Hi. It’s Jenny at AnxietyBoss.com. Our question today comes to us from Nathan in Fresno, California. How do you determine whether someone is very clean or is actually OCD?
Some people are more attentive to hygiene and appearance than others. This depends on many factors, including culture, lifestyle, personality and socioeconomic level. Having daily hygiene and being meticulous about one’s appearance is not pathological, but rather a sign of good emotional health and self-esteem. How we present ourselves to others is important for our social and business relationships.
OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, is an extreme set of behaviors centered around obsessions or intrusive, unwanted, involuntary thoughts and images which torment a person. The person then attempts a compulsive behavior in a futile attempt to counteract the thoughts.
The content of OCD can include becoming fixated on hygiene, neatness, order and cleanliness. A critical difference will be that a clean person will attend to their hygiene and then move on to other activities. With OCD, the person can never get clean enough. This is according to an unreachable internal standard which keeps recycling in their heads, “Oh, no. I’m dirty and I smell. I need a shower.” But after taking a shower, the thought returns, “Oh, no. I’m still dirty and smelly. I need another shower.”
OCD is very distressing to the individual who has it and the people around them whose lives are, of course, affected by it. OCD must be diagnosed by a qualified mental health professional who’s trained in the diagnosis of, and treatment of, anxiety disorders in general or in OCD specifically.