Support line: 0800 048 7035 (Open 9:00am-5:00pm weekdays)

The worries of the pandemic: obsessive cleaning

Since March our support line team have been speaking to people who have various worries about life during the Covid-19 pandemic. These have varied from specific practical queries to seemingly unspecific worries. Here is the story of one caller who we spoke to.

Bethany called Guideposts in July as she was extremely anxious about shopping, receiving post, wiping surfaces, washing clothes and the thought of lockdown ending.

Bethany had a history of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) which she had received treatment for, and had thought she was in control of the symptoms before the Covid-19 crisis. Since lockdown she had been washing everything when she returned from shopping including all goods purchased, shopping bags and her clothes at 60 degrees. She also wiped down surfaces with antibacterial wipes and used hand gel. The hand gel was starting to affect her skin and this worried her too in case Covid-19 could get into the open wounds. Bethany was exhausted from the constant anxiety and cleaning.

Debbie, one of the Guideposts team members, talked Bethany through the risks posed by the virus, the possibility of catching the virus, the prevalence within her local area, and the frequency of her cleaning, She suggested writing a diary so that Bethany could see exactly what she was doing and the effects it was having on her daily routine. 

Bethany thanked Debbie for listening to her. She felt reassured by the facts that helped her to put it into context. 

Over several calls, they discussed in more detail alternative solutions to cut down on the amount of cleaning Bethany felt was needed. These included strategies to leave items for 72 hours rather than washing everything; not needing to use hand gel as well as washing with soap and water; and using hand cream to heal her dry skin. They also discussed how to safely host Bethany’s daughter and grand-children for tea in the garden.

A few weeks later we were glad to hear from Bethany again, with the news that she had stopped some of the behaviours as a result of talking to Debbie and was feeling much better.

Support for people with long-term conditions and carers 

With the end of shielding on 1st August, many of us are confronted with the risks of day-to-day living, and the possibility of sudden localised lockdowns. But the Guideposts Information Service is supporting people with long-term conditions and carers to manage the current situation by: 

  • Practising anxiety-management techniques to feel more confident about going out of the house 
  • Talking through decisions about the safest way to access health and social care 
  • Finding the right assistive equipment to stay safe and independent at home 
  • Connecting you with social groups and peer support online while local groups are still unavailable 
  • Signposting to sources of financial and employment support.

Call our free support line on 0800 048 7035.

Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm, and calls to the support line are free. Alternative, you can email us at, or talk to an adviser via webchat at

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