Coping with OCD at work

Has it ever happened to you that you just had to check your sent emails to make sure you had not written anything stupid to anyone?

Well, I guess many of us might have had similar worries but it does not mean that all of us are a “little bit OCD“. Simply because Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – as you can see it in its name – is a mental disorder. So, it is something that you either have or you do not.

But what does having OCD feel like? Well, it’s pretty complicated to explain and I have been sharing my personal experiences ever since I started this blog. And in today’s article, I will talk about how OCD can impact your life at work.

First of all, I have to admit that I am in a pretty lucky position because many of my co-workers know that I have OCD and I can tell you that all of them have been extremely understanding. So, I have not really faced any kind of discrimination. Like, there are people who tell me things such as:

“Oh, I would have never thought you had OCD..you just look perfectly normal”

And I know this could be pretty offensive, but I think the reason why people say such things is that they do not exactly know what OCD is and not because they want to hurt you. So, I really do not blame them for that. Like…before my OCD diagnosis, I did not use to know what OCD was either.

Anyways…back to the topic.

What does it feel like to “work with OCD”?

I would like to share my own experiences with you – as someone who has been suffering from OCD for the last decade. Now, obviously we are all different so I really do not want to give you the impression that everyone who has OCD faces the same problems as I do but I have done a little bit of research on the internet and I’ve seen that there are quite a few people out there whose thoughts, feelings, worries and compulsions are pretty similar to mine.

Compulsive checking – better feel safe than sorry

Well, I guess it’s perfectly normal to double-check your PowerPoint presentation before sending it over to your manager. But OCD sufferers can take this “checking habit” to a whole new level. Like, when I send an email, I will just need to check it a few times to make sure that there are not grammar mistakes in it. And not only because I am a perfectionist but simply because my OCD forces me to do that.

Like, what if there’s a horrible grammar mistake in my mail and the people receiving it will think that I am not professional enough? Or that I am uneducated and that I am not good enough for this job?

And it’s not only about the grammar in my emails or presentations but also about many other mistakes I could have possible made.

For example, when I was working for an airline I was terribly afraid of booking the wrong flight for our customers. Like what if they wanted to travel to London, UK and I booked it for London, Canada instead? So, I would obviously need to check the booking a few times just to make sure I haven’t done anything stupid.

In the most extreme cases, I could even end up listening to my own call recordings. Just to make sure I haven’t said anything incorrect or stupid. Now, I know it’s pretty crazy..and may even be a little bit hilarious. And don’t get me wrong. I know that the things I do are not rational but that’s what OCD is like.

Reassurance seeking – am I good enough?

OCD is like a little monster that sites on your shoulder and whispers terrifying things into your ears. Like a negative inner voice that never wants to leave you alone. And one of the worrying things that this voice loves telling you is that you are not good enough. Now, of course you could tell yourself that it’s not true: you have a lot of experience, you are doing a great job and so on.

But one of the main features of OCD is doubt. So, even if you know that you are doing a perfect job. How could you be so sure? What if your OCD voice is right and you are a complete failure?

Now, this is when you just need to start seeking reassurance. In my case, this reassurance seeking means constantly asking for feedback. At the moment, I am in a pretty luck position – I do not want to go into details about my current job but I get a lot of feedback from the people I work together with (It’s part of the process). And receiving feedback is the favorite part of my job because it just helps me calm down and helps me convince myself that I am doing a good job. But sometimes, I have the feeling that the feedback I receive is not enough (believe me, rationally thinking, it is perfectly sufficient but try to explain this to my OCD). So, I will just start chasing people for even more.

Do they think I am a complete lunatic? Well, maybe..yes. I am that workoholic guy who is constantly worried about his performance. But do people judge me for doing this? Honestly, I do not think so.

Catastrophic Predictions – what if the world falls apart?

The reason why OCD people repeatedly check things or act on their compulsions is not because they like doing it but because they are worried a potential disaster.

In my case, this potential disaster is losing my job. Like what if I make a mistake and I will get fired? And what if I will never be able to find another job? What if I will be unemployed forever? What if I will end up in the streets?

And it goes on. If you have OCD, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is starting an conversation with your “inner OCD voice”. My piece of advice to all of my readers is trying not to answer your “what if” questions because it is like a loop. A never-ending story. Even if you give a perfect answer to one of those “what if” questions, another one will soon appear.

Intrusive thoughts – what If I go crazy and do something insane?

A lot of people think that OCD is a kind of cleaning disorder. Or that it’s only about repeated checking. But Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is much more complicated than that.

OCD sufferers have intrusive thoughts: unwanted thoughts, impulses or mental images that cause significant anxiety and stress. And these intrusive thoughts include a lot of things – honestly, I think it would be impossible to give you a full list of what these thoughts could possibly be but let me give you a few examples:

  • what if I push someone off the stairs?
  • what if I start shouting obscenities in the middle of a meeting?
  • what if I throw my computer out of the window?

