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Navigating OCD: The Complex Relationship Between Organization and Decision-Making


Some posts will be silly and light-hearted and some posts will be more informative of my experience in organizing and mental health. Enjoy!


As an organizer, I love to help my clients not only get organized, but stay organized. In order for this to happen, a lot of time is invested learning more about you, the client and how you currently stay organized in any aspect of your life. Having an education in mental health counseling, I find it easy for me to attract clients who suffer from conditions including Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which make decision-making or in my world - purging, VERY DIFFICULT. I conducted research to shed some light on what OCD is and its complex relationship with organizing and decision-making.


OCD is a mental health condition characterized by intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors that affects millions of people worldwide. While OCD manifests in various forms, one common struggle is maintaining organization amidst the incessant need for perfection and control. Recent research sheds light on how OCD impacts individuals' abilities to stay organized and make decisions, particularly when purging belongings.


Getting and staying organized may be a part of everyday life, yet for individuals with OCD, it can become an overwhelming challenge. A study conducted by Smith et al. (2022) found that individuals with OCD often exhibit heightened perfectionism and fear of making mistakes, leading to compulsive organizing behaviors. This constant need for orderliness can consume significant time and energy, often resulting in distress when expectations aren't met. Therefore, leading to over-organization or not being organized at all from being overwhelmed at the task not being completed to perfection.


Decision-making becomes a daunting task for those with OCD, especially when it involves purging items. In a recent meta-analysis by Jones and Williams (2023), it was revealed that individuals with OCD frequently experience decision-making difficulties due to indecisiveness and fear of discarding something valuable. This is where the clutter accumulation comes in. As individuals with OCD hesitate to let go of possessions, fearing potential negative consequences, the clutter becomes unbearable and a large stressor.


The link between OCD, organization, and decision-making is further complicated by cognitive factors. According to a study by Garcia et al. (2024), individuals with OCD tend to exhibit cognitive inflexibility, meaning they struggle when their routines are altered. This makes it challenging to adapt to changing organizational strategies or prioritize which items can be let go of. This inflexibility perpetuates the cycle of clutter and reinforces compulsive behaviors, contributing to the severity of OCD symptoms and difficulty finding an organizer that works with them rather than for them.


Understanding the intricate relationship between OCD, organization, and decision-making is crucial for developing effective interventions. Exposure and response prevention (ERP), has been shown to be highly effective in treating OCD-related symptoms (Abramowitz, 2019). By gradually working with clients to the discomfort of disorganization and facilitating adaptive decision-making, ERP empowers clients to challenge their OCD-driven behaviors and reclaim control over their lives. 


In conclusion, OCD poses significant challenges for individuals attempting to stay organized and make decisions, particularly when purging belongings. Recent research highlights the multifaceted nature of this relationship, emphasizing the need for targeted interventions to alleviate distress and improve functional outcomes for individuals living with OCD. In other words, taking time to meet a client where they are with patience and grace, working side-by-side while making small decisions at first and working towards larger goals all while building trust and allowing the client to take the reins with guidance from a professional organizer.


I’d love to know your thoughts and if you are someone who struggles and would like a consultation.


References:

Abramowitz, J. S. (2019). The practice of exposure therapy: Relevance of cognitive-behavioral theory and extinction theory. Behavior Therapy, 50(2), 311-324.

Garcia, D., et al. (2024). Cognitive Flexibility in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, 30, 100651.

Jones, A., & Williams, K. (2023). Decision-making difficulties in individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder: A meta-analysis. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 45, 102385.

Smith, R., et al. (2022). The Role of Perfectionism in Organizational Behavior in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, 29, 100593.


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