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How to Succeed When one Suffers from OCD at Work

10 min read
Last Updated on 17 January, 2023

Each year, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) impacts millions of individuals, both professional and personal lives. People with this illness find it particularly difficult to perform efficiently at work. As a result of the symptoms, it can be difficult to have a smooth career and do well at work.

People think obsessive-compulsive is limited to behavioral problems. But people with OCD don’t do all these out of happiness; rather, they do it because it is out of their control.

What is OCD?


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a chronic and protracted Illness. A person with OCD has uncontrolled, recurrent thoughts (obsessions), urges to engage in repetitive behaviors (compulsions), and other symptoms. Symptoms of OCD are:

  • Numbering or counting items

  • Examining stuff

  • Constantly washing hands or cleaning the desk.

“Hand sanitizer is a gateway drug for OCD.”

People with OCD may have trouble handling everyday chores. These people, however, cannot simply turn off their OCD when they arrive at work, which causes tension, anxiety, and other pressures throughout the workweek.

OCD in the Workplace


OCD may make it difficult to do daily duties like getting dressed or getting ready for the day if it is not addressed. It can also impact the person’s relationships with their surrounding. As a result, it is not unexpected that OCD might affect workers in the office.

Managing anxiety can be difficult when experiencing racing thoughts and obsessive behaviors. At the same time, one can spend that time on the things most important to the person, such as jobs, relationships, and daily routine activities.

“It’s like you have two brains – a rational brain and an irrational brain. And they’re constantly fighting.”– Emilie Ford.

  • OCD at work frequently leads to miscommunications between coworkers, employees, and managers.

  • Before going into a meeting, a person with OCD might need to double-check their files. As a result, their coworkers could assume that they are unreliable or tardy.

  • OCD makes employees inconsistent and less efficient at work, which could also trigger workplace discrimination.

What Does it Look Like?


Many OCD sufferers describe it as a "24-hour battle with your brain. It can be a crippling and paralyzing illness that makes doing daily routine chores challenging.

Depending on their health, some people may find it difficult to use public transportation, while others may not even be able to leave their homes. The effect on someone's capacity to carry out daily tasks varies.

It doesn’t matter if someone is the CEO or an executive; OCD can happen to anyone. This list provides a quick summary of the behaviors one could see in people with OCD at work.

Symptoms of OCD in the workplace include:

1. Obsessive Hand Hygiene:

Office workers may use hand sanitizer excessively or wash their hands more frequently than recommended. Sometimes people may repeatedly wash their hands till they bleed, just like a href="" target="blank" rel="nofollow">Howard Hughes, A billionaire who suffered from OCD.

American business tycoon and philanthropist Howard Hughes lived from 1905 until 1976. A worsening of his obsessive-compulsive disorder is now recognized to have contributed to some of his eccentric behavior and secluded living later in life. He wore tissue boxes on his feet to protect them while he slept naked in bed in what he believed to be a germ-free hotel room.

2. They take longer to complete tasks because they are preoccupied with an unwanted notion.
3. People with this condition find it difficult to focus on one particular task.
4. Dramatic structure:

Some employees may become obsessed with office supply arrangers or the kitchen. Workers could view a workplace kitchen as the source of all worries. This employee may spend hours cleaning the coffee machine and sorting the dishes when someone leaves the room.

5. Continuously concerning about coworkers’ views and opinions.
6. Meeting frustration:

Some habits are more subtle, while others are more obvious and expressed inwardly. An employee with OCD may become dysregulated if the specific sequence is not followed during a team meeting if there is a plan.

They could show this by adjusting their seat, diverting the discussion, or making outbursts to get it back on the sequential subject. Also, they intend to avoid restrooms and meeting rooms out of concern for infection.

How does OCD at Work affect the Company?


Depending on the industry, size, and number of afflicted personnel, OCD can affect businesses. According to one research, OCD causes sufferers to miss an average of 46 days of work annually.

