How to deal with OCD at the Workplace

by Nadia Negrete

Some people have disturbing images and thoughts in their heads that they can’t shake unless they do something or follow a ritual that reassures them and helps them stop the loop. Those who suffer from this may have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Many of us can divert our attention away from unpleasant thoughts. People with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), on the other hand, are unable to do so, and these obsessive thoughts cause anxiety, which they are unable to dismiss from their mind. Furthermore, these individuals have previous experiences, such as embarrassments, that indicate that certain thoughts are so dangerous that they must be avoided at all costs. These persons can only assure their safety and ease their anxiety by performing specific activities. However, engaging in these behaviours offers no pleasure but only temporary relief from anxiety.

Symptoms may include checking locks, ovens or light switches, fearing that things may be dirty or a compulsion to clean , needing to have things lined up in a certain way and intrusive violent thoughts which can be disturbing. They could also be aggressive thoughts of harming yourself and others and unwanted thoughts regarding sexual or religious subjects.

Some of the OCD sufferers may be highly intelligent and functional. Though most people suffering from OCD do so in silence and are often successful as well, this can lead to potential issues with work performance and allows certain intrusive thoughts to go untreated. People having OCD may take 5-10 minutes doing the ritual to ward off something bad from happening and then again retracing their steps to make sure they did everything in a correct way. All of these hinder the work performance of an individual , both an individuals capacity to work effectively and their relationship with their coworkers. More than half of all working days are lost each year due to high levels of stress and mental health issues.

Managing workplace anxiety can be difficult, especially if you have a complicated and misunderstood problem like OCD. Most organisations have procedures in place to help employees with mental health issues.

An effective way to manage OCD in workplace is through Exposure Response Prevention therapy. Patients usually use this practice outside therapy to help them deal with OCD at work. In this, patients are exposed to thoughts, images, objects and situation which usually trigger your obsession. This is done again and again until the brain stops obsessing over it. Response prevention refers to making a choice to not engage in the compulsive action once the obsessions have been triggered. After a few times, the patient realizes that their anxiety does not rise as high or last as long as it previously did, and they realize the irrationality of their action.

When an unwanted thought arises at work, the patient recognizes the anxiety it is creating and accepts it. After this, the patient takes a 5-minute break during which they focus on the thought and force themselves to accept its presence. Then they force themselves to do the opposite of what their compulsion is forcing them to do, if the about contamination, they may expose themselves to thefear by forcing themselves to lay their hand on the table. As time goes on, they get better at accepting and overcoming these thoughts.

Mindfulness is another technique for dealing with OCD at work. In mindfulness, patients acknowledge and accept their thoughts without dismissing them in any way. Mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing and meditation can be used when triggered by something in the work environment. People who use mindfulness feel less compelled to give into their compulsion and over time, it will improve your ability to function and cope with OCD.

Because being in the present moment might entail stressful intrusive thoughts, feelings, and sensations, mindfulness can be particularly tough for people who have OCD. Rather than trying to stop these unwanted thoughts or feelings by acting on compulsions, patients are told to allow them to exist when practising mindfulness. In this manner, mindfulness is akin to Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP).

ERP teaches patients to confront their triggers and resist the need to deal with them through compulsions. Mindfulness requires being aware of intrusive thoughts or triggers, acknowledging and possibly internally examining any discomforts caused by such ideas, and avoiding the need to act on them. The patient explores the initial feelings or thoughts in greater detail in try to avoid responding to them. These techniques takes the brain away from the fight-or-flight response mode, allowing the individual to fully process, and gain control over the compulsions.



Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for OCD

Cognitive Behaviour therapy is another popular way to deal with anxiety at workplace. In this the obsessive patterns are identified and challenged with the aim of altering unwanted patterns of behaviour. Since CBT involves looking inward, it becomes very difficult for people with OCD to do it on their own. CBT for OCD requires Patients and therapists to work together to look at patterns of behaviour that need to be changed and most workplaces have some external help for this. This improves productivity in the workplace and can lead to stronger workplace relationships between employees.

In Conclusion

Some of the ways to deal with OCD at workplace may include realizing that anxiety is not the problem, but rather the compulsion. Once this is recognized, the individual stops doing the compulsion and stays away from it you, and the anxiety eventually goes away. Further, whenever there is a choice, people with OCD should always go towards the anxiety situation rather than away from it. The only way to over come it is to face it since you can’t run away from your own thoughts, so you have no choice but to face them.

Lastly, when dealing with OCD, it is important to realize that one slip up does not mean that you are a failure or that your techniques aren’t working. It is normal to make mistakes when learning new skills, especially in therapy. Accept it and even if there is a setback, remember that “A lapse is not a relapse.” , which means that you never really go back to square one

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