Modern Australian Magazine

10 signs you're obsessed with cleaning

  • Written by News Company

The obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that constitutes recurrent intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive acts or behaviors (compulsions). The person undertakes them to avoid discomfort (anxiety) that will cause obsessive thoughts. One of the most common OCD is obsessive-compulsive cleaning disorder.

What is the obsession with cleanliness?

An obsession is an insistent thought that dominates the person, at least intermittently, even though he considers it unjustified, absurd and tries to get rid of him. There are many types of obsessions and cleaning is one of the most common. "And more today, since neatness is associated with hyper responsibility and perfection, something allowed and even admired," according to a health psychologist. But, like any other OCD, it is very limiting. It is advisable to treat and understand the mechanism of an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

How does it work?

It starts with a thought or obsession. For example, the kitchen glasses have to be placed in a certain way, the shirts organized in a characteristic way or the house has to be perfectly tidy before going out to do any activity. This thought generates Anxiety. The person responds to it by placing, cleaning and ordering. This pathological impulse, which sometimes also manifests itself with particular acts or gestures, is a compulsion. A momentary relief is felt when the action that previously caused discomfort has been satisfied. Here is the problem: the brain interprets that this is the only strategy to calm anxiety.

And although the patient may be aware that this act may be absurd or unjustified, he suffers such anguish by not being able to satisfy them. Rubbish removal becomes an obsession. He enters "in a loop" in which thoughts and actions are reinforced. The only way to end this vicious circle is to break it.

Causes of this obsessive behavior

It is considered that the person suffers from this problem when it interferes with their personal, family, social and work life or when it causes a lot of anxiety.

We know what triggers this behavior. Studies are being conducted and it is suspected that it may have to do with a serotonin hyperactivation, although more research is needed to conclude that this is the cause.

It usually appears in people suffering from anxiety. They are perfectionists, they respond to behaviors learned throughout their lives, they can be children of strict parents who insisted a lot on "doing things right", etc.

Signs of obsessive-compulsive cleaning disorder

In principle, it can be a good thing, since cleanliness can be positive to avoid diseases. However, OCD by cleaning becomes a severe disorder for people who suffer from it that negatively affects their well-being.

The irrational thoughts that can lead to the act of cleaning can be different from person to person. For example, some individuals may have superstitious thoughts that cause them anxiety if they do not perform acts to reduce their anxiety symptoms. Others may think that everything is contaminated and if they are not cleaned, they will suffer serious diseases. Some may carry order and cleanliness from home to the extreme, as they continually seek the symmetry of objects. Regardless of irrational thinking, compulsion in this type of disorder will be characterized by cleanliness and hygiene behaviors.

These people suffer repetitive thoughts that cause anxiety. Compulsive behavior only serves to calm them for a short time, which ends up producing a vicious circle, as irrational thinking reappears again and again after compulsive behavior.

Cognitive variables related to OCD

There are multiple signs and cognitive variables related to OCD. According to the Obsessive-Compulsive Cognitions Working Group (OCCWG), the most important are:

  1. Uncertainty intolerance

  2. Overstatement of a hygiene threat

  3. Perfectionism

  4. Excessive liability

  5. Beliefs about the importance of thoughts

  6. Beliefs about the importance of controlling one's thoughts

  7. Persistent ideas

  8. Washing hands again and again

  9. Cleaning desperately and obsessively

  10. Constantly worrying about getting infected

Beliefs about the importance of one's thoughts refer to the need to control all thoughts all the time.

How to stop the obsession with cleaning

Any form of obsessive-compulsive disorder can have different levels of severity. In very serious cases you should always seek the help of a specialist to handle the situation. But in less severe cases of the disorder, the advice presented below may be helpful. If you suffer an obsession with cleanliness, you can follow these tips:

Relax before cleaning

Any type of obsessive-compulsive behavior has its origin in the need to reduce anxiety symptoms. It may be due to superstitious thinking or the idea that if everything is not clean a disaster can occur. Compulsion intends to reduce anxiety, but there are other ways to relax. For example, practice Mindfulness, yoga or listen to a relaxation CD.

Break the obsessive routine

It is common in anxiety disorders that psychologists help patients test irrational thoughts. That way they can see for themselves that absolutely nothing happens when they are exposed to the feared situation. Of course, the exhibition must be progressive. For example, you can first delay compulsive behavior 1 minute, then 2, then 3, and so on. Gradually you can see that obsessive thinking is irrational and catastrophic thoughts are just thoughts.

Don't be such a perfectionist

Occasionally, obsessive-compulsive cleaning disorder may indicate that the individual has a perfectionist personality. The perfectionism refers to the belief that you should always achieve perfection in everything you do. This belief can cause serious anxiety problems and, therefore, compulsive behaviors. Understanding that imperfection is common in all human beings can help reduce anxiety. If it is not possible to do so, you should only go to a psychologist, since perfectionism also affects health and well-being.

Treatment for cleaning obsession

The treatment for an obsessive-compulsive disorder is to break the 'loop', as we said. In this case, it would be that the person is exposed to disorder and dirt and see so that nothing happens. Let those thoughts appear but not give in to them. Little by little, the brain will stop interpreting it as a threat and you will see that nothing will happen for not cleaning or ordering a day or two.

However, this exposure should not be taken lightly, openly and without professional help, since it could cause greater anxiety. It would cause the individual to react and end up performing the compulsion. The body reaffirms the idea that these thoughts or obsessions are a much greater threat that can only disappear by carrying out the compulsion.

For this not to happen, guidelines are needed that will be established by the healthcare staff that treats the patient. Do you want to learn more about OCD? Here are more signs that you may have obsessive-compulsive disorder.


Therefore, you should see a doctor when you suspect that you may suffer from this disorder. Ideally, the patient receives a psychological therapy so that he learns the necessary tools to deal with his obsessive thoughts and that they disappear. Sometimes, pharmacological treatment may be necessary, although it is usually rarely. On the other hand, OCD is not a mental health disorder that should be addressed only with medications since you can’t eliminate the problem otherwise.

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