What Are the Pandemic Side Effects on Those with BDD and OCD?

What Are the Pandemic Side Effects on 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."

What Are the Pandemic Side Effects on Those with BDD and OCD?

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Pandemic Side Effects OCD and BDD

The pandemic set a new era into motion. When the world went into lockdown in 2020, people were afraid of the outside and any kind of social interaction, becoming fearful of contracting the deadly virus. The fear was seen in public areas such as marketplaces and shopping centers where people came into close contact. The generational trauma of the pandemic is now possibly on the same level as the 1918 Pandemic, the Great Depression, the Holocaust, and the Cold War. As a result, mental health has been greatly and negatively impacted worldwide.

The quarantines also affected children who were taken out of school for fear of contracting COVID-19. Whatever the safety precautions, this negatively affected social development and interaction due to the isolation. Researchers now expect children to have higher rates of social anxiety and post-traumatic stress symptoms, having returned to school full time. Nonetheless, they are cautious about any preliminary results. 

Furthermore, we observed a change in telehealth where face-to-face appointments were limited only to essential medical workers. Appointments for psychiatric visits were limited overall. Our own colleagues became withdrawn into their own homes despite being vaccinated and so they settled into a telehealth culture. There were only a few offices that remained open and accepted patients, but now they are overwhelmed by the amount of people requiring their services every day. 

Mental health professionals are aware of the increase in anxiety and depression among the general population, but it is a bit more difficult to say how the pandemic specifically impacted those with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). It is theorized that while the isolation was damaging to mental health, anecdotal evidence suggests those with BDD found relief in the use of face masks in public and incorporated it into their camouflaging behavior. Like those with eating disorders who wear baggy clothing to hide their bodies, those with BDD may wear clothing that hides the most concerning aspect of their appearance (ex. wearing a sun hat to hide facial features), such as a mask.

Similarly, there is not much research into how the pandemic affected people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Some research suggests that public concerns about the contraction of the virus and the widespread use of sanitizing products validated fears surrounding contamination and sickness, further encouraging compulsive behavior. There is also evidence to suggest that the pandemic increased panic attacks for those with OCD and perhaps triggered those who had achieved remission in obsessive symptoms or triggered new obsessions focused on COVID-19.

The common use of telehealth now 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 therapy where sessions can include Exposure and Response Prevention (ExRP) and other forms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

Things will never be the same as before and moving on, there will of course be changes. However, it does not mean the world cannot move forward and continue to survive. Patients should continue current treatment plans and keep reaching out to their clinicians. People have also found online support groups (find one here) to be helpful, as they assist with loneliness and motivate patients to keep up their progress. There is hope for protection as vaccines become more and more accessible and potent, and restrictions have almost disappeared. Uncertainty in the "new normal" will be a continued part of exposure sessions for some time but that doesn't mean we can't adapt.

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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