Pandemic Side Effects – The New Normal for Those with BDD and OCD

Pandemic Side Effects – The New Normal for Those with BDD and OCD

Eda Gorbis, PhD, LMFT

Member Since 2008

Dr. Eda Gorbis, PhD, LMFT is the Founder and Executive Director of the Westwood Institute for Anxiety Disorders in Los Angeles, California and a Clinical Assistant Professor (V) at the USC Keck School of Medicine. The Westwood Institute is often called an intensive center of 'last resort' for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), and other anxiety disorders. By integrating treatment methods with a multidisciplinary team of experts, Dr. Gorbis has brought hundreds of people with prior treatment failures to normal functioning. Her expertise was prominently featured on programs, such as "20/20," "60 Minutes," and "MTV's True Life.”  She has given over 170 conference presentations on topics related to her intensive treatment of OCD, BDD, and anxiety disorders around the world.

Dr. Gorbis and ADAA

"Back in 1994, I applied for a poster presentation for the ADAA annual conference based on my observations that there is a certain group of patients whose onset of OCD began after a certain level of trauma/PTSD. ADAA's committee accepted my presentation for a symposium which was supervised and led by one of the leading experts in the world on OCD and PTSD: Dr. Edna Foa (also an ADAA member). 

Once the poster was accepted, an unbelievable buzz went through the OCD and anxiety disorder community at UCLA. This incredible association not only accepted my paper but also found it to be important enough to be presented at the conference. Had it not been for that day at ADAA, my career could not have skyrocketed the way it did, and I would not have achieved the same levels of success. The acceptance that I felt at that conference and the sense of exuberance that rushed over me means more to me than any other peaks that I have experienced in my career. Not even the appearances on documentaries and TV shows nor the multiple awards I received could surpass the moment my supervisor passed a quiet remark that today marked the day I was accepted within the anxiety disorders community. Ever since then, I have given hundreds of presentations, and I have never missed one with the ADAA conference.

For me, ADAA was the first step in my professional journey and helped me gain the confidence to step onto other big and bright stages later in my career. I believe that ADAA can be that same stepping-stone for other young professionals. ADAA offers an incredible professional stage for anyone looking to begin their career."

Pandemic Side Effects – The New Normal for Those with BDD and OCD

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Pandemic Side Effects OCD and BDD

The pandemic has set a new era into motion. One year ago last month, when the world went into lockdown, people learned to become afraid of the outside world and social interaction for fear of contracting the deadly virus. The fear can be seen in public areas such as marketplaces and shopping areas when people get too close to one another. The generational trauma of the pandemic is on the same level as the pandemic of 1918, the great depression, the holocaust, and the cold war. As a result, mental health has been greatly and negatively impacted across the world. (Cullen, Gulati, & Kelly, 2020) The pandemic has also affected younger children that have been taken out of school for fear of contracting COVID-19, which has negatively affected social development and interaction due to isolation. Researchers are expecting children to have higher rates of social anxiety and posttraumatic stress symptoms when the time comes for children to physically return to school on a full-time basis, but are cautious about these preliminary results. (Lee, 2020)

Increasingly, we are observing a change in telehealth where the face-to-face appointments are limited only to the essential medical workers. Appointments for psychiatric visits are limited overall. Our own colleagues have become withdrawn onto their own homes despite being vaccinated and have settled into telehealth culture. There are only a few offices that are still open and accepting patients, but are currently overwhelmed by the amount of patients that require their services every day. (Vindegaard & Benros, 2020)

Though researchers are aware of the increase in anxiety and depression among the general population, it is difficult to say how the pandemic has specifically impacted those with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). It is theorized that while the isolation is damaging to mental health, anecdotal evidence suggests those with BDD may find relief in the use of face masks in public and incorporate it as a camouflaging behavior. Like those with eating disorders who wear baggy clothing to hide their physical body, those with BDD may wear clothing that hides the most concerning aspect of their appearance (ex. wearing a sun hat to hide facial features).

