Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

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Health Assured team

18 February 2022

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a serious illness which can disrupt lives. Repetitive compulsions and habits can make it hard for people to function day-to-day.

Employers have a legal obligation to support workers suffering from OCD and similar illnesses. By providing a safe workspace, you can effectively reduce stress and triggers for their condition.

If you neglect them, you could face discrimination claims–resulting in expensive penalties, for you and your business.

In this guide, we’ll look at what OCD is, whether it’s a mental health condition, and how to support employees suffering from it.

What is obsessive compulsive disorder?

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a serious mental health condition. It’s an anxiety-related illness; and its symptoms can range in intensity.

It can be diagnosed through a variety of signs; each differing through individual situations.

Around 75% of people suffer from obsessive compulsive disorders, according to OCD UK. As an employer, you can’t help but apply these numbers to your own workforce. So, you must take appropriate steps to identify, understand, and support employees with the condition.

What are different types of OCD? 

There are two types of OCD conditions which people suffer from:

Obsessive thoughts

People experience obsessive thoughts and unwanted worries, which may occur regularly. These thoughts can often be frightening, intimidating, and anxiety-inducing.

Common traits of OCD thoughts include:

  • Intrusive thoughts.
  • Aggressive or violent thoughts.
  • Obsessive thoughts about health.
  • Obsessive thoughts involving relationships. 

Compulsive behaviours

People may experience urges to repeat actions or routines, sometimes without rationale.

These can be physical actions or mental rituals. But, both are used to help fight against obsessive thoughts or actions.

Common signs of OCD behaviours include:

  • Rechecking things, like locks, doors, and bodily reactions.
  • Hoarding or rearranging objects.
  • Constantly cleaning things or washing hands.
  • Repeating mental acts.
  • Incessantly seeking reassurance.

What causes OCD? 

We don't fully understand what specifically causes obsessive compulsive disorder. But medical research has found several contributing factors, like: 

  • Family history.
  • Life events or traumas.
  • Chemical imbalances in the brain.
  • Personality, like low self-esteem or perfectionism.

It’s challenging to live with symptoms; and triggers can derive from anywhere. Many people also experience:


OCD and anxiety disorder are closely related. It’s common for people to feel anxious and stressed over obsessive thoughts. This anxiety can lead to avoiding people, places, and events because of potential triggers.  

Relationship issues

Maintaining strong relationships can be really difficult for people with OCD. And intrusive thoughts can lead to uncontrollable behaviours, which take huge tolls on relationships.

People often lack confidence in sharing their conditions, because of stigmas or misunderstandings.

What are legal rights for employees with OCD?

The Equality Act (2010) states you have a duty of care for your staff. The act outlines a legal obligation to protect their health and welfare during work.

You can do this through several workplace changes. Like providing flexible working, reasonable adjustments, and therapy sessions.

Is OCD a mental illness?

OCD is a mental health illness; and if conditions match, can be legally considered as a disability.

Under employment law, you must not discriminate against an employee with a disability–physical or mental. Failing this, you could face discrimination claims and pay costly penalties.

Managing OCD in the workplace 

Your duty of care includes protecting anyone with medical conditions at work. Here are several steps to support employees with managing their OCD:

Offer information on conditions

OCD is a commonly misunderstood mental health condition. So, offer information on conditions, and how to help co-workers with mental health problems. This will reinforce workplace wellbeing, making it easier for everyone to function cohesively. 

Provide medical support

If an employee informs you of their OCD, ask them how you can provide support. Offer reasonable adjustments, like flexible leave so they can attend appointments.

You can even refer them to medical practitioners. Through professional guidance, employees can receive diagnoses based on their personal condition.

Talk openly about concerns

OCD is a serious medical issue, and one trigger can disrupt a person’s entire day.

Try to combat potential issues through regular meetings with them. It'll allow employees to talk about their concerns. And gives managers the chance to provide help, but also ask how to improve practices. 

Break mental health stigmas

Many people are afraid to speak about their mental health conditions. They may worry about being judged or facing questions on their capability.

Build a workplace where mental health stigmas are non-existent. This can strengthen overall relations and cohesion in the workplace. 

Get expert guidance on OCD with Health Assured

Managing employees with obsessive compulsive disorder can be complicated. But, by providing safe adjustments and practices, you can support them in the long run.

Health Assured offers expert guidance on OCD, and support for employees with mental health conditions.

Our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) offers a 24/7 counselling helpline that supports people with compulsive or intrusive behaviours. Our BACP qualified counsellors can help you manage them throughout their business careers.

We also provide a 24/7 helpline, that’s open 365 days a year–helping you care for your staff all year round. Arrange a call back from an expert today on 0800 206 2552.

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