As you see, some of these thoughts look pretty crazy. And that’s the reason why they are so distressing. In most of the cases, you know your thoughts are irrational and you know you do not want to act on them. But do not forget: OCD used to be called the “doubting disease” and for a good reason. Because there’s always that “what if”.

Difficulty Concentrating – Mental Exhaustion

After reading all this, are you even surprised mental exhaustion is on my list?

People with OCD spend a lot of time worrying about their thoughts or performing their compulsions and this can lead to mental exhaustion. Sometimes, it’s just difficult for you to concentrate on your tasks because you’re just worried about not having locked the door or about any other terrifying thought (see above.)

Now, the severity of OCD varies from person to person. It can be mild, moderate and severe. But as we talk about a disorder, it’s having a huge impact on the sufferers life regardless its severity.

Procrastination – Lazy or anxious?

For many people, procrastination is perceived as pure laziness but I do not agree with that. Procrastination does not mean that you do not want to do anything – you just avoid a certain task.

And the reason why you avoid that particular task may be that you’re anxious about it and you just feel that you wouldn’t be able to complete it the way it’s supposed to be completed. So basically, you’re afraid of failure. Now I think a lot of people have this feeling and it’s not something specific to OCD but I still wanted to include it in my list.

Saying “Yes” – to Everything

I think assertive communication is one of the most important skills to learn for those who are suffering from anxiety disorders. Why? Because many of us are afraid of “saying no”. And do not get me wrong – honestly, I do not think it’s something specific to those who have OCD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder but it’s a pretty common thing.

I have always found it extremely difficult to say “no”. So I tend to say “yes” to every single request I receive even if I know I do not necessarily have the time for it. What’s the reason behind this habit? I guess I am afraid of hurting others or I’m concerned that other people will think I am not helpful or friendly enough.

What helped me to manage my anxiety at work?

Your OCD experiences

As you know there’s one thing that I enjoy more than writing my stories. Please share your OCD stories/experiences and tips in the comment section!

Mark

27 thoughts on “Coping with OCD at work

  1. Hi Mark !
    This is a very well-explained post.
    While I was doing my doctorate, I worked part-time as a proofreader for a newspaper.
    It made me aware of the importance of checking carefully, since one letter can change fool to foal, goal to goat, etc.
    But as you say, there is a line between being conscientious, and over-checking.
    Thanks for posting.πŸ€—

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sally,

      Thank you ❀ Glad you found it useful.
      Wow – proofreading for a newspaper must have been a very exciting job! Me too I did some proofreading but it was for user guides (for printers, PCs etc..haha so not the most interesting topic to be very honest)

      And well yes – it is funny how one single letter (or sometimes even the punctuation) can change the meaning of a whole sentence.

      Another thing that I just need to check at least a thousand times before sending an email is the font type πŸ˜€ i just always need to make sure that the fonts are matching and that it looks beautiful haha this can also take a crazy long time.

      Thank you for reading

      Stay safe ❀

      Mark

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do this too ! But attention to detail is important, and as you said, a single punctuation mark can change the meaning of a whole sentence.
        I’m also a careful talker, πŸ€— I need to think about my words, and plan, before I speak. 😁

        Liked by 1 person

      2. πŸ˜€ haha I am not a very careful talker myself – that is something that I have to work on πŸ™‚ like when it comes to written communication, I do need to check every single word I have written but…verbally..that is a different story πŸ˜€ I am a very talkative person and I do not always think before I speak – but yeahh…I am trying to change this :))

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done, sir.

    Even though I am “retired” my condition still manifests itself in many ways. One is reading my post at least a dozen times before publishing it and then reading it some more after publication. (I’ll read this comment many times before posting it.)

    I can say that my OCD doesn’t bother me because it’s just part of who I am and it doesn’t interfere with my life too much. A lot of the manifestations are really only known to me, anyway.

    Hope you don’t mind my posting the link to my blog. Might as well get more people to read the blog I write and read. https://disaffectedmusings.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you πŸ™‚

      Same here and this is something that I really need to work on because it is so tiring to re-read every single blog post so many times

      I am glad to read that your OCD does not bother you and I kind of feel the same – its part of me and over the years I have learnt how to keep it under control.

      And thank you for sharing your blog – love your posts!

      Blessings

      Mark

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, Mark! Thanks for sharing.

    I have OCD and working with it has been such a nightmare for me. I left my last two jobs because my OCD had me convinced I was doing a terrible job (even though I’m sure I was doing just fine).

    What I really struggled most with was needing reassurance from bosses, which just made my relationship with them borderline toxic and awkward most of the time. I also experienced a ton of obsessive worry because I was in logistics and nothing ever went right, no matter how hard I tried. I took it so personally!