Similarly, there is not much research yet into how the pandemic has affected people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Some of the newer research that came out late last year and earlier this year have suggested that the public concerns about the contraction of the virus and the widespread use of sanitizing products have validated fears surrounding contamination and sickness, further encouraging compulsive behavior. (Fontenelle & Miguel, 2020) There is also evidence to suggest that the pandemic can increase panic attacks for those with OCD and can also be triggering for those who have achieved remission in obsessive symptoms or trigger new obsessions focused on COVID-19. The use of telehealth has been shown to be as effective as in-person treatment, but if a patient has severe obsessive compulsive symptoms, they should request to see the clinician in-person for in person therapy sessions, which can include Exposure and Response Prevention (ExRP) and other forms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

Things will never be the same as it was before the pandemic and nothing will be the same going forward. However, it does not mean the world cannot move forward and continue to survive. Patients should continue their current treatment plan and keep reaching out to their clinician. People have also found online support groups to be helpful during this time, as it helps to combat loneliness and motivates patients to keep up their progress. There is hope for protection as vaccine rollouts have continued trending upward and restrictions have relaxed. Dealing with uncertainty in the "new normal" will be a new part of exposure sessions and a step towards continuing on.

Special thanks to Rebecca Braverman for her assistance in writing this blog.

Resources:

  • Cullen, W., Gulati, G., & Kelly, B. D. (2020). Mental health in the Covid-19 pandemic. QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, 113(5), 311-312. (Cullen, Gulati, & Kelly, 2020)
  • Fontenelle, L. F., & Miguel, E. C. (2020). The impact of coronavirus (COVID‐19) in the diagnosis and treatment of obsessive‐compulsive disorder. Depression and anxiety, 37(6), 510-511.
  • Lee, J. (2020). Mental health effects of school closures during COVID-19. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, 4(6), 421. 
  • Vindegaard, N., & Benros, M. E. (2020). COVID-19 pandemic and mental health consequences: Systematic review of the current evidence. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 89, 531-542. (Vindegaard & Benros, 2020)
     

Eda Gorbis, PhD, LMFT

Member Since 2008

Dr. Eda Gorbis, PhD, LMFT is the Founder and Executive Director of the Westwood Institute for Anxiety Disorders in Los Angeles, California and a Clinical Assistant Professor (V) at the USC Keck School of Medicine. The Westwood Institute is often called an intensive center of 'last resort' for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), and other anxiety disorders. By integrating treatment methods with a multidisciplinary team of experts, Dr. Gorbis has brought hundreds of people with prior treatment failures to normal functioning. Her expertise was prominently featured on programs, such as "20/20," "60 Minutes," and "MTV's True Life.”  She has given over 170 conference presentations on topics related to her intensive treatment of OCD, BDD, and anxiety disorders around the world.

Dr. Gorbis and ADAA

"Back in 1994, I applied for a poster presentation for the ADAA annual conference based on my observations that there is a certain group of patients whose onset of OCD began after a certain level of trauma/PTSD. ADAA's committee accepted my presentation for a symposium which was supervised and led by one of the leading experts in the world on OCD and PTSD: Dr. Edna Foa (also an ADAA member). 

Once the poster was accepted, an unbelievable buzz went through the OCD and anxiety disorder community at UCLA. This incredible association not only accepted my paper but also found it to be important enough to be presented at the conference. Had it not been for that day at ADAA, my career could not have skyrocketed the way it did, and I would not have achieved the same levels of success. The acceptance that I felt at that conference and the sense of exuberance that rushed over me means more to me than any other peaks that I have experienced in my career. Not even the appearances on documentaries and TV shows nor the multiple awards I received could surpass the moment my supervisor passed a quiet remark that today marked the day I was accepted within the anxiety disorders community. Ever since then, I have given hundreds of presentations, and I have never missed one with the ADAA conference.

For me, ADAA was the first step in my professional journey and helped me gain the confidence to step onto other big and bright stages later in my career. I believe that ADAA can be that same stepping-stone for other young professionals. ADAA offers an incredible professional stage for anyone looking to begin their career."

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