Coronavirus and OCD

Dr Elaine Ryan
Written by Dr Elaine Ryan Psychologist and Founder of MoodSmith® Elaine obtained her Dr in Psychology from the University of Surrey and has worked in psychology for 20 years. Dr Ryan specialises in Intrusive Thoughts, OCD and anxiety-related conditions.

I have been updating some articles on MoodSmith, relating to OCD, specifically contamination, and decided it would be more helpful if I write my thoughts on the implications of the coronavirus and OCD.

I think the most significant difficulty with the coronavirus and OCD is that proper handwashing and being aware of cross-contamination is necessary to stay safe and stop the spread of Covid-19. But it begs how to stay safe and not have an increase in any OCD related behaviours. 


Inform yourself how to wash your hands properly and prevent cross-contamination by reading information from a reputable source in your country. I found the following helpful.

Restrict your reading time

Could you read the information and then leave it? Reading information once will help you to prevent further obsessions and compulsions from developing.

Once you understand the significance of handwashing to protect yourself and others, there is no need to keep researching articles on cross-contamination. Be mindful that re-reading and researching may be turning into a compulsion to ease any anxiety you currently experience and will not help in the long run. You might find it useful to read this article on reassurance seeking.


The advice is to wash for 20 seconds, and there are many helpful videos on the correct way to wash your hands. 

If you have OCD and struggle with handwashing, be careful that you do not wash for much longer or start washing up above your wrists.

Wash for 20 seconds and then stop. You might find later that you are worried that you haven’t washed enough or for long enough, treat that possible obsession as an unwanted intrusive thought. 

What to do if you if notice that you are continually worrying about Covid-19?

If you notice that you are continually thinking about coronavirus when you did not plan to do so, you can treat it as an unwanted intrusive thought.

Try the following

Rather than engaging with the thought and analysing it, mentally say to yourself, ‘there’s a coronavirus thought,’ and bring your attention back to your surroundings and the present moment. For example, if you were reading a book, your reading was interrupted by unwanted thoughts of the pandemic. Bring your attention back to the room and back to your book.

Tara Brach has some excellent resources to help you to say mindful.

Restrict social media time

Social media may have incorrect information on the current pandemic. Watch for mindless scrolling. Restrict the amount of time you spend on social media and remember to stick to know factual advice such as Gov UKNHSCDC

Look after your emotional health.

  • Exercise, where allowed
  • Do things you enjoy
  • Practice Mediation

You can’t control what is happening, but you can control how you react to it.

Online self-help

If you would like my help, please see my online courses

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