Concerns Versus Compulsions


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought cleanliness and hygiene to the forefront of daily life. However, as you continue to adapt to the reality after vaccination, you may start to think about which pandemic habits you will continue to practice. More importantly, you might think, "Are these habits healthy?"

Immunity 101

When observing behaviors related to bacteria or pandemics, it may be helpful to understand immunity and how your body interacts with its environment.

"Immunity is your body's ability to recognize bacteria and prevent them from causing disease," explained Deeba Masood, MD, an allergy and immunologist at Northwestern Medical.

There are two types of immunity:

Innate immunity is your natural immune system. The innate immune response is immediate.

Adaptive immunity is the long-term protection your body has established when it encounters and remembers antigens (bacteria and other foreign substances).

"Then there are two types of adaptive immunity," Dr. Masood added. The first is active immunization, which refers to the production of antibodies in your immune system after you are exposed to an antigen through disease or immunization. This type of immunity lasts for a long time, and may even last a lifetime.

Passive immunity is the second type of adaptive immunity. This is when you get antibodies against the disease instead of generating antibodies yourself. An example of this is a mother who shares antibodies with her child through breast milk after birth.

In short, these immunity constitute the job of the immune system to help identify and eliminate dangerous bacteria, lest they cause disease or damage to the body.

Cross the line

In the context of immunity, we can understand why the SARS-CoV-2 virus poses such a threat. As a new type of coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 is a new antigen of the human immune system. Apart from physical distance, isolation, and strict disinfection protocols, we have no way to fight it. Until we have a vaccine, that is to say.

Concerns about infection are still valid-we know that COVID-19 vaccines are not 100% effective, although they have proven to be extremely effective in reducing infection and the spread of disease. However, there is a clear and important difference between fear of infection and compulsive behavior related to fear of bacteria. It all boils down to time, life disturbances and troubles.

"If a person's actions are time-consuming and cause severe pain and life disturbances, we would say that these actions are not just a matter of general concern," said Dr. Tina L. Boiso, a psychologist at Northwestern Medicine. . She pointed out that under normal circumstances, "time-consuming" behavior will take up more than an hour a day.

With the pandemic, people expect everyone to wash their hands more and take other disinfection measures. However, if considering your situation, you have taken too many safety measures or are too compulsive (for example, spending hours disinfecting your house), you should talk to your doctor.

Treat the cause

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and other anxiety disorders affect many people. If you are struggling with health-related behavioral symptoms, know that you are not alone. There are treatment options.

"There are very mature and effective treatments for anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder," said Dr. Boisseau. Cognitive behavioral therapy and drug therapy that focus on exposure and ritual prevention are treatments that can be explored together or separately.

If you want to find out which option is best for you, please discuss your symptoms with your doctor.