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COVID-19 has changed the way therapists treat patients with OCD

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Posted at 11:31 PM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-12 15:45:40-04

GREEN BAY (NBC26) — Wearing a mask and gloves, frequent hand-washing and surface-sanitizing have become habits for many of us over the past year. But prior to 2020, these would be considered OCD rituals.

The definition of ‘mental illness’ has changed over the past year, and therapists are changing the way they treat patients.

“If someone came in and said, like, 'Oh, I insist on wearing gloves or wearing a mask when I’m in public,' we would’ve said, 'Nope, that’s excessive, that’s the anxiety, not real,'" said Maria Recker, OCD and Anxiety Therapist with Rogers Behavioral Health. "And now that is a norm.“

Recker used to treat patients with contamination OCD and anxiety with Exposure Response Therapy.

“Having someone go in public, touch things and not wash their hands," she said. "We can’t recommend that anymore because it’s not actually safe.“

Therapists are still figuring out what the future of treatment will look like, said Recker.

“The world is dangerous," she said. "We are encouraging a lot of things that previously we would say are rituals and we would want to cut out.”

This may, Recker wants people to know there’s no shame in getting help.

“People judge those with depression or anxiety, think they’re lazy or weak," she said. "But we don’t blame someone who has cancer, and say, like, 'Well if you just tried harder, your cancer will disappear. Your tumor would be gone.' But with mental health, it’s seen as their fault, when it’s not.“

Thanks to teletherapy, there’s more access to help now than ever before.

“I think it kind of opened the door to this new way of looking at therapy," said Recker. "And I do think it’s normalized it somewhat.“

Although more patients are getting back to in-person treatment, Recker has been able to treat patients virtually who live in different states, and she doesn’t see that changing in the future.