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Ray – CBC Radio 0:04
We’ll keep some water with you. Stay hydrated. Thank you very much, John 20 minutes now before seven o’clock, the pandemic has certainly heightened levels of fear and worry, but that becomes more complex for individuals with pre existing anxiety disorders. Since smart OCD North Barrie has seen an increasing number of people seeking help with COVID related OCD symptoms, including children. My next guest says as the pandemic progresses, healthcare professionals should prepare for more complicated cases of OCD and other concerns. Merrisa Bragg is the Clinical Director of OCD North Canada’s first privately funded and specialized OCD clinic. Good morning.
Merrisa – OCD North 0:48
Good morning, Ray. Thanks for having me.
Ray – CBC Radio 0:50
Oh, thank you very much for joining us. Could you first just remind us what what it is to have obsessive compulsive disorder clinically?
Merrisa – OCD North 1:00
Absolutely. So those who are diagnosed with OCD live in fear. Obsessions almost always have a what if component that doesn’t go away on its own? In the context of COVID-19 That might sound like what if I give Coronavirus to my husband? And because the fear feels so real compulsions are developed and serve to protect the feared outcome from occurring.
Ray – CBC Radio 1:25
And so how because everybody has had that level of anxiety up because of COVID. How does this exacerbate somebody who might already have obsessive behaviors?
Merrisa – OCD North 1:38
Absolutely. So as you said, historically speaking, fear, anxiety and panic are all heightened during epidemics and pandemics. When we have Health Canada recommending increased hand washing, keep your hands away from your face, stay inside, people with OCD take that to the extreme. And so if we don’t have 100% certainty when it comes to OCD, then it’s fear. And so we might see people staying inside longer than they need to for quarantine, we might have people afraid to leave their houses, that sort of thing.
Ray – CBC Radio 2:14
And so what have you observed even people who are seeking help at your clinic,
Merrisa – OCD North 2:21
I’ve seen people who are afraid of being contaminated by germs, fear of contracting COVID-19, but also fear coming to their family or of the public in general, people who work in the public services afraid to return to work, because they’re afraid that they could inadvertently give COVID-19 to one of our clients or customers?
Ray – CBC Radio 2:44
And how would someone know because as I mentioned, a lot of people are experiencing Yes. How do you know if you’re not just being affected? But but by the pandemic, that these fears and that you actually have something where you need to seek help?
Merrisa – OCD North 3:00
Great question. If an individual must do more than the precautions recommended by Health Canada, that’s something to pay attention to. And by that, I mean, if you’re washing your hands, when you come home for 20 seconds, that’s what we’re supposed to do. If you’re not touching your face, often, that’s what we’re supposed to do. But if you’re keeping your your groceries on the table for fear that they’re not standard hand sanitized yet, and not putting them in your cupboard for fear that they could have COVID-19 If you’re going over and above what’s recommended by Health Canada, that’s something that we need to look at.
Ray – CBC Radio 3:43
I wonder too, whether this pandemic is actually maybe masking symptoms for people because of the excessive handwashing that is now become normal?
Merrisa – OCD North 3:58
Yeah, I don’t know that it masking symptoms as much as it might be making them worse. We’re normalizing excessive hand washing now. So people with excessive hand washing OCD may just feel vindicated that they now have an excuse to wash their hands more often.
Ray – CBC Radio 4:21
So what sort of Spike Have you noticed in your office?
Merrisa – OCD North 4:27
Every call, every call away that has come in since March has been attributed to COVID-19 and the pandemic, whereas pretty COVID people sought treatment for OCD for a multitude of different symptoms. Now it’s exclusively COVID-19 and Pandemic related.
Ray – CBC Radio 4:43
And so things like the hand washing or wearing gloves and stuff in what about among kids?
Merrisa – OCD North 4:51
Youth are it’s difficult to know what’s going on with kids because they don’t necessarily have the insight or ability that adults do to think about their symptoms. as related to COVID-19, so much has changed for, for kids all at once. On the same side, so much has changed for parents all at once. And parents might not know what to look out for. Because every kid is going through something. There’s so much more confusion, so much more misinformation, so much more oversharing of parent information. But there might be things that are missed. And I see it all the time in my practice.
Ray – CBC Radio 5:27
And what do you do then to help people who come to your clinic,
Merrisa – OCD North 5:31
we use a treatment called exposure and response prevention. So we help people overcome the fears that maintains OCD, by exposing them to what they fear the most in a therapeutic and safe way.
Ray – CBC Radio 5:45
And so what does that mean? What does that entail?
Merrisa – OCD North 5:48
So for somebody that has contamination, OCD, for example, in this context, we would, because we have Health Canada recommendations to to go by, we would maybe go out to a grocery store with our mask on and come home and wash our hands for 20 seconds once. And that would be it. And for people with contamination, OCD, they might feel the urge to take a shower, or wash their hands repeatedly. And by doing it only one. We’re living in that uncertainty.
Ray – CBC Radio 6:26
And what’s your recommendation? Because there could be you know, triggers all around us right now.
Merrisa – OCD North 6:32
There are triggers all around us right now. So my recommendation is to follow what Health Canada has recommended. If you’re having trouble doing that, look at getting some help.
Ray – CBC Radio 6:46
And what is your advice then for healthcare practitioners and how they should prepare for an increase in cases?
Merrisa – OCD North 6:54
We need to we need to know that we are going to see an uptick in mental health concerns. Even now, but moving forward as the pandemic progresses. V is we’re going to see more complicated, more complicated cases of OCD and other anxiety disorders. So much so that our healthcare system isn’t prepared to handle so local providers need to be cognizant and aware that that’s coming.
Ray – CBC Radio 7:22
Yeah, to recognize it or really exactly. Marissa, thank you very much for sharing your insights with us.
Merrisa – OCD North 7:28
Thank you for having me.
Ray – CBC Radio 7:29
That’s Marissa Bragg, clinical director of OCD North in Barrie