    Today, I’m doing much better – in recovery and starting a new career that is much less triggering for my OCD. I can say I feel a million times better working from home as a freelance writer :).

    I really liked how you gave the advice of asking for help – it was something that held me back a lot because I didn’t want people to think I wasn’t perfect. It’s good advice for anyone currently struggling with work and OCD. Thanks again for sharing ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there πŸ™‚ thank you for reading ❀ and I am glad to see you have found this post helpful.

      I am sorry to read that and I can totally relate! Like i never actually left a job because of this feeling (because then I am afraid of not being able to find another one!)
      But also at the beginning of this week I was kind of convinced I was doing a terrible job because of a meeting I conducted a few days back – and then some people actually told me it had been amazing and everyone loved it! So …yeah sometimes it is very hard to know whether you are doing a good job or not.

      And well..me too i take everything personally. But I think we are probably not alone with this as a lot of my friends feel the same way.

      Wow thats truly amazing. That ia actually one of my dreams: to become a freelance writer.

      Do you also publish/ plan to publish books?

      And well yes – its hard to ask for help but I think most of the people take it pretty positive πŸ™‚

      Thanks again for reading ❀

      Mark

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! I go through the same thing, I’ll think I’ve done an awful job at a project or leadership role even though the feedback is great.

        I do plan to publish a book on Inherited Family Trauma at some point. Right now I do copywriting and blogging!

        Like

  4. My OCD is mainly of a religious and moral theme called Scrupulosity. Not many people have heard of it. It mainly affects people by them thinking they haven’t done a religious rule correctly or they might have done a sin or offended whichever deity they believe in. But you don’t have to be religious to have it, it can be about moral issues that you think you haven’t done too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can somehow relate with that – like Scupulosity is not the main component of my OCD but I did have similar thoughts in the past: was obsessing over offending God. And well yes – i guess a lot of people have not heard of it and honestly I do not know very much about it either – do you have any article on this topic that you would recommend me to read?

      Blessings

      Mark

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Robin πŸ™‚
      Ah thank you for your message πŸ˜€ and sorry for disappearing for so long.
      Everything is absolutely fantastic but I have soooo much work that its just out of control hahaha πŸ™‚ ( I am working in networking and there are a lot of things going on because of COVID-19 and home office and stuff πŸ˜€ so by the end of the day I am always like..completeley braindead.

      But the good news is that the lockdown has been lifted in my country so I am slowly getting my social life back πŸ™‚

      How are you mate? πŸ™‚ Whats new?

      Nice to see that you didnt forget about me despite not being online for so long ❀

      Cheers

      Mark

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey Mark, no worries! Was just checking πŸ˜„. Glad to hear all’s good!

        Ah, I can imagine that you would be busier in that job at the moment! It makes sense that you work in technology, haha.

        Is the C-word triggering for you? πŸ€”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Haha, I think you edited your comment accidentally submitting, right? It abruptly ended before where the word ‘COVID-19’ now is πŸ˜„.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. In some ways that’s good I imagine, that the work is taking your mind off virus/OCD anxieties? Then by the end of the day you’re probably too exhausted for OCD, lol.

        Yeah damn, all those zoom meetings are fucking it up? πŸ˜†

        That’s great your lockdown has ended! I actually just checked the stats for Hungary before I wrote my message, lol. I was going to compare the cases graph to your posting history 🀣. I’m not joking!

        I’m doing quite good today, actually, thanks :). Been up and down but nothing overall major. I guess you could say the recent sunny weather here became a new focus, because I’m lacking in sunlight and I became obsessed with getting outside by a certain time, to maximise sunlight. Which just resulted in me taking a week to get outside into the garden πŸ˜…. That’s something I’ve done a lot in my life previously. But today I’m doing better and focusing instead on being productive, and if I happen to get outside, then great πŸ˜„. After-all, that’s the situation that people who are working are in! πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ

        Anyways, don’t feel pressure to reply to this comment πŸ™‚. Hope you have a good day mate!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Hey there πŸ™‚

        Yeah – I accidentally submitted my comment, my phone can be pretty crazy sometimes.

        You are totally right! Hhaha like having a lot of work is actually not that bad for my OCD cause all I want to do after finishing at work is going for a walk/ reading a good book or watching trashy TV shows haha.

        Well, I think my OCD was a lot worse at the beginning of this whole crisis and it has been starting to get better since mid- March.

        Nowadays, I would say that I am just as worried about the coronavirus as anyone else but I really do not obsess over it anymore.

        I am glad to read that you are doing good πŸ™‚ and well yes – I think sunshine does make people happier. Me too I try to get as much sunshine as possible.

        If i had a garden, I could work outside without any problems but I am living in the city center so I can only leave my flat after my shift is over.

        Hows your weekend been? Are you guys are allowed to go hiking or just have a walk in the nature?

        Have a lovely day mate! πŸ™‚

        Cheers

        Mark

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: