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Talking OCD & Work with Dr. Jan Weiner

How Does OCD Impact a Person's Ability to Work?

Written by Lauren O'Shaughnessy

01 Dr. Jan Weiner is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist practicing in the Murray Hill neighborhood of New York City.

02 In this video, she discusses the relationship between OCD and the workplace. For more info on Dr. Weiner, please visit: www.drjanweiner.com

03 OCD3 is a web series that brings professional perspectives to the OCD community so sufferers can make healthy decisions and lead better lives.

OCD3: OCD & Work

Read the full transcript below:

1) How does OCD affect the work environment?

OCD often impacts one's work environment, especially if it takes longer for them to complete work because they’re distracted by an intrusive thought. People may have difficulty concentrating on getting their work done that day. They may find themselves avoiding certain tasks because it's getting in the way of them getting to the bottom of their thoughts. Getting work done can take 3 times what it would take that same individual when they're not experiencing a spike pattern or intrusive thought.

OCD affects other aspects of work as well. People may avoid certain experiences based on the nature of their obsessions. If they're having thoughts about a coworker, they may avoid that coworker, avoid contact with that coworker, or worry about how they're portraying themselves to that person. They may avoid certain conference rooms or bathrooms because of fears of contamination. Everything from getting your work done to meeting with your boss to worrying about getting fired because you had a typo in something that you did.

2) What misconceptions might my coworkers have about OCD?

One of the biggest misconceptions about OCD, is that you have to be a neat freak, you have to have things organized, or that you're a germaphobe. For most people who have OCD, those aren’t the predominant symptoms. People are often suffering in silence with intrusive thoughts or different forms of OCD that are lesser known, such as Pure O. They’re not always locking and unlocking doors, or counting steps. They’re experiencing very troubling thoughts.

Another big misconception is that OCD is easily recognizable. Many people experience OCD and suffer the symptoms silently. They don't disclose their struggles to coworkers or family members. They're able to maintain high functioning, normal lives while suffering with an extremely challenging secret.

I find that most people with OCD are high functioning and intelligent. It takes a significant amount of thinking and planning to be able to have intrusive thoughts. It's almost as if the brain is working with higher moral standards, so there’s a ton of overthinking and overanalyzing. We know plenty of doctors, lawyers, writers, and other reputable people in society that you’d never expect to be suffering from OCD, that do.

3) When should you tell an employer about your OCD?

It really depends on the nature of the job and the nature of your relationship with your boss. In certain circumstances, I would say disclosing is not appropriate. In others, I’d say absolutely tell them. Doing so can help you get the extra time and support that you need to get your work done. But ultimately, the decision is dependent on the unique setting.

4) How do you manage intrusive thoughts at work?

There are some things you can do to combat intrusive thoughts in the workplace. If you’ve worked with a professional before, this is a great time to do exposures. Think the negative thought and slowly turn the intensity of that thought up. Go to the bathroom and do this for 5 to 10 minutes. Imagine the worst case scenario. If you’re having an intrusive thought about a coworker, think: What if I kill my coworker? If I did, what object would I use? How would I do it? Would it happen in the office or outside? Let the thought get worse and worse. If you’ve done these techniques with a therapist, you should know how to control this process. If you haven’t, I wouldn’t recommend it because your thinking may be hard to control. Pushing yourself to the edge often helps your brain calm down and realize the pattern of irrational thinking.

If that doesn't work, mindfulness techniques can be quite useful. Allow the thought to come in and out without trying to control it. Let your intrusive thoughts be with you throughout the day, and do your best work with the presence of that thought there. You’ll learn how to push through despite the distraction.

5) Can OCD medication affect my job performance?

SSRIs do have side effects. Some of them make people tired, some of them make people a little jittery. They can have some bearing on performance. But again, SSRIs don't change who you are. The goal of the SSRI is to turn down the volume of the anxiety. So there might be some mild side effects, but over time most people feel a reduction in the volume of their anxiety. It often takes getting through the initial reaction to see real effects.

For more videos from our OCD3 series, head to our YouTube channel here.

About the author

Lauren is the editorial director and cofounder at the Made of Millions Foundation. She has been a part of the team since its launch in 2016. She has been open about her personal struggles with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and social phobia. You can follow her on Instagram at www.instagram.com/internet_lauren.

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