Covid and obsessive-compulsive symptoms: how the pandemic has changed us

Obsessive-compulsive symptoms and Covid: an open webinar on Sunday 10 October

The Covid-19 pandemic has made us all a little obsessive-compulsive

“Did I disinfect myself sufficiently?”, “Did I wear my mask properly?”, “Could my shoes also be contaminated?”, “What about the shopping?”, “The mail?”: these questions have often crossed our minds, prompting us to pay attention to our gestures, to take every precaution to avoid contracting the virus and passing it on to our loved ones.

In this pandemic context, we have had a taste of what it means to be afraid of being infected and how much effort and stress caution entails.

What distinguishes normal doubt from pathological doubt?

What are the mechanisms that trap a person in obsessive-compulsive disorder? How do we get out of it?

This will be discussed on Sunday 10 October 2021 during the third edition of the conference Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): understanding how it works in order to choose how to treat it, organised by the School of Cognitive Psychotherapy in Rome on the occasion of World Mental Health Day, which for over twenty years has aimed to raise awareness among institutions and the community and to stimulate the necessary efforts so that everyone can exercise their full right to psychological well-being.

The meeting, sponsored by the Italian Association of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (AIDOC) and SITCC Lazio (Italian Society of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), will take place at 5 p.m. in webinar mode, is free and open to all.



“Did I run over any pedestrians while driving my car? Did I wash my hands enough? Did I turn off the gas? And the car door?” “Did I arrange the objects on my desk correctly?”

These are normal doubts that arise daily in our minds without causing us any particular discomfort.

When they persist and heavily condition a person’s life, they come to constitute a real disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): according to recent estimates, about 800,000 people in Italy suffer from it.

OCD can be so debilitating and invasive that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has ranked it among the top ten most disabling diseases, in terms of loss of income and reduced quality of life.

People suffering from OCD find themselves carrying out daily exhausting checks to ensure that they have closed the front door, the car and the gas, massively washing their bodies and the environment to prevent illnesses, repeating the same gestures to ward off misfortune, or driving the same route several times to ensure they have not caused an accident.



Several studies have investigated the effects that the spread of Covid 19 and the consequent prevention and containment measures have had on the physical and mental health of the world’s population.

The authors reported a general worsening of various clinical conditions and an increase in psychological difficulties both in adults (Hao et al., 2020) and in children and adolescents (Clemens et al., 2020).

In the light of these data, it is interesting to ask what consequences the Covid-19 emergency has had on OCD; on the other hand, what we are experiencing is for many of us a taste of the universe in which a person with OCD finds himself living every day: in particular, we are struck by frequent intrusive thoughts about the possibility of being contaminated or about our responsibility to adequately protect ourselves and our loved ones.

Recent research has analysed the data collected during the first lockdown (January-May 2020) on people with obsessive-compulsive disorder in several countries including Italy (Benatti et al., 2020) and a worsening of obsessive-compulsive symptoms was confirmed also in the Italian sample.

In particular, a significant increase in contamination obsessions and washing compulsions was demonstrated both in adults (Prestia et al. 2020) and in children and adolescents even in the presence of ongoing treatment (Tanir et al., 2020).

A possible explanation for these data could be related to the constant fear of the virus and the incessant recommendations to maintain high levels of hygiene (Chaurasiya et al., 2020).

Finally, there has been an increase in avoidance behaviour and a greater demand for psychiatric counselling during lockdown than in the previous year (Capuzzi et al., 2020).

In the webinar scheduled for Sunday 10 October, experts of national and international renown, moderated by journalist Paola Mentuccia, will share and disseminate the scientific knowledge currently available on this disorder: Francesco Mancini, psychiatrist and psychotherapist, director of the Schools of Specialisation in Cognitive Psychotherapy (SPC) and psychologists and psychotherapists Teresa Cosentino, Francesca Mancini, Monica Mercuriu, Giuseppe Romano, Angelo Maria Saliani, Paola Spera and Katia Tenore.

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Agenzia Dire

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