Have your friends and family told you that you behave like you have an OCD because a clean and tidy house is a priority for you? Well, tell them to not get ahead of themselves. Although one of the symptoms of OCD is excessive cleanliness, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every person who puts extra efforts into maintaining a clean environment suffers from it. You could be just a perfectionist who likes things a certain way and others might find that strange, but in reality, there’s nothing irrational about it. Having said that, perfectionism can turn into OCD if certain barriers are crossed. Do you think you might be on the way to that point? Let’s see what’s your case.
What is OCD
OCD is the abbreviation for obsessive compulsive disorder. This is a serious mental health issue and 1% to 3% of the general population has it (Psychology Today). It is often used unjustly in the society as a reference to someone who cleans too often, has peculiar habits like not touching the door handles at public toilets, or being too cautious and always checking things twice. Such person doesn’t suffer from OCD. For the diagnosis to be correct, the individual’s habits must cause disruption in their everyday life. For instance, a person who truly has an OCD would wash their hands a number of times, almost until they bleed and they would still not understand why they do it.
An example of OCD would be someone who spends hours cleaning the house and using bacteria detecting machines to measure the amount of bacteria in the kitchen or bathroom. A count as low as 6 (which is close to a sterile environment into a surgery room) will cause them to panic. OCD is closely associated with irrational anxiety. While OCD patients can’t control their obsessive habits, they understand and are aware of the fact that this behaviour is unhealthy and deviates from the norm accepted by the society.
The most common treatment of OCD is psychotherapy and antidepressants boosting serotonin levels.
What is Perfectionism
While OCD is a classified mental disorder, perfectionism is simply a personality trait, which isn’t abnormal. A perfectionist can be a person who checks if they locked the door twice, wonders if they switched off the oven before they left the house or arranges their closet by colour. Perfectionists often maintain very clean living and working environment. You would find them scrubbing the floors and counters until they are spotless, however, they would do that in an acceptable amount of time, which isn’t impacting other areas of their lives negatively.
The main difference between a perfectionist and someone who has an OCD is that the former does things a certain way because it pleases them and makes them feel good. The latter exhibits a certain behaviour because they believe they need to without a clear understanding of why. OCD patients also feel extremely threatened if they don’t do things a certain way, while perfectionists just feel unsettled or unhappy with themselves/the situation.
Perfectionism can turn into an OCD when the want becomes a need and that need leads to irrational actions with debilitating effects. If you notice something like this or a friend/family member points it out to you, it is worth talking to a professional. It doesn’t mean you are crazy or have any type of mental health illness, but it’s always good to nip a problem in the bud until it gets out of control.
If a spotless home is your thing, but you don’t always have the time to maintain it this way, let us help you and save the unnecessary frustration. We are perfectionists too.