Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) shouldn't have to prevent you from carving out a fulfilling career that helps you develop your talents and showcase your abilities.
Finding the right career path can understandably take a bit of extra effort when struggling with the challenging thoughts and behaviors that go along with OCD. But with the right mix of creativity and research, you'll be able to identify some jobs where you may thrive in.
This post gives you a head start by listing some of the best jobs for people with OCD as well as information on how to make your day to day work-life more manageable. But first, let's start with the basics...
WHAT IS OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER?
If you've been living with OCD for any length of time, you're probably already familiar with the struggles that go with it. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a chronic and long-lasting mental disorder that causes a person to live with uncontrolled thoughts and behaviors, often manifesting as a strong urge to repeat an action or say specific words over and over again (source).
While OCD is relatively common, people's experiences with the disorder vary widely. Compulsions can center on a fear of germs or bodily/mental contamination, aggressive thoughts, unwanted sexual thoughts and many other driving forces. Above all is an underlying fear that something bad will happen if a specific ritual isn't carried out.
It's estimated that OCD affects almost 3 million adults in the United States (source). While it often begins in childhood, the disorder can also crop up during your adult years.
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THE CHALLENGES OF OCD IN THE WORKPLACE
Aside from disrupting your personal life, you also probably know how challenging OCD can be in the professional sphere if you've ever tried to hold down a job. At worst, OCD can force you to adjust your career, turn down promotions or make a career switch to cope with symptoms even after dedicating years toward earning a degree or certification.
Indeed, the stress of battling obsessions and compulsions can make it hard to perform job duties, whether it's working at a restaurant or being the CEO of an international company. The constant need to carry out rituals or avoid certain objects can be extremely disruptive in a job role where you're expected to collaborate with others or deal with the public.
For example, someone with a fear of contaminants may not be able to shake people's hands or handle money. Moreover, carrying out rituals like getting up from your desk and disappearing to wash your hands dozens of times per hour may get you in trouble with your supervisor.
And while telling your boss ahead of time of your condition may sound like the right thing to do, the social stigma of a mental illness like OCD can be so great that you'll do almost anything to hide it from your employer and co-workers.
These kinds of unexplained behaviors can lead people to get the wrong idea about you — that you're unfriendly, strange, sneaky or anti-social. What's more, your co-workers might think you're a drug addict or just plain lazy.
Aside from the impression you give off, your job performance and productivity also suffer since so much time, attention, and energy feeds your obsessions and impulses. Losing five minutes, 10 minutes, or an hour of productive time every day due to repeated actions to ward off bad things from happening can rob your ability to get work done and remain a valuable member of an organization (source).
#OCD is like listening to a CD with an invisible scratch. – Penny Hare
HOW TO IDENTIFY THE WORST WORKPLACES FOR PEOPLE WITH OCD
The specific work environments most difficult to deal with as an OCD sufferer depends on your particular compulsions and triggers. That said, here's a list of some of the more common workplace situations people with OCD have great trouble with:
- Interacting with customers and the general public for long hours
- Being approached by customers all the time
- Being required to have any bodily contact with customers or patients
- Not being allowed to walk away from a workstation without asking permission
- Being required to ask a supervisor to use the restroom
- Having to use a public restroom at your place of employment
- Handling a steady stream of incoming calls
- Handling money, coins or credit cards with your hands
- Touching food products or raw food ingredients
- Working based on a strict weekly schedule
Moreover, you'll also likely have to deal with generalized anxiety since most jobs require you to interact with people and objects, making almost any workplace a challenge since you'd likely encounter "dreaded" situations like these:
- Setting and meeting deadlines
- Maintaining personal relationships
- Managing staff
- Participating in meetings
- Making presentations
- Dealing with problems
THE WORST JOBS FOR PEOPLE WITH OCD
Given the criteria laid out above, OCD sufferers should potentially avoid these industries: food service, retail, sales, childcare, emergency care, and transportation. Some jobs that fall into these categories include:
- Customer service representative
- Food server
- Nurse or care provider
- Daycare teacher
- Sales representative
- Taxi driver or chauffeur
- Flight attendant
All these jobs require you to always be visible and interact with people, thus a bad option for OCD sufferers. Moreover, these types of jobs don't allow you to slow down for OCD rituals.
TIPS TO HELP PEOPLE WITH OCD GET THROUGH THE WORKDAY
Whether you work in an office or home, getting through a workday can be very challenging. Thus, you'll want to do whatever you can to keep unwanted thoughts at bay while trying to perform your job duties. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:
- Listen to music with headphones to help distract you from obsessive thoughts while working at your desk
- Keep your workspace free from items that could cause you stress or bring on impulses to always clean, organize or rearrange your space
- Keep hand sanitizer or disinfectant spray at your workstation to create a sense of security about germs
- Use your lunch breaks to rest or meditate to create a more balanced, peaceful state of mind
- Tell a trustworthy colleague about your condition so there's someone to look out and help you avoid very stressful situations
Now, not every one of these coping mechanisms will always work, which is why coming up with your own strategies is also worth figuring out. If you've had OCD for a while, you probably already know what works and doesn't work for you, right?
HOW TO IDENTIFY THE BEST WORKPLACES FOR PEOPLE WITH OCD
OCD-friendly jobs aren't easy to come by since they have to meet so many demands:
- Coming and going from a workstation as you please
- Ability to work from home
- Setting your own hours
- Not having to interact with the public
Indeed, jobs that offer such flexibility and freedoms are anomalies. Finding a balanced situation could require you to look beyond the nine-to-five job landscape to avoid OCD triggers and having to explain your behavior on a constant basis.
THE BEST JOBS FOR PEOPLE WITH OCD
While traditional 9-5 jobs may not be the right decision for you, we live in an era where OCD sufferers can carve out fulfilling careers using technology and digital resources in different ways. Not only do many of these opportunities pay well, they also allow you freedom as far as workload and scheduling.
For example, some jobs only require you to deal with clients over email or telephone. This is the perfect solution for an OCD sufferer since you don't have to interact with people one-on-one and have extended conversations. A few jobs that fall under this category include:
Now, it's no coincidence that many of these jobs can be done from the comfort of your own home — the ideal scenario for someone suffering from OCD:
No one looking over your shoulder…
No awkward face-to-face conversations…
No impulse to hide your condition...
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While finding a way to make a living with OCD can be challenging, it's possible to tap into a satisfying career by thinking a bit outside the box. But the optimal solution is a job where YOU control your work environment and a work from home job best affords this opportunity.
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN!
As an OCD sufferer, what tips do you have for surviving the workplace environment? Can you think of any other OCD-friendly jobs? Leave your comments below!