1. Production of Work

Work efficiency is the key result. While more time often equates to increased productivity, workers with OCD issues find it difficult to give more time to their work.

Employees will lose five hours every week, or 261 hours if they are sidetracked for one hour each weekday. If this person earns $20 per hour, the corporation will miss out on more than $5,200 in paid time.

“You lose time. You lose entire blocks of your day to obsessive thoughts or actions. I spend so much time finishing songs in my car before I can get out or redoing my entire shower routine because I lost count of how many times I scrubbed my left arm.” — Kelly Hill.

2. Contradiction Among the Team

Establishing team standards and performance can be challenging when a team includes one or more individuals with OCD. OCD personnel may require meetings to be conducted in a certain manner and tasks to be performed in a particular sequence before moving on to the next item of business due to their obsessive and repetitive behaviors. Non-OCD workers may get frustrated or unhappy at work due to these extra measures. To make teams work with OCD personnel, they should do extra care and planning.

3. Customer Satisfaction

OCD personnel may find it challenging to customize their help to a customer's demands, to be more accommodating, and to communicate with them carefully. Client satisfaction decreases if an employee feels compelled to carry out a task in a manner that differs from what the customer wants. Repeating processes or attempting to have the client provide information in a particular order are examples of this behavior.

4. Challenges for Employers and Employees

Treating someone unfairly because of a medical condition, including OCD, is unjust. For instance, if someone is otherwise eligible for the post, they cannot withhold employment because they have OCD. Although the law is clear, prospective and current workers with OCD may sadly have varied experiences.


OCD discrimination in the workplace frequently takes the form of:
All said and done, but people still might feel discriminated against because of their condition. And at times, people don’t even realize if they are discriminating.

What discrimination towards them looks like:

  • Believing OCD patients will prevent them from performing, and these employees are often neglected during a promotion.

  • Since the sufferers need to take pauses from particular duties or conversations made fun of by coworkers or cause them to become irate. They believe people with OCD are "less fit" than they are for the position.

  • No particular policy for mental health days off.

  • When talking about mental health, terms like "mad," "insane," or "weak" are frequently used.

  • Due to these reasons, employers find it difficult to disclose their illnesses to their employees. But with proper care and policies, employers can help these employees.

Should They Reveal?

It might be daunting to decide to disclose impending troubles with OCD to the employer. The nature of the work and professional relationship with those folks will determine how all of this will play out. Opening out can relieve pressure and make other employees more sympathetic to the situation.

People in this situation often have these kinds of thoughts:

  • They ponder if their future or existing workplace will understand, support, or even know what OCD is.

  • They fear being overlooked, let go, or eliminated via attrition.

  • They apprehensive about the opinions of others in the office

  • They fear that they will later regret their choice.

  • Fear of getting banned in their field of employment

  • fearing others won't trust them with crucial jobs or obligations

Criteria for Disclosure

There is no one correct response in this situation, and one must consider options. No one must reveal their diagnosis before or after obtaining a job. However, one can protect adjustment eligibility by disclosing their diagnosis to a prospective or present employer. It may be necessary to know health status to get benefits.

How to Normalize OCD at Work?

If someone feels safe about telling their condition to their present employer, in that case, employers are responsible for ensuring they know the kind and severity of the symptoms.

Although not necessary but after consultation with a medical practitioner disclosing essential facts about the disease will create awareness about the condition in the workplace and help employers to make adjustments required to the wellness program/platform

1. Making suitable modifications for OCD sufferers

Employers must accommodate employees who wish to disclose they have OCD if they want to. The changes should be decided upon to ensure that the OCD sufferer is comfortable with the procedure. These can include flexible work schedules or time off for rehabilitation.

2. Flexible work schedules

For those with OCD, being on time for work is a common issue. Oversleeping or poor planning are less likely causes of delay than the need to go through time-consuming rituals while leaving the house or repeatedly go back because of concerns about leaving appliances or doors open. Flexible scheduling might be beneficial.

