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OCD and Time Management

Janet Singer's son Dan suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) so severe he could not even eat. What followed was a journey from seven therapists to ...Read More

Time management is a hot topic these days. Whether related to the workplace, school, homemaking, child-rearing, or our personal lives, there just never seems to be enough time to do all the things we need, or want, to do. We are so overloaded that there are self-help books, as well as experts and entire companies dedicated to this subject. When did it all get so complicated?

And if you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, there’s a good chance you’ll have even more challenges to deal with.

To me, one of the most frustrating aspects of my son Dan’s severe OCD was how much time he appeared to spend doing absolutely nothing. He had schoolwork and other responsibilities to attend to, yet he’d just sit in a “safe” chair for hours and hours on end. I now know that he spent this time focusing on his obsessions and compulsions, which were in his mind and not obvious to me. As Dan’s OCD improved, the chair sitting stopped, but he still often took longer than others to complete his school assignments. This seemed to be attributed to his difficulty balancing details within the big picture as well as over-thinking.

While Dan’s problem of apparently wasting time is common for those with OCD, the opposite end of the spectrum can also be an issue. Some OCD sufferers might feel the constant need to be busy and productive, as well as having every event and task of the day carefully reviewed and planned. For Dan, spur-of-the-moment plans were not even a possibility when his OCD was in control.

Something else OCD sufferers might deal with in regard to time management is lack of punctuality. This might be because they feel the need to finish whatever task they are working on before they can move on to something else (even if most people wouldn’t consider it important), or perhaps due to trouble with transitions. Of course, time spent attending to obsessions and compulsions can always account for any struggles with time management.

From what I’ve written, it is easy to conclude that those with OCD do not manage their time well, and might even be perceived as lazy. I believe the opposite is true. OCD sufferers work harder than ever just to get through the day, and they are also excellent time managers. Look at everything they have to manage! For example, even though my son Dan sat in his “safe” chair for hours on end, somehow he was still able to meet all his responsibilities. Many of those with OCD not only fulfill their own obligations, they meet the “obligations” of their disorder as well. Talk about multi-tasking! Add to this the fact that many OCD sufferers are also perfectionists and it is not surprising that their burdens might eventually become too much to handle.

In my opinion, those with OCD don’t need lessons in time management. What they need is to fight their OCD, and the frontline treatment for the disorder is Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy. Obsessions and compulsions are time-consuming, as is constant worry. Getting back the time that OCD steals is nothing short of a gift and can open up a world of possibilities to not only OCD sufferers, but to the people who want to spend time with them.

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