The COVID-19 pandemic was life-shifting for everyone around the world. Whether you took the global shutdown as a chance to reevaluate your priorities and live life more fully, or fear became a regular part of your day, the pandemic affected you in some way. How impactful and long-lasting those changes became may not have been obvious until you tried to return to your “new normal” life.
Now that most of us have adjusted to the post-pandemic shift, experts have seen an increase in reports of neurodivergence and OCD. Many students and employees got so used to an online world that returning to in-person classes and jobs became traumatic.
How has the new, pandemic-affected world turned up the dial and increased the prevalence of OCD? Let’s dig into those statistics here.
What is OCD?
Definitions of mental disorders change depending on the DSM version in use by psychologists at the time. Currently, the standard of reference is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V-TR).
Per that definition, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) refers to those who experience the presence of obsessions or compulsions, consuming at least one hour each day or causing major distress or dysfunction to the affected person’s life.
Obsessions are anxiety-inducing thoughts that are difficult to push out of your head. Compulsions are specific behaviors or mental acts that a person repeats over and over in response to a self-made rule that is created to reduce anxiety or keep something unwanted from happening.
It’s one thing to have a realistic concern that causes you to double- and triple-check your surroundings for safety reasons. But when they become compulsive and obsessive, taking extra time out of your day and causing distress if they aren’t completed, you likely have OCD.
The Rise of OCD
Pandemic headlines shouted the need for extreme care as part of the COVID-19 safety precautions. If you weren’t diligent about washing your hands, wearing your mask, and avoiding contact with others, you could, quite literally, kill them by spreading a deadly germ.
Now that we know more about how the virus acts and have it under control, the behaviors we adopted to keep those around us safe have morphed into compulsions for many. Studies show that since the pandemic, 38.6% of the population has shown severe symptoms of OCD, as opposed to 15.3% pre-pandemic rates.
These studies reviewed dozens of clinical research articles, case reports, and guidelines on various adult patients with OCD symptoms. The results were clear: whether or not a person had OCD before the pandemic, their obsessive-compulsive behaviors increased significantly after the global shutdown.
Seeking Help for OCD
With this substantial spike in the rates of OCD across the general population, it’s vital that the public is made aware of the dangers and symptoms of this condition. While the behaviors themselves may not be harmful, OCD can prevent a person from living a normal life, and the fear of the consequences of not following through with a compulsion may lead to harm.
OCD is on the rise. If you or someone you love has developed obsessive-compulsive habits since the pandemic, reach out to a professional for help.