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?
- Having a To Do List
It just helps me be more organized and less worried about forgetting things
- Never try to answer the “What if” questions
One of the most important things: starting a discussion with your negative inner voice is the worst thing you could possibly do. So try not to answer any of the “what if” questions your OCD is asking you.
- Learning to say “No”
It’s important to learn how to say “no” to requests that you do not have time/skill for.
- Do not procrastinate but ask for help!
If you do not want to work on a specific task because you’re afraid of not being able to complete it well enough, just ask for help!
- And some other tips!
12 things that will help you overcome OCD
Set yourself free: How to break the vicious cycle?
Do not feed the monster! – 5 things that keep your OCD alive
Demons are real: Stop negative Self-Talk!
- Interesting articles from other websites:
5 Tips for Managing OCD at Work
How to Deal with OCD at Work?
Dealing with OCD on the Job
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!