Photo: / 6581245 via Pixabay

Is OCD Cleaning Really A Thing? The Myths Versus The Realities Of OCD

People often use OCD as a reason for excessive or even obsessive cleaning habits  – but does this make any sense?

Focus on OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is one of the most commonly portrayed mental health conditions in movies and on television. Usually, characters on television who have OCD obsessively clean or have a fear of germs (often both). So, many people believe that unless they’re super clean, they can’t have OCD.

Yet, contrary to popular belief, many people who have OCD don’t have spotless homes. So, is OCD cleaning real? We’ll get into what OCD is–and what it isn’t–below.

In reality, people who suffer from OCD seldom have symptoms exactly like characters in films. In fact, because of the misrepresentation, many people have OCD without knowing they do. So, let’s break this condition down to understand it better.

Image: / Mohammed Hassan via Pixabay


OCD has two main components: obsessions and compulsions. Both must be present for a person to receive a diagnosis. In short, obsessions include anything that causes anxiety, and the person’s mind can’t let it go. Instead, they ruminate on the thoughts.

These obsessions can be about anything. For example, some people worry that they left the stove on, while others experience excessive worry that something will happen to their loved ones. Still, others worry about their health or even sexual orientation or relationships.

Compulsions come as a result of the person trying to get rid of the thoughts. Because obsessions can be anything, compulsions can also be anything. A person who thinks they haven’t locked the door, for example, might check the door repeatedly, even if they have a clear memory of locking it.

In the case mentioned above, the compulsion has a clear relation to the obsession. However, in some instances, compulsions and obsessions have no clear connection. For example, some people may believe that something bad will happen to a loved one if they don’t straighten the silverware 5 times.

Further, some OCD experts have started talking about Pure-O, an informal name for OCD in which the compulsions aren’t visible. For instance, a person with Pure-O who ruminates on their sexuality might intentionally or repeatedly look at men or women. Then, they’ll see if they’re attracted to them.

If you need help with your OCD, you might seek the advice of a qualified professional who can further demystify this diagnosis and help you live a more full, fulfilling life.

What Is OCD Cleaning?

So, where did the notion that people with OCD have super clean habits come from?

Here’s the simple answer: some people experience OCD cleaning as a compulsion. Their intrusive thoughts tell them they’ll get an infection or bad things will happen if they don’t clean. So, these people might clean their homes or themselves to an excessive extent.

To answer the question “Is OCD cleaning real?” we have to say “Yes!” However, there’s a caveat: not all people with OCD experience OCD cleaning. So, if you’re just a super clean person and don’t experience obsessive thoughts, you probably don’t have OCD!

In fact, OCD sometimes causes people to have messier houses due to having problems with executive function skills. The executive functions include various actions people often learn by the time they’re a young adult, such as cleaning, cooking, staying organized, etc.

Yet, OCD causes the person to experience a lot of anxiety, leaving less energy to get these tasks done.

How Is OCD Treated?

Fortunately, for those suffering from obsessive and compulsive behavior, effective treatment exists. Millions of doctors and therapists worldwide focus on helping people with OCD.

On the medical side, doctors often prescribe anti-depressants, which give you more serotonin in your brain. Serotonin lowers anxiety, reducing the ruminations. To find a doctor who can prescribe medication for you, check out PlushCare.

Mental health counselors also receive training to help people who have OCD. They use a variety of science-backed techniques to reduce anxiety and help people deal with obsessions and compulsions.

If you want to find a qualified therapist, take a look at Talkspace. This platform allows you to take a short quiz to identify your needs and then match with a therapist trained to address them!

Get Mental Health Help

If OCD is keeping you from living to your full potential, you don’t need to worry. Instead, know that OCD is a common diagnosis and help exists.

Take a look at our Get Help page for further advice and guidance.

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