OCD and Time Management

by digitalart freedigitalphotos.net

by digitalart freedigitalphotos.net

A version of this post first appeared on my blog in April 2013…

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 obstacles to overcome.

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 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, perfectionism, and  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 people with OCD  might feel the constant need to be busy and productive, as well as having every event and task of the day carefully planned. For Dan, spur-of-the-moment plans were not even a possibility when his OCD was in control.

Something else those with OCD 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 people with OCD do not manage their time well. But actually, I think the opposite is true. Those with OCD are 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. Of course, not surprisingly, this load might finally become too much to handle.

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


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13 Responses to OCD and Time Management

  1. aviets says:

    I really appreciate this perspective. My husband has multiple diagnoses, and one of his is OCD tendencies. He spends TONS of time sitting and doing nothing, and now I wonder if it’s the OCD issues that play into that as much as his other illnesses. Interesting.

    • Thanks for sharing, and things do get more confusing when you are dealing with multiple diagnoses, don’t they? On top of everything else, sometimes it’s hard to know what symptoms go with which disorder!

  2. Thank you for this post, Janet. Those OCD issues can end up affecting the entire family. There were, in the past, times when our family struggled to leave the house to do something together because our son was stuck in a ritual. And that was when the outing was planned – forget about spontaneous outings. Of course this brings up issues of how the family accommodates to the OCD and looking at what family behaviors may need to be changed. At any rate, those who care about someone with OCD know first hand just what you are describing.

    • I think you bring up a great point about family accommodation, Angie. It can be so difficult. What do we do when our family needs to be somewhere at a certain time, and OCD decides to sabotage the outing? It’s easy to know what to do in theory, but putting theory into action can be so difficult, and complicated. And I agree, all of us who care about someone with OCD understand this. Thanks so much for sharing.

  3. Peyt says:

    I have mild OCD and my problem is not doing anything or just staying busy. I tend to do things over and over. I will tend to run out of time.

  4. 71 & Sunny says:

    Oh yes. I’m late for EVERYTHING. And it’s not purposeful. I really try. But it just takes me so long to do stuff sometimes. And sometimes, things have to be done in a certain order, and I can’t leave until it’s done. And other times, I literally lose track of time. Very frustrating. It’s something that I’m constantly working on. Some day I’ll get it under control!

  5. WorriedWarrior says:

    I think you are so great for writing about OCD and spreading awareness! I am suffering from OCD but silently and it is honestly the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with. OCD attacks everything you thought you were sure about leaving you confused, scared and worried. Although my parents know about it I don’t think they understand the toll it is taking on me
    My grades are slipping and I have no motivation to do any of the activities I used to enjoy. My constant rumination and reassurance seeking compulsions take up so much of my time. My parents think I’m just lazy and addicted to my phone. My compulsions lead me to search the Internet endlessly for answers, retrace and analyze past events and mistakes over and over and it leaves no time for productive things.

    • Thank you so much for sharing, and I’m sorry things have been so difficult. Perhaps you can share some of my blog with your parents. This post might be a good place to start: https://ocdtalk.wordpress.com/2015/05/03/ocd-is-real/. Many people without the disorder have a really hard time understanding it, and I’m hopeful that the more your parents are educated as to what OCD really is, the more supportive they will be.
      I don’t know if you are receiving any therapy now, but OCD is absolutely treatable and you CAN get your life back. ERP therapy is the only therapy to treat OCD. If your parents won’t take you to a qualified therapist, you can start with online resources, books and workbooks on ERP therapy. There are resources listed on my blog as well as in my book. Also, check out the IOCDF website for help too.You can get better!
      I wish you all the best as you move forward….believe me, there is a wonderful life waiting for you without OCD!

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