Coping with obsessive compulsive disorder during the holidays

December 7, 2017, Baylor College of Medicine

While the holidays are a joyful time, they also can be stressful, especially for those who live with obsessive compulsive disorder. One Baylor College of Medicine expert discusses how to cope with OCD during the holidays.

"Like with any mental illness, certain symptoms of OCD are exacerbated during stressful times," said Dr. Elizabeth McIngvale, assistant professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor. "During the holidays, people are excited to be around other people, have meals together and do a lot of activities that they might not normally do, which can cause unexpected triggers."

McIngvale said this busy time and heightened stress may result in less sleep and a decrease in taking care of your , like postponing important doctors' appointments.

  • Some coping tips that McIngvale recommends for those with OCD include:
  • Not letting treatment slip aside. Staying up-to-date on your treatment should be your No. 1 priority even during the holidays, so do not let shopping and other activities get you off track.
  • Finding time for yourself. If you need to take a short break from being around other people, you can take a walk, eat a meal by yourself, turn off your phone for an hour or watch an episode of your favorite television show.
  • Trying to push yourself out of your comfort zone a little bit. Often people with withdraw and isolate themselves, especially around the holidays, because they do not feel comfortable around their family or they do not feel wanted. However, that is not helpful and in the long run can create depression and increased anxiety. For someone with OCD, the more they stay at home and are not involved in social activities, such as work or volunteering, the more their OCD symptoms worsen.

For family members who are concerned that their loved one might be struggling with OCD, McIngvale said to be on the lookout for the following signs:

  • Increased time in the bathroom, increased washing rituals and/or cleaning rituals. These can be repetitive rituals that include long amounts of time in the shower or long amounts of time washing or cleaning hands.
  • Hands that are cracked, raw, bloody or very dry.
  • Lots of reassurance-seeking. This can mean asking questions repetitively that are unnecessary but are being asked in an attempt to feel better or to have a reduction in anxiety. It may seem like the person with OCD is asking the questions to seek approval or they may seem like they are confessing something.

"Just remember to take good care of yourself and you'll be able to enjoy the holidays," McIngvale said.

Explore further: Tips for coping with rejection

Related Stories

Tips for coping with rejection

August 17, 2017
With the school year starting soon, many students will be trying out for various sports teams and other activities, and while many will make these teams, others will not. Even though this rejection almost always stings, one ...

Expert discusses the common misconceptions about obsessive compulsive disorder

June 28, 2017
While most people have heard of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), there are many misconceptions about what it truly means to have it. A Baylor College of Medicine expert discusses these common misconceptions and gives ...

Advice for displaced persons during the holiday season

November 15, 2017
The holiday season is a time to give back, and that is especially important to remember this year due to the impacts of Hurricane Harvey. Although many people are back in their homes, others are still displaced. One Baylor ...

Signs that someone is struggling with an addiction

November 28, 2017
While the holidays are a time to be enjoyed with family and friends, they also are a time when signs of addiction may be observed. Baylor College of Medicine's Dr. Thomas Kosten discusses the signs that families can look ...

Managing cancer treatment and holiday season expectations

November 20, 2017
During the holiday season, it can be difficult to manage family meals, social gatherings and a healthy diet, but it can be especially exhausting for people undergoing treatment for cancer and their family and friends. Experts ...

Expert offers tips on coping with divorce during the holidays

December 13, 2016
The holidays are usually a time when families gather together to eat, open gifts and catch up. However, for some families who have experienced a divorce, the holidays can be difficult. One Baylor College of Medicine expert ...

Recommended for you

When it comes to our brains, there's no such thing as normal

February 20, 2018
There's nothing wrong with being a little weird. Because we think of psychological disorders on a continuum, we may worry when our own ways of thinking and behaving don't match up with our idealized notion of health. But ...

Jymmin: How a combination of exercise and music helps us feel less pain

February 20, 2018
Pain is essential for survival. However, it could also slow the progress of rehabilitation, or in its chronic form could become a distinct disorder. How strongly we feel it, among other factors, depends on our individual ...

College roommates underestimate each other's distress, new psychology research shows

February 19, 2018
College roommates are sensitive to their roommates' distress but tend to underestimate the level of distress being experienced by others, finds a newly published study from New York University psychology researchers.

New approaches in neuroscience show it's not all in your head

February 16, 2018
Our own unique experiences shape how we view the world and respond to the events in our lives. But experience is highly subjective. What's distressing or joyful to one person may be very different to another.

Link between hallucinations and dopamine not such a mystery, finds study

February 16, 2018
Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) and New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) found that people with schizophrenia who experience auditory hallucinations tend to hear what they expect, ...

People find comfort listening to the same songs over and over, study finds

February 16, 2018
With the frequency that some people play their favorite song, it's a good thing vinyl records aren't used often because they might wear out.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.