Workplace mental health: 4 things you should know about OCD in the workplace

Signs of OCD in the workplace

OCD affects an estimated 750,000 people in the UK, and many of those people are in the workplace.

How many times have you said ‘I’m so OCD’ or heard ‘That’s so OCD’ about someone else’s behaviour? The truth is, often, as humans, we can be very particular about certain things, and that’s OK and it can even occur in the workplace. We may align our stationery, or clean the house every 2 hours, but categorising these types of behaviours as Obsessive-Compulsive-Disorder can blur the lines around the listed mental health condition.

“My friend Sally and I are en route to a lovely spa day. But what if I just drove straight into that tree? I’m shocked that I had this thought so randomly, I can’t carry on driving, Sally has to take over.”

The above is an example of an intrusive thought and, as a result, avoidant behaviour.

What is Obsessive-Compulsive-Disorder?

“OCD is an anxiety disorder characterised by you feeling inappropriate, distressing and repugnant intrusive thoughts, images or impulses (obsessions) that occur against your will. The compulsions are the things we do to avoid or ‘control’ our thoughts. Those behaviours can also be internal behaviours (mental activities).”

Employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for employees with OCD if they know, are aware of, or could ‘reasonably be expected to know’ that an employee has OCD. Most employees will tell their employer what reasonable adjustments they need. They often involve simple changes in the way an employer might usually do things.

If the employee does not disclose a health issue or disability which may affect their performance upfront, the employer should broach the subject sensitively if they suspect that there may be a disability behind the employee’s reduced performance.

The truth is, every one of us experiences unwanted and intrusive thoughts; it’s part of being human. However, those who do not have OCD can easily dismiss these thoughts as uncomfortable, weird, or just something their brain does and get on with their day.

Here are four things that employers should be aware of about OCD:

  1. OCD is more than just excessive cleaning or hand washing: There are 5 main types; Checking, Ruminations & Intrusive thoughts, Contamination, Symmetry and ordering, Hoarding – all of which could have an effect in the workplace when not handled correctly.
  2. You can’t always see compulsive behaviour: ‘Pure O’ is a subtype of OCD – It’s when a person experiences obsessive, unwanted thoughts without visible compulsions or rituals. These compulsions mainly exist in the form of reassurance seeking and mental rumination. Employers should make sure that all staff feel comfortable enough in the workplace to disclose any mental health issues.
  3. There isn’t always a cause for it: So often, people associate mental health conditions with some big life event or unsteady past. But actually, one day you can have a thought about something, and it can stick. Once your brain reacts uncomfortably to it, like it’s a threat, it can become a continuous loop thought that triggers conditions such as OCD.
  4. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the treatment of choice for OCD: The treatment of OCD is a combination of; psycho-education, attentional focus training, exposure and response prevention, behavioural experiments, cognitive restructuring, graded cognitive exposure.

When to intervene and offer workplace mental health help:

It’s not easy for people to know when they need help, but employers can make sure that workplace mental health is a comfortable subject for all staff to discuss and accept. It’s essential to seek help when the condition makes it hard to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. By this, we mean not being able to maintain close relationships or conduct daily activities such as heading to work. 

But it can be faced; it can be overcome, OCD recovery is possible.

“Inside, I was miserable. I wouldn’t have believed anything could have changed this. But I told myself I needed to do CBT for me – and I stuck to it. I went to every single session and came out the other side.” – Ava.

You are not alone, read Ava’s OCD story.

CBT is a fast and effective treatment of OCD, and we are delighted that 92% of our patients reach full recovery from the condition. We are here for you and your employees.

To find out more about how CBT therapy can aid your workplace’s mental health, or to book an appointment please get in touch.

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