Suggested Read: Try the Sleep Challenge and Feel More Productive at Work

3. Flexible social gatherings for them

Having intrusive thoughts might be worsened by social situations. Employers might want to consider enabling employees to join the meeting by phone or laptop.

4. Rumination

Rumination is a typical OCD symptom that frequently results in people worrying excessively over a former idea, memory, or event. Due to this, people could become disoriented at work or fail to meet deadlines. Allowing someone to take a brief might be beneficial.

“Ruminating on OCD obsession is like praying for something you don’t want.”

5. Private working space

A shared office may cause anxiety and distress for certain OCD sufferers, especially those with obsessions related to contamination or obsessions with the order. Consider granting a worker their desk and making a pact with the rest of the employees not to use it while they are away.

6. Flexible Working hours

Sometimes, people may wake up feeling like they simply cannot face the day, just like all mental health issues or everyday worries. For someone with OCD, this could be very obvious. Consider accommodating time off for therapy or medical visits, allowing the option to work from home, or having fewer working hours.

However, be careful that these adjustments don't just reinforce OCD compulsions.

How to Manage OCD at Work on an Individual Level?

Here are some strategies that one could find useful to try, even though each person's approach to controlling OCD is different.


  • Mindfulness may be quite helpful in controlling OCD, especially under pressure. One can use mindfulness methods while standing, sitting, or moving or incorporate them into physical activity like yoga or exercise.

  • Maintaining a healthy sleep routine, 7-10 hours per standard time. Average levels of sleeplessness are greater in OCD sufferers, frequently due to participating in obsessions and compulsions. Unfortunately, insomnia can make OCD symptoms worse.

Suggested Read: How Sleep Deprivation Affects Work Performance

  • Stress factors at work "may affect how OCD symptoms are felt over time. People without OCD frequently become hooked on certain thoughts or mental patterns under stress. Stress "may exacerbate OCD symptoms" for OCD sufferers. As a result, it's crucial to remain present and alert about one’s feeling, thinking, and behaving at the moment."

Help on the Way

For someone with OCD, finding the perfect professional match might be difficult. Millions of people with this condition still pursue rewarding occupations. Treatment for the disease usually involves a combination of counseling and drugs. Keeping the problem open with workers can help them make the necessary adjustments to thrive at work.

One should consider seeking a diagnosis and therapy if one experiences
persistently troubling thoughts,
compulsive habits,
stress, or anxiety disorders, affect the ability to function at work.

Without therapy, OCD won't get better. Treatments for those who are dealing with OCD at work:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy assists patients with OCD in recognizing and changing the false beliefs that fuel their worries.

  • Meditation therapy: This mindfulness-based treatment can assist OCD sufferers in developing their attentional concentration and mental calmness.

  • Dialectical behavior therapy benefits OCD sufferers who struggle to control their emotions.

  • Art therapy: This expressive kind of treatment can assist OCD sufferers in creatively externalizing their thoughts and feelings.

  • Yoga therapy: This all-natural treatment can help OCD sufferers control their symptoms and strengthen their mind-body connection.

“Recovery takes time. Don’t get discouraged.”

One may reduce symptoms and perform better at work by utilizing any OCD management techniques, even though they all require time and repetition.

A Word from Us:

1-2% percent of the population suffers from OCD, but with the correct assistance and care, people may get well and have fulfilling lives. In workplaces, employers must also strive to have an inclusive workplace policy, accommodating people with OCD.

Employers may improve the lives of many individuals by putting in place effective support systems and paying attention to their employees. Having a supportive and pleasant workplace can assist in this rehabilitation. If one can learn to control their OCD symptoms, they can resume enjoying life, working, and being successful at their job.

This article is written by Daina Barman who is a content writer and marketer at Vantage Circle. Besides being an epicure trying to cook every dish possible, she likes to dance her way around everything. To get in touch, reach out to

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