Are People with OCD More Productive? |

Are People with OCD More Productive?

Kristen Frescoe, MSc
June 8, 2020
OCD Productivity

For people living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (or OCD) the need to feel constantly busy and productive is a constant state of being. A nagging feeling that you need to be getting things done at all times. It can be exhausting.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is defined as a “common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.”

In addition to the clinical diagnosis of OCD, it is also possible to have some of the personality traits associated with the condition. This personality type is characterized by the need for organization and order. These are also people who have a strong need to accomplish tasks they set out to complete.

So it begs the question – are OCD people actually more productive? Or does their need for things to be just right cost them time? Let’s take a look.

OCD as a Motivator

At first glance, it seems like the qualities that underlie this condition would stand to make an individual significantly more productive. In some ways this is true.

Let’s say the average person sets out to accomplish five tasks throughout the course of their day. They will then work towards their goals as best as they can. Perhaps they complete all five tasks, but it’s possible they only completed three or four. Not a big deal.

In the case of the OCD person, this just would not do. The compulsion to complete all of the tasks on their list is too strong to let one or two slide without consequence. The need to finish all five tasks is enough for them to do whatever it takes to get it all done. In this respect, OCD can definitely increase someone’s productivity and ability to get things done. 

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OCD Can Hinder Time Management

There are times when OCD can do just the opposite. While OCD can motivate someone to tackle more of their to-do list, it can have the opposite impact in other situations.

Let’s use the example of making dinner. You come home from a long day and quickly pull something together. This could take you anywhere from 15-30 minutes. Quick and easy.

If you were living with OCD this process could take significantly longer. That need for things to be organized, uniform and done according to your unique standards can take a quick and easy process and turn it into drudgery. What might take a typical person 15-20 minutes might now take upwards of an hour to get things just right.

What Impact Does OCD Have on Productivity 

Overall, people living with OCD are not significantly more or less productive than anyone else. While their tendency towards organization and order may help them get things done, it can sometimes cost them time. The parts of their personality that make them more productive and push to get things done can lead to more time-consuming tasks.

So whether or not they are more productive largely depends upon the person and the situation they are in .

Living with OCD

Living with OCD can be a daily challenge. The balancing act of productivity and time management can be a struggle. Fortunately, you do not need to try to strike this balance all on your own.

Finding an expert who can help you wade through the muddy water can make life much easier. By learning to manage the symptoms of OCD you can become happier and a more productive person.

Kristen Frescoe, MSc

Kristen has a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Forensic Psychology, she worked as a rape crisis counselor, inmate counselor. The research focus was on collecting data to assess the effectiveness of treatments for inmates living with PTSD. She founded a company specializing in Industrial & Organizational Psychology, applying clinical psychological practices in the business world. She is currently the Clinical Program Manager at Resility Health and Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Rowan College.

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