Hygiene and Mental Health: From Obsession to Neglect

woman who has neglected personal hygiene leaning on a couch

Talking to others about the inner workings of your personal struggles can be a difficult thing to do. One of the many “open secrets” about mental and emotional health struggles is centered around personal hygiene. Depression, anxiety, and other issues can affect the day-to-day routine of our lives in various ways. One of these is how we take care of ourselves.

How Mental Health Can Affect Hygiene

For some, depression and anxiety can make even the most mundane and routine hygienic tasks seem near impossible. Maybe you forget to brush your teeth in the mornings or skip out on showers. It’s not that you don’t care; it’s just that keeping up with your hygiene has taken a backseat to your struggles.

For others, hygiene and cleanliness become an obsessive activity that causes more stress and strife. Constant cleaning and grooming become a part of the anxiety cycle. You may find that talking about this aspect of your mental health struggle is difficult due to the stigma associated with maintaining your hygiene in a responsible, healthy way.

Hygiene Neglect and Mental Health

On one end of the spectrum, misery and anxiety can cause many problems with your hygiene routine. On the “neglect” end of the spectrum, suffering through mental health crises like depressive episodes may make it difficult for you to keep up with things like brushing your teeth, showering, and maintaining a clean living space.

If you suffer from major depressive disorder or are in the throes of a depressive episode, your interest in activities and hobbies may be diminished. You may find that you stay inside more and spend less time working on things you enjoy; this also hurts your hygiene routines.

Fatigue and a general lack of interest and energy make it difficult to do the things you love, let alone keep track of your cleanliness. As a result, you may let your hygiene deteriorate out of exhaustion. You may stop showering and brushing your teeth. You may find that getting ready for work in the morning is more challenging than usual, and your living spaces’ general level of cleanliness may also deteriorate.

Hygiene can be challenging to discuss with others, as personal hygiene is seen as a basic requirement of day-to-day life. However, your loved ones most likely want to help you in your mental health journey. In some cases, those struggling with personal hygiene and mental health issues find that they don’t realize they have been neglecting their hygiene until reminded by a friend or family member.

Obsessive Cleanliness and Hygiene Rituals

On the other end of the spectrum, you may find that some people who suffer from mental health issues like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety treat cleanliness and hygiene like a ritual. OCD isn’t always about cleanliness — and even when it is, it’s often misunderstood. OCD involves obsessions (distressing thoughts that you can’t stop thinking about) and compulsions (rituals or actions you take to reduce your distress).

With OCD, obsessions can be about hygiene, but they can also be a fear like burning down your house, hurting someone or yourself, or angering God. When it does involve hygiene rituals, like washing your hands, the fear might be about germs, but it can also be about something else.

You may find that your hands can never be clean enough or that your living space needs to be reorganized constantly. These compulsive rituals may cause you more stress and strife in your day-to-day life because if you don’t do them, you feel anxious, uncomfortable, and upset.

The connection between OCD and obsessive cleanliness lies within how those who suffer from OCD struggle with their specific rituals and habits. Cleanliness and impulses like obsessive reorganization are just different rituals that people who struggle with OCD may find themselves practicing. The need for everything to be in its rightful place, spotless, and perfect can stem from various issues. As these issues worsen, they can interfere with your daily life in a variety of ways.

Being Mindful of Hygiene

Mental health issues can affect your hygiene routines in many ways. Being mindful of these changes in your routines can help you determine if they are worsening and beginning to affect your life negatively. If you are struggling to shower and maintain cleanliness, or you’re obsessively scrubbing and washing, it may be time to reach out to a professional for help.

You Aren’t Alone

Regardless of whether or not you are unable to maintain your hygiene routine or obsessed with cleanliness, it’s essential to know that you aren’t alone. There is help available for the underlying mental health issues you are experiencing that may be affecting your hygiene routine. With a combination of medication, traditional therapies, and holistic therapies, you can heal.

Many people struggle with hygiene in different ways. Some people become too depressed to shower, brush their teeth, and maintain their living spaces. Others compulsively clean, scrub and reorganize their homes out of ritualistic need. These interruptions of daily life can sometimes be caused by underlying mental and emotional issues, and they can be challenging to address and talk about. What’s important to know is that you are not alone. Achieve Concierge is here to help. Our team of professionals and experts tailor treatment plans to help our members regain control of their lives. Our litany of services includes cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychopharmacology, and others. If you have COVID-19 concerns but still want to reach out to a professional for help, we also offer telemedicine services to our members. If you feel you are struggling with your mental and emotional health, please do not wait or hesitate. Reach out to us today at (619) 393-5871.

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