VANCOUVER -- A B.C. psychiatrist says her research suggests many people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder are coping well with COVID-19.

Speaking to CTV News Vancouver Tuesday, Dr. Evelyn Stewart said she thinks what the pandemic has done is introduced people into the regular lives of someone living with OCD.

"For folks who've been living with OCD for years, they have been going through their daily lives fussing about, 'Should I touch that door handle? Have I washed my hands enough? Will I infect that person?'" the University of British Columbia professor said.

"So really it's introduced the rest of us into their world, as it were."

Mental health experts have been urging the public to be prepared for what some call the "echo pandemic," meaning a rise in mental health cases as a result of novel coronavirus.

Stewart said she, too, fears that OCD cases may be on the rise.

"Whereas folks with OCD seem to be faring fairly well and showing a lot of resiliency, according to what I've heard, my concern is for the folks who are at genetic risk for developing obsessive-compulsive disorder," she said.

"We know it's a genetic disorder, but also there's an influence of environmental factors, and this is probably the biggest environmental trigger for OCD, I would say, in all of our lives."

She said her concern is that a number of people will have significant challenges as we emerge from the pandemic .

Stewart was asked at what point to habits including hand washing or cleaning a residence become cause for concern.

"Very often people get confused about what OCD is. Having a pattern or a way of going through life – something that is helping you, something that is reassuring to you – that is not OCD. OCD is when you have recurrent, intrusive thoughts, things that you can't control," Stewart said.

People are almost bullied by those thoughts, and feel the need to engage in certain behaviours as a result, she said.

"If you were stuck not just Saturday morning but all through the night doing your reorganizing, that might be OCD."

With an interview from CTV News Vancouver's Norma Reid