OCD and Productivity: How Obsessions and Compulsions Get in My Way

OCD is different for different people. While some people have obsessions and compulsions around cleanliness, others have obsessions and compulsions around harm (rooted in a fear of hurting themselves or others).

Similarly, some people have obsessions and compulsions that relate to work.

Let’s say you’re a bookkeeper. You might fear that if you don’t do your work perfectly, you’ll end up losing your job and becoming destitute.

To soothe your anxiety, you spend hours checking and rechecking your work. You also ask your colleagues to check your work. This slows you down.

OCD can affect your productivity, even if your obsessions and compulsions don’t directly relate to work.

Compulsions tend to take a lot of time and energy out of your day, which can also affect productivity.

For example, someone might have a “checking” compulsion: They feel the urge to check that all their doors are locked 10 times before leaving the house.

As a result, they might often be late for work, and when they eventually get to work, they already feel anxious and unable to focus.

As another example, let’s say that someone has constant intrusive thoughts about self-harm. Although they don’t want to hurt themselves, they can’t shake off the thoughts. They feel the need to pace up and down in order to soothe those thoughts. This makes it difficult for them to sit down and focus in the office.

Even if we take compulsions out of the equation, obsessions are exhausting.

I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve lost because I’ve been obsessing about past events or religious imagery.

And the problem is that being unproductive can be stressful. Stress can worsen symptoms of mental illnesses, including OCD.

In my case, I always felt like I fell into a vicious cycle: Stress made it harder for me to focus, and my lack of focus increased my stress levels.