Some with OCD, other anxiety disorders are struggling amid the coronavirus epidemic. ‘It’s tripping the wire for many different people.’

From Chicago Tribune by Angie Leventis

Chicago-area clinical psychologist Karen Cassiday estimates that three-quarters of her patients in recent therapy sessions described heightened anxiety stemming from the coronavirus epidemic. Other clients have been texting her questions ignited by fears related to the new disease.

While health experts say the risk of contracting the new coronavirus locally remains relatively low, the swirl of news over outbreaks — and the ensuing public reaction — has taken a particularly heavy toll on the mental health of some who have obsessive-compulsive disorder and other anxiety illnesses.

Anxiety disorders affect some 40 million adults in the United States, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The International OCD Foundation estimates that about 2 million to 3 million adults nationwide have some form of OCD, a particular anxiety disorder characterized by a cycle of distressing obsessions and compulsions. One OCD subtype centers on contamination fears, which often spur compulsive hand-washing, disinfecting, avoiding contact with perceived contaminants, and other unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Stephen Smith, 26, of Northbrook described his struggle with OCD and severe, intrusive thoughts, which developed when he was in college years ago.

He then sought treatment and found relief through exposure and response prevention therapy — repeatedly facing the source of the fear without engaging in compulsions, rituals, avoidance or other unhealthy coping mechanisms. The experience inspired him to launch a mobile treatment platform called NOCD, which connects the user to an OCD-trained therapist and offers treatment via live video appointments.


Read the full Chicago Tribune article here.