difference between being a clean freak and having ocd

“Neat Freak” vs. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

In today’s popular lexicon, people often use the term “OCD” to describe someone who is particularly tidy or organized. For example, people may declare that the Mari Kondo trend fed into everyone’s OCD, meaning Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Unfortunately, this popular use of the term is not only inaccurate, but it also minimizes the real struggles that people with OCD face. While OCD sometimes makes people obsess over cleanliness, the disorder is much more complicated than that. Spreading the truth about OCD and its symptoms can help break the stigma and encourage people who need help to seek it.

What is OCD?

One in every 40 adults and one in 100 children live with OCD. This serious mental health condition causes people to have obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors that interrupt their lives. The thoughts typically feed into the obsessive behaviors. For example, a patient may truly believe that if they do not perform a specific small task a certain number of times, something terrible will happen. While the person with OCD may know that their thoughts are illogical, they do not know how to stop the obsession. In order to qualify for a diagnosis, a person must spend at least one hour each day consumed by the obsessions and compulsions. However, many people with OCD spend much more time each day with these thoughts.

Are All People with OCD Particularly Cleanly?

No two cases of OCD are alike. Each person’s obsessions and compulsions are unique and based on their life experiences or fears. As such, some people with the disorder obsess over cleanliness. These people may fear that if they do not keep things extremely clean, they will get sick or die. However, this is not true of all people with OCD. It is just one common way for the disorder to manifest. Other people may obsess over safety, such as checking the lock on the door several times before going to sleep. People with OCD may also have obsessions and compulsions like counting the steps as they walk.

Do All “Clean Freaks” Live with OCD?

If you or someone you love likes to keep a particularly tidy home, you may wonder if OCD is to blame. It’s important to consider the key difference between being unusually clean and having OCD: whether it negatively impacts your life. As with all mental health disorders, one of the criteria for an OCD diagnosis is that it must cause turmoil for the person. If someone simply enjoys keeping a tidy home and does not feel stress about germs, they likely do not suffer from any disorder. However, if the idea of leaving a surface unclean for a moment gives someone significant stress, then a mental disorder may be to blame. It’s important to note that only a trained professional who consults with a patient can make a diagnosis. Patients and their loved ones should never self-diagnose. Instead, anyone who is struggling with symptoms of OCD should seek professional help. The therapists at LifeStance Health are available to assist such patients.

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