or our patients?

Pandemics are known to have biological and social implications. More recently, there has been a large focus on how they impact us psychologically. For many, the pandemic may be affecting your OCD symptoms.

Jason Krompinger, PhD, talks about the ways experts think that OCD interacts with COVID-19 and how the mental health field is working to navigate the virus’s impact on care and treatment.

This content is also available in Spanish.

Audience Questions

Dr. Krompinger answers questions from attendees, including:

  • We’ve had such an emphasis over the last several months about the importance of cleanliness, handwashing for an adequate amount of time, how long this virus can last on surfaces, and learning about ways COVID-19 is transmitted. How do we know if we’re being attentive to cleaning versus exhibiting symptoms of OCD?
  • How are those diagnosed with OCD or a fear of germs coping so far with the pandemic? Have there been any studies recently that focus on both COVID-19 and individuals with OCD?
  • Is the pandemic bringing about any other unique difficulties for individuals with OCD?
  • How can someone who does struggle with OCD protect themselves a bit during these more than usually difficult times?
  • Could you talk about having OCD and how this might impact someone who is living alone and dealing with social isolation?
  • How can spouses/partners provide support to someone with OCD during the pandemic and what kinds of questions can we ask them to see how they’re doing?
  • In the example of handwashing, can you clarify: Is the difference that the person with OCD is reacting illogically, while the non-OCD person is logically washing their hands? Can you expand a bit more on the differences when someone with OCD has a handwashing compulsion?
  • Some sources say that OCD is a chemical brain issue. Is this accurate? Do we know the causes? Does medication help?
  • Can you explain about treating OCD without prescribed medications?
  • Can someone self-diagnose OCD?
  • I don’t have OCD, but I have some of those “let’s take the extra step” thoughts. Should I not do that?
  • An individual with OCD is having trouble coping and feels like they need inpatient care but is extremely wary of the possible risk of both being in contact with others and also continued isolation of hospitalization. How might this person navigate making choices about their care?
  • Is there a general way to help people with OCD handle the daily underlying anxiety many of us feel with COVID-19? There are just so many worrisome day-to-day triggers right now (such as going to the grocery store).
  • If a family member with OCD repeatedly checks in/asks questions to make sure you are using appropriate COVID precautions (like wiping down objects), what’s the best way to respond?
  • A lot of activities during the pandemic are causing a lot of anxiety for some people. But isn’t confronting anxiety/fears supposed to be good for someone with OCD? Will it help them to struggle through something that is causing elevated anxiety?
  • During the pandemic, how can someone with OCD know whether they are being appropriately cautious vs. feeding their OCD?
  • Has there been any evidence for ketamine, TMS, or ECT for treatment-resistant OCD?


About Dr. Krompinger

Jason Krompinger, PhD, is a clinical psychologist with expertise in treating OCD and related disorders. He serves as director of Psychological Services and Clinical Research at McLean’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Institute.

In his role at the OCD Institute he serves as the director of the training program, supervising students, post-doctoral fellows, and early career psychologists in the delivery of empirically based interventions.

Learn more about Dr. Krompinger.

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