Quarantine Helped My Child’s OCD

During a time when everyone is struggling with the effects of the coronavirus, myself included, I have found a silver lining. My daughter’s obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms have drastically decreased. Most people I talk to are beginning to have mental health problems stemming from the isolation and uncertainty of our future. But she is thriving in this stable, predictable environment that is quarantine. She knows that every day will be the same as the last: wake up, complete school work, and play with her siblings. 

Samantha was only diagnosed with OCD within the last year but has been exhibiting symptoms since she was about five years old. I brought her to countless therapists, all with differing opinions about what she was experiencing. Some called it an adjustment disorder of some sort and one even told me I had to change the way I dealt with her behavior because there was nothing wrong with her. Then the rituals began. She would wash her hands excessively, ask me to repeat the same three phrases at bedtime over and over again until she was satisfied, which she never was, and she was constantly asking for reassurance. She developed tics, which included coughing and sniffling, and her behavior was so outrageous, she began getting in trouble at school because of aggression. It would take hours to get her to bed at night because something wasn’t right and she couldn’t sleep. She would scream and cry and there was never a resolution to the problem. At this point, I suspected OCD and brought her to the pediatrician requesting a referral to a therapist that dealt with OCD specifically. After finding the right fit, she was officially diagnosed, placed on medicine, and began to work on retraining her brain. We always suspected stress was a trigger, in school and at home. When she would get nervous, her tics would become almost constant. While she was making great strides during her treatment, she was not in total control of her symptoms.

During this quarantine, I realized her tics were gone. We’ve spent the last three months together, 24-7, and I’ve never heard them once.  Her behavior overall also improved. She wasn’t so “inflexible” as her therapist liked to call her. While she has not been attending school or leaving the house, there is also another major event that has not been taking place; she has not been going to see her father every other weekend. I have Samantha from my first marriage and we share custody, every other weekend and one dinner a week. But as soon as this started in March, we were all sick (thankfully not with COVID) and her father and I decided she should stay put for the time being. So for three months, she went without seeing him and without her tics, anxiety, rituals, and ill behavior. 

She left today to spend a week with her dad. I have no idea what to expect when she comes back next week and I’m dreading it. I’m afraid that all of the progress we’ve made in these last three months, albeit unintentionally, will be erased and become a distant memory. I’m worried our nighttime routine of putting together puzzles and spending quality time together will be replaced with screaming and crying, both from her and myself, and no one will walk away happy. She hasn’t seen her therapist in three months, but she was still making all of this wonderful progress. Now, I don’t know what the future holds for her and it scares me to even think about it.