Vindicated. That was the word echoed by therapist Talli Rosenbaum when she quoted (with permission) the response of a patient with an anxiety disorder when asked how he was feeling when COVID-19 first began to spread throughout Israel. Vindicated!Now, months later, this dangerous monster continues to grow and, once again, we were ordered to comply with a lockdown. Ironically, many of us have become more lax about following restrictions rather than more diligent. Why? Perhaps we are in denial. Perhaps we can no longer tolerate the isolation. Perhaps it is because we have a choice: We can choose to obey the rules or choose not to obey the rules. But what if that choice had not been given to us? What if there were something (apparently other than the possibility of illness or worse) that would not allow us to choose whether or not to adhere to the rules? Throughout my training and practice as a cognitive behavioral therapist, I have encountered a variety of populations including those suffering from anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and even emetophobia (fear of vomiting!). One glimmer of light that God has enabled me to extract from the bizarre circumstances under which we are living is the tool by which to convey to others what it is like to suffer from a mental illness, specifically OCD.What is the best way to make someone appreciate the despondency that plagues someone who is depressed? How can we measure the extent of the embarrassment felt by an individual who is afraid to participate in the everyday activities that we take for granted? – flying in an airplane, riding in an elevator, seeing a dog, speaking in public.... Is it possible to illustrate the terror of someone who is constantly reliving a past trauma? Are there adequate words to describe the suffering of someone who is taunted by thoughts and forced to perform rituals that only temporarily relieve anxiety?Over the past year we as a society have been forced to contend with uncharted territory. The emotions we have been feeling and the physical restrictions we are (for the most part) adhering to are new, confusing and, let’s face it, terrifying.Since the start of this pandemic most of us a have been to some degree consumed by the fear of infection and spread of disease. Imagine the unbearable anxiety tormenting an individual who spends his/her entire life trying to avoid and contain contamination! This debilitating phenomenon is one of the possible manifestations of obsessive compulsive disorder. The anxiety that we are experiencing as a result of the need to prevent the coronavirus from infecting us and contaminating others is on par with the thoughts and rituals that torment a person with OCD. The command by the government and healthcare specialists to sanitize our hands, clothes, door knobs and shopping carts in order to lessen the chances of contamination are unfortunately very familiar to the OCD sufferer. The victim of OCD is receiving the same directives from an equally – or perhaps more – feared authority, i.e., the disorder, itself. So too, as is the case with Corona, the ultimate consequences of not adhering to the rules are too morbid to think about.Although the sufferer of OCD knows that on an intellectual level what he or she is feeling and doing is irrational, the threat of the “virus” in his or her mind is quite real. The discomfort and frustration caused by the obsessions, as well as the time, embarrassment and even money-loss caused by the compulsions are comparable to those being experienced by the majority of us today. The dystonia experienced by the OCD victim is very similar to the previously-unimaginable fears and threats to our lives that the rest of us are currently coping with as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. For those whose obsessions and compulsions do revolve around germs and cleanliness, the threat posed by the current health situation only exacerbates the anxiety and distress. For the sufferer of this type of OCD, today’s situation is tantamount to putting an alcoholic in a bar without anything to eat or drink other than alcohol and saying “I dare you!”A significant distinction between the distress and behaviors caused by OCD and that caused by the coronavirus is that the symptoms of OCD do not necessarily manifest themselves as hand-washing or social isolating. Often, the symptoms of the disorder are not obvious to anyone aside from the sufferer, yet are none-the-less as pervasive and debilitating. Finally, arguably the most important fact to remember when trying to understand mental illness is that although different situations elicit fear and anguish for each of us, the consequences of the anxiety are equally as debilitating to all of us.Perhaps now, when we are each being forced to remain in a physical box, we can attempt to think outside of the box and try to identify with the suffering of others. Wishing everyone a healthy new year, 2021!■ The writer is licensed social worker who works for the Tigbur Group and a certified CBT therapist with a private practice in Beit Shemesh. She also suffers from OCD.