I work with many individuals over the years who have OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder. Many of them struggle with ‘contamination OCD’, a fear of contracting an illness or spreading germs which leads to compulsive behavior like handwashing and avoiding crowded spaces.
Sound familiar? This past year the cultural norms for the society at large have emphasized handwashing, hand sanitizer, avoiding crowds…at the beginning, we were even sanitizing our packages and groceries. So, what has the pandemic been like for those individuals who had the fears and cleaning practices long before the word COVID arrived on our doorstep?
My impression is that individuals with contamination OCD have found that – during the pandemic – others are better able to understand their challenges. I have had some clients tell me: “now the rest of the world knows what it’s like to be me.” I have had others say: “I was so prepared for the pandemic, I have been practicing this stuff for years!” And my favorite: “I don’t feel weird anymore!”
Perhaps, this pandemic-life window into the world of contamination OCD will help those of us without OCD have a little more compassion and understanding for those who struggle with this challenge long after hand sanitizer and masks become a thing of the past.