Obsession with COVID-19 Scale: A New Form of Psychological Disorder?

A score of ≥7 on this newly invented scale indicates dysfunctional COVID-19 thinking.

Source: Supriya Bhonsle at mixkit.co

Sherman A. Lee, an associate professor of psychology at Christopher Newport University, has recently invented a scale to identify excessive COVID-19 thought patterns. This new Obsession with COVID-19 Scale (OCS) would be of great help for scientists to conduct more standardized research on the mental health aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Lee first analyzed online survey data from 1,173 adults of about 30–32 years old across the US. He then looked for patterns that could describe dysfunctional or disordered COVID-19 thinking. Using bootstrap statistical analysis for reliability confirmation, he identified four such patterns:

Public domain source: Lee (2020). How much “Thinking” about COVID-19 is clinically dysfunctional? Brain, Behavior, Immunity. In press. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2020.04.067

Professor Lee then examined the validity of the OCS by correlating it against other validated indicators of psychological dysfunction. He showed that a high OCS score was “strongly associated with coronavirus anxiety, spiritual crisis, alcohol/drug coping, extreme hopelessness, and suicidal ideation.”

In the third step, he used ROC curve analyses to identify a cut-off diagnostic score. Results indicated that an OCS score of ≥7 has an 81–93% sensitivity and 73–76% specificity in identifying “dysfunctional COVID-19 thinking patterns,” he wrote. [Note that the symptoms are scored over a two-week period.]

  • ROC curve: Statistical method to identify the cut-off diagnostic value with optimal sensitivity and specificity.
  • Sensitivity: Accuracy of correctly identifying people with a particular disease/disorder.
  • Specificity: Accuracy of correctly identifying people without the disease/disorder.

Professor Lee originally published his paper titled, How much “Thinking” about COVID-19 is clinically dysfunctional?” in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. In his paper’s concluding statement, he urged health experts, academicians, and policymakers to acknowledge this emerging “obsession with COVID-19,” as measured by the OCS.

Could this obsession be a new type or subset of psychological disorder? Only time will tell if it would be included in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association).

Disclaimer: This content aims to inform and should not be substituted for any professional diagnosis or advice.

Author’s note: Professor Lee has previously created the Coronavirus Anxiety Scale (CAS) that has 17 different languages, owing to its vast practicality worldwide. The OCS is actually the second mental health medical screener he created. Feel free to visit the Professor’s own website:

MSc student | 4x published academic author | 100+ articles on coronavirus | Freelance medical writer | shinjieyong@gmail.com | Malaysia

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