Is OCD a disability?

is ocd a disability

The phrase ‘not every disability is visible’ is particularly true when talking about mental illnesses like OCD.

While some people may only have mild symptoms, for others it can affect almost every aspect of their day-to-day life.

Everyone experiences OCD differently and there is a broad spectrum when it comes to the impact it has on a person’s life. While OCD may be a disability for some, not everyone with OCD is classed as being disabled.

In this article, we will find out more about what OCD is, the impact that it has on a person’s life, and at what point it becomes a disability.

What is OCD?

According to the NHS, ‘obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common mental health condition where a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.

OCD can affect people of all ages, including children. Most people with OCD will have received a diagnosis by the time they are 19, but it can occur later in life.

People with OCD experience repeated obsessive thoughts which can cause them to feel distressed and anxious. These obsessive thoughts then cause them to perform repetitive actions or activities.

Common examples include an individual obsessively wondering whether the door is locked and having to repeatedly go and check, or worrying about germs and contamination and repeatedly cleaning a surface or washing hands.

Is OCD a disability?

According to the Equality Act 2010, mental health conditions, including OCD, are considered to be a disability if they have a long-term and substantially adverse effect on a person’s day-to-day activity.

For OCD to be classed as long-term it must either:

  • Have lasted for at least 12 months
  • Be likely to last for 12 months
  • Be likely to recur

OCD is said to have a substantial adverse effect if it makes daily activities like using public transport, driving, talking, washing, or concentrating more difficult than usual.

Individuals with OCD whose symptoms meet the definition of a disability can receive protection against discrimination for their condition under the Equality Act 2010.

How much can OCD affect an individual’s daily life?

OCD was once ranked by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the top 10 of the most disabling illnesses by lost income and decreased quality of life.

Of course, everyone’s experience of OCD is different, and some people’s symptoms are less severe than others, but most people with OCD suffer at least some adverse effects in their daily life.

Some areas of a person’s life that may suffer because of the condition include:

  • Career, earnings, and employment
  • Relationships with partners, children, or other family members
  • Social life
  • Quality of life
  • Education

In severe cases, the obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours caused by OCD can be completely consuming and burn up many hours of an individual’s day. This can then harm their relationships with the people around them and make it difficult for them to hold down a job or concentrate on their education.

The mental strain and pressure caused by OCD combined with the negative impact it has on an individual’s quality of life can sometimes cause additional adverse effects including:

  • Depression
  • Isolation
  • Self-harm
  • Substance abuse

Anyone suffering adverse effects from living with OCD should reach out to a medical professional for help and support with managing the condition and its symptoms.

Many of the symptoms of OCD can be alleviated with the help of medication, therapy, or a combination of the two.

Are there regulations in place to assist those with OCD?

Living with OCD is difficult enough as it is, and no one with OCD should have the additional pressure of being discriminated against because of their condition or worrying about losing their job, home, or place at school, college, or university.

Anyone whose daily life is being adversely affected by OCD has a legal right to receive support and flexibility at work and in education under the Equality Act 2010.

OCD in the workplace

Employers have a legal responsibility to support employees with disabilities, including mental illnesses like OCD and make ‘reasonable adjustments’ where required. Failure to support employees with OCD and make reasonable adjustments is a breach of the law and could result in a discrimination claim.

Disabled people with OCD are not legally obligated to tell their employer that they have OCD either before or during their employment. However, choosing not to would make it hard to request ‘reasonable adjustments’ to their role if required.

Reasonable adjustments for people with OCD could include time off work for healthcare appointments and flexible working hours and arrangements.

OCD in education

Under the 2010 Equality Act, students with OCD may also require ‘reasonable adjustments’ be made by education providers like schools, colleges, or universities to ensure that they are not being discriminated against or at a disadvantage to their peers because of their disability.

Reasonable adjustments for people with OCD in education may involve extensions on deadlines, extra time during exams, extra time off, or an “exam prompter” to help aid concentration.

Can someone with OCD be eligible for benefits?

If OCD is impacting a person’s day-to-day life or making it difficult for them to work, then they may be eligible to claim benefits to help pay for living costs like food, rent, and childcare.

The three main benefits available to people with a mental health disability are the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA), and Attendance Allowance (AA).

You can find out which benefits you are eligible for using the Turn2US Benefits Calculator online.

Take an OCD and Personality Disorder Masterclass with CBAT

Here at Care Business Associates, we run an OCD and Personality Disorder Masterclass that explains more about what OCD is, the effects it can have on a person’s daily life, and how to support someone with the illness.

Find out more about our OCD and Personality Disorder Masterclass online or book your place on the course today by calling us on 01772 816922.