People with OCD might become anxious because they have intrusive thoughts, and one guess as to why is that “early experiences taught them that some thoughts are dangerous and unacceptable because the terrible things they are thinking might happen and they would be responsible.”
The anxiety associated with intrusive thoughts leads some people with OCD to suppress the behavior by engaging in certain behaviors, thoughts and activities, known as compulsions. However, the compulsions don’t necessarily lead to a decrease in the obsessions, and anxiety doesn’t always disappear. This of course leads to the dysfunction of the individual.
Jeff Szymanski, the executive director of the International OCD Foundation, said that unemployment doesn’t necessarily cause OCD. “It’s not so much that you develop OCD, but if you have OCD, it absolutely exacerbates it,” he said. “It isn’t just the stress of being unemployed, because general stressors will increase OCD symptoms.”
He said that people with OCD need to be active and involved in structured activities. “If you’re not working, you have all this time you have to fill up, but if you don’t, OCD symptoms creep back in and get much worse actually,” Szymanski said.
With free time on their hands, OCD sufferers have the chance of developing new symptoms or compulsions. “As they start to think about ‘How am I going to pay my bills?’ and ‘This interview needs to go well,’ they might start to…develop new kinds of symptoms,” he said. People with OCD do have a chance of losing their jobs and can suffer from unemployment in that way.
“By definition, OCD symptoms have to be time-consuming, and by definition they have to cause some sort of impairment,” Szymanski said. “OCD left untreated typically gets worse over time.” This time-consuming disorder can obviously cause problems at work, and compulsions can worsen when left untreated, leading to a possible job loss.
The Americans with Disabilities Act covers OCD, Szymanski said, so employers can’t fire employees just because they have OCD. Employers and employees must work together to overcome the problems associated with OCD.