Coping with OCD during a pandemic – Roisin Weaver

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is challenging at the best of times but with the coronavirus outbreak and the consequential lockdown, coping with OCD has been a lot harder for those who suffer from it, myself included.

There’s a lot of misinformation about OCD, with it often being used to describe certain habits or tendencies which are stereotypically linked to tidiness or keeping things in order. However, OCD is a lot more than wanting your DVD collection to be in alphabetical order or having a tendency to wash your hands. OCD is a mental health condition based around obsessive thoughts and compulsions. The symptoms of OCD often occur in a cycle where an obsessive thought or image produces feelings of anxiety, and compulsions are used to temporarily relieve this. The severity of these symptoms can vary in different people or in different circumstances, with some people being able to self-manage their OCD whereas in others it can be debilitating and therapy/medication is needed. Using the previous examples, someone with OCD may feel the need (not want) to order their DVDs because of intruding thoughts warning that something bad will happen if they don’t, or they may need to wash their hands until they are red and sore because they feel they can’t do another task until they feel sufficiently clean.

Contamination OCD is probably the most well-known subset of OCD, in which the intruding thoughts revolve around the fear of being contaminated with germs and becoming ill. The current situation is therefore a large trigger for sufferers with this type of OCD. Another subset of OCD is intrusive thoughts, something that I have self-managed for a few years and which has been made worse by lockdown. The lack of routine, inability to have a change of environment as well as being physically distanced from friends/family members has led to an increased frequency of intrusive thoughts, from worries about the health of loved ones to flashbacks of upsetting memories.

Now more than ever it is essential that we look after our mental health and seek out ways to manage it, so here are 3 things that I’ve been doing during lockdown to keep the negative thoughts at bay.

  1. Minimise your news intake

At the moment it seems like the only thing being reported on the news is coronavirus and most of the time the news is negative. Being constantly bombarded with negative news stories can quickly become overwhelming and trigger obsessional thoughts. To help reduce this, minimise how much news coverage you see. Don’t seek out the latest news, even skip the daily briefings and get a family member or friend to update you on only the important information that will be useful to know. If there’s breaking news you’ll no doubt hear about it through media other than news articles so there is no harm in avoiding these sites.

  1. Distraction hobbies

One of the most effective ways I’ve distracted myself from intrusive thoughts and compulsions is by focusing on tasks that require my attention. For me that’s involved practising the piano, reading books, watching TV or doing a craft such as scrapbooking. However, sometimes the thoughts are hard to ignore or can come back, especially at night when trying to sleep. It’s important to remember that compulsions only give a temporary relief and don’t get rid of the problem, making it more likely you’ll feel the need to repeat the cycle. This means that the best way to deal with the obsessional thoughts is to ignore them and not give in to the compulsions – a lot easier said than done, I know. Try your best to remember that your thoughts are just that – thoughts – and have no impact on events that are out of your control, so ignoring them will not lead to any of the consequences your mind is making up.

  1. Reach out to your family/friends

It can be really hard opening up about all mental health struggles, not just OCD, due to fear of judgement or embarrassment. However, mental health issues are extremely common, with 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health condition in their lifetime, so the chances are your friends/family may be able to relate to how you’re feeling or know someone else who can. Even if you’re not completely comfortable talking about your mental health yet, just spending time – either in person or virtually – with people you are close to can help improve your mental well-being and boost your mood. If you’re in the position where there isn’t anyone you feel you can reach out to, there are organisations who are there to help. You can call or email the Samaritans at any time ( or, alternatively, Lancaster Nightline are able to help via email (


These aren’t normal times and having no control over what’s happening can feel scary and overwhelming, so if you’re struggling more than usual or have only recently started to struggle, remember that you are not alone. This won’t last forever. You can only do the best you can to get through this and that’s more than enough.


For more information on OCD visit:

If you’re struggling, the following websites offer support and advice: 

Another helpful blogpost can be found at the following website:

How to manage OCD and anxiety during the coronavirus outbreak

The university’s mental health services:

Welfare support for each college: Bowland, Cartmel, County, Furness, Fylde, Graduate, Grizedale, Pendle, Lonsdale

Counselling service

The 30 minute clinic


Other resources


Image credit: Getty Images – Aleksei Morozov