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Do you think you have Obsessive Cleaning?

Do you think you have Obsessive Cleaning?



The cleaning OCD is a common type among other types of OCD. Here the individual engages in cleaning or washing rituals and it can be directed towards the self or the environment.

In the cleaning/washing type the obsession, there is fear of contamination. Fear that the individual would get ‘dirty’ or infected from various things which might make them sick and eventually cause death.

Cleaning OCD Symptoms

Cleaning OCD

The cleaning OCD behavior can be categorized into two:

  1. Where the individual cleans everything around them and themselves
  2. Cleans or washes only when contacts certain objects, visit certain places or after a particular task such as toileting.

The first group of individuals try to stay cautious to contamination or ‘germs’ in general, they fear they would fall sick, while the second group follows the cleaning behavior to get rid of the ‘dirty’ feel after a particular act or contact with a particular thing.

  • Cleaning directed towards self

Individuals who engage in ritualistic behavior of cleaning themselves believe they have come in contact with the ‘dirt’ or ‘germ’ and try to get rid of it. The cleaning OCD behavior can range from simply washing hands multiple times a day to scrubbing harshly with disinfectants.

The individual may clean and scrub themselves to the extent that the skin gets rashes, bruised, red and even bleed. The behavior in the second group mentioned can be dangerous. For example, if the individual ritualistically cleans themselves after toileting, they might use a lot of toilet paper and rub the area too hard, at the time they might also use antiseptics. All these may harm and injure the area and as these areas are sensitive and do not heal soon it could lead to other health issues and infections.

The individuals mentioned here are the ones who focus a lot on themselves and then there is another type of individuals who completely ignore these areas thinking they would get infected if they touch it. Here again ignoring these areas would again lead to devastating health issues.

  • Cleaning directed towards the environment

Here the individual cleans their surrounding fearing that they would get infected. This individual might spend their entire day clean every inch of their house. Even a small peck of dirt may trigger their thoughts and they might end up cleaning the entire house. They may use a lot of antibacterial disinfectants which may again cost them financially. Also while cleaning they may end up spending a lot of time in contact with water; this again may cause infection damaging their skin. Here again, the individual may focus and clean certain areas while entirely ignoring the other regions. Example, the individual may spend too much time cleaning the bathroom but ignoring and having a messy bedroom.

Cleaning OCD Treatment

The rationale behind the cleaning/washing behavior has meaning and makes sense to only the individual and make no sense to others in the family, thus they may fail to understand and support the individual. At times if the individual is interrupted while doing the behavior they might again start all over again. All the mentioned behavior takes a lot of time and causes extreme distress to the individual but with proper professional help and support, it can be reduced.

However casual this may sound but is terribly stressing for the person suffering from this OCD. But there is hope. With appropriate pharmacological intervention, psychotherapy such as Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) is made available with our professionals at Cadabams. Rehabilitation works wonders with people who have difficulty managing self at home. Call us for any queries on +919611194949.