When my son Dan’s obsessive-compulsive disorder was at its worst, he would spend hours at a time doing nothing (except obsessing and ritualizing of course), even though he so wanted to successfully complete his freshman year of college. It was frustrating and heartbreaking for me to watch. Why couldn’t he just do his work?
Procrastination in those with OCD is not unusual, and my guess is there are many reasons why this is true. For Dan at this time, OCD was definitely calling the shots, telling him when and where he could or could not do his schoolwork. Also he is a perfectionist, which is a common trait for those with OCD. But he was dealing with unhealthy perfectionism characterized by fear, doubt, and control. It’s not hard to see how this could lead to procrastination. Mistakes were not an option, and the only way to not make mistakes is to just put off doing the task, or worse, not attempt it at all.
Avoidance can be seen as a compulsion in OCD. Someone with OCD might avoid a potentially triggering situation, or at the very least, procrastinate as long as possible until the inevitable must be faced.
Perhaps another reason for procrastination is that many people with OCD have a propensity toward indecision. It is so important to make the right decision that it’s just easier to procrastinate, or even not make any decision at all, which of course brings us back to avoidance.
So how can those with obsessive-compulsive disorder stop procrastinating?
Obviously, getting the right treatment for OCD should help immensely, and is the most important step you can take. Another strategy involves using a timer to inform you it’s time to make a decision or start a task. Or if you are facing a particularly daunting undertaking, you can use a timer and tell yourself you only have to work for ten minutes to start, and then take it from there. You might find that once you’ve started, the task at hand is not nearly as difficult or frightening as you had anticipated. Scheduling a specific date and/or time on the calendar can also be helpful for those who procrastinate. And how about making a list, perhaps even including exactly when something should be done? Many of us love the feeling of crossing things off our lists. All of these suggestions help take the thinking, or ruminating, out of the equation, as timing has been predetermined.
Procrastination wastes precious time that should be spent living the lives we want for ourselves. Of course we all procrastinate now and then, but if it is affecting your life significantly, I hope you’ll get help. We all deserve to be able to live full lives – now, not later.
Ughhhhh procrastination should be my middle name! I’m actually trying to tackle several things that I have been putting off for a long time. I’m in the middle of making some lists and trying to figure out a way to get started in a way that will make everything seem less overwhelming. Thankfully my mom has agreed to help me, and that’s a huge comfort/support. I procrastinate for all kinds of reasons, but most of the reasons boil down to avoidance.
Thanks for sharing Sunny and I agree that procrastination usually equals avoidance, Good luck with your projects. You can do it!!
This is a great article! I have OCD and I started out my semester with the compulsion to do things right away and am ending it with the compulsion to procrastinate! Haha. My OCD tells me I have to be in the “right” mood before I start a project, or else it will come out badly. Something that has helped me is having a to-do list with specific times to start projects. I like the idea of a timer to tell me when it’s time to start activities. My therapist also suggested telling myself I’ll only work on something for ten minutes and see how it goes, which is also helpful! Thanks for writing about this topic. It makes me feel less alone with this compulsion. 🙂 Although I am sorry your son went through this!
Thank you for sharing, and for your kind words. You seem to have a lot of helpful tools to help you with your procrastination. And you are certainly not alone. Good luck with the end of your semester and I hope to hear from you again!
No problem and thank you! 🙂
I have such a hard time with procrastination. Right now I’m avoiding putting clean laundry away because I’m terrified that I’m contaminated with meat germs from the kitchen and I don’t want to introduce them to my clean laundry and consequently make all my clothes and my family’s clothes and dresser drawers dirty. I’ve basically been sitting in the same spot for two hours now. Living with OCD is horrible. I’m trying not to give in to the urge to shower to make it all go away but it’s so hard.
Hi Jessica, Thanks for sharing and I’m sorry you are having such a tough time right now. I agree OCD is horrible! I hope you have a good therapist and are battling your OCD with ERP therapy. So many people have beaten OCD; you can too! I wish you all the best and hope to hear from you again.
This is so very good!