LAS VEGAS (FOX5)-- “It’s been interesting to see everyone else become as aware and cautious as I’ve always been,” Elena Jacob said. “I find myself saying to people, ‘yes, that’s what I’ve been talking about all these years. And you thought I was crazy.’”
For Jacob, tasks like proper hand washing, wiping down surfaces and avoiding door handles are second nature.
“I call myself a germaphobe all the time,” she said.
Jacob has a type of OCD that centers around what’s clean and what’s not clean.
“If I hand someone a credit card to pay for something, that becomes unclean,” she said. “I keep track of if this finger touches something dirty, I will go wash my hands immediately.”
Gloves, wipes, hand sanitizer, Jacob has all the tools to avoid touching any surface.
“I have my own shopping cart that I keep in my car,” she said.
They’ve all been part of Jacob’s routine for years.
“I don’t really want to shake someone’s hand because that causes me distress. But that’s rude so I have to do it, then somehow sneakily wash my hands or put hand sanitizer without anyone seeing me,” Jacob said. “And now, you don’t have to tip toe around it. No one wants to shake your hand.”
When the coronavirus pandemic first began and people rushed to buy cleaning supplies, Jacob said it was stressful.
“You guys didn’t care about this before, and I did,” she said. “And then now I’m doing my normal shopping and you’re all hoarding it.”
Jacob has always wiped down her groceries.
“We clean all the produce, a packet of cheese before putting it in the fridge,” she said. “It’s just an unavoidable part of grocery shopping, especially with produce. People touch apples, avocados, they touch everything.”
While it’s been a relieve to see others take hygiene as seriously as she does, Jacob said this pandemic sets back her progress, managing her OCD.
“I’m backsliding on the progress I was making, relaxing on the world,” she said. “Because now the world is confirming, that I should be careful. And maybe I should be even more careful.”
Elena’s therapist Geri Smith said she is seeing more people, seeking help to manage their OCD during this time.
Smith said it is challenging. Along with helping them relax and get into a routine, she has to try new treatments because things like exposure therapy won’t work anymore.
“We give them something that they’re fearful of, like we touch a handrail, normally they want to run to the restroom and wash their hands. Then I say OK, let’s sit with the feeling,” Smith explained. “But we can’t do that anymore because we’re not touching handrails and if you do, we have to wash our hands.”