|My desk at work.|
Monday was my third anniversary at my current job, and it prompted me to think about ways my obsessive-compulsive disorder affects me on the job.
We spend a significant portion of our time in the workplace if we work outside the home. And if we have OCD, we bring it to work with us.
Some of us may be able to adjust enough to perform our jobs well despite having OCD. For others of us, the anxiety disorder affects our ability to do our job.
How can we cope? What does the law say about OCD in the workplace?
I recently wrote a post about a hectic day I had trying to gather news on a homicide case.
On that day, my compulsive checking of my phone came to light. But there are other ways OCD affects my work.
In some ways, my obsessions and compulsions make me a good employee. I am very careful with the details, with the facts. I am conscientious about doing a good job.
But the OCD pushes my conscientiousness into the negative.
Here’s an overview of what I do in my job. I’m a staff writer for a weekly newspaper called the Altavista Journal.
I’m the county reporter. That means I cover Campbell County government, the sheriff’s office and the courts.
I also do general assignment reporting as needed. I may go to a chamber of commerce ribbon cutting for a photo; I may interview a local author; I may write about a new business in town.
At larger papers, I would probably have just one of those beats, but at a small weekly, a single reporter does a lot of different things.
In addition to covering and writing the news, I help with layout, editing and proofing on Tuesdays, the day we prepare the paper for the printers.
I also upload the stories to our website and prepare the e-edition.
When I write, I am full of anxiety because of all the checking and rechecking of my notes and attributions.
The result is that it takes me longer than it should to write a story.
I’ve never missed a deadline—and sometimes, a tight deadline actually helps me get the job done. But time is wasted.
Accuracy and honesty are keys to good journalism, and I’ll never stop striving for the best I can do. My problem is knowing where “doing my best” ends and “this is OCD” begins.
If I don’t check my notes one more time, am I risking getting a fact wrong? Am I being careless?
Checking also comes into play when I update the newspaper website. I worry about putting the wrong headline or byline on a story or making some other mistake.
How do I cope? I use the same tools that I use with OCD at home and in other parts of my life. I tell myself that it’s OCD and not a real concern. I write a story and stop myself from rereading it for the umpteenth time. I refuse to check behind myself when I update the website. I practice sitting with the anxiety.
Am I always successful? No. But I keep on trying.
Michael Tompkins, Ph.D., discusses OCD in the workplace in his book OCD: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed.
He said when the OCD gets so bad that it interferes with our ability to do our job, it could be time to consider whether or not to tell our employer about our OCD.
“The Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA) protects you from discrimination by an employer due to mental illness, such as OCD. In addition, a prospective employer cannot deny you employment simply because you have OCD, if you are otherwise qualified for the position. Although this is the law, many people with OCD have had quite different experiences when they told their employers that they have OCD. For this reason, it is important that you carefully consider the potential costs and benefits of telling or not telling your current or potential employer about your OCD and that you discuss this with your therapist, if you are currently in treatment.” (p. 126)
Tompkins goes on to say that those with disabilities must be able “to perform the essential functions or duties of the job, with reasonable accommodations” (126).
A reasonable accommodation may mean an adjustment in schedule or task: “For example, if getting to work on time is a problem because of your OCD or appointments with your therapist, or if your medication causes drowsiness in the morning, you might ask for a flexible schedule that permits you to come in later in the morning and work later in the day” (p. 129).
I told my boss that I had OCD. When I began having nearly weekly appointments with my therapist, I felt like I needed to explain why I needed to be away from work for them.
Thankfully, he is familiar with OCD and my telling him has worked out well.
I don’t believe I need any other accommodations other than the flexibility to go to my appointments because I am able to perform my job despite the OCD. I’m in treatment, and I believe the OCD will only get better with more work on my part.
I’m grateful for that.
Does OCD affect you in the workplace? Have you told your employer or would you tell your employer about your OCD?