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OCD & Cleaning House

OCD & My Dirty House

Let’s start off by defining Obsessive Compulsive Disorder shall we?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions). –National Library of Medicine

I have been plagued with OCD most of my life, but I have hidden that part of me from people who are not my close friends or relatives. Why?

Because my clothes aren’t neat enough and my house isn’t clean enough.

The ignorance of mental illness doesn’t stop at bipolar, depression or schizophrenia. People don’t understand OCD either. I partially blame the media for its depiction of people with OCD having spotless houses, insanely clean hands and color coded closets. These disorders, like all mental illnesses, have spectrums and severities. But, in the media’s defense, severity sells.

You may ask “How can you be OCD if your house is dirty and not in order?” I would answer that question in two parts. One: Because I have two children at home and a husband who works a lot and Two: Because that is not how it works…read a book.

Do you want some examples of my OCD? Well, my idea of food preparation has become an obsessive art. Let’s make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Both pieces of bread have to be laid out next to each other and then I will add a glop of peanut butter in the middle. I will then smear the peanut butter in a clockwise motion all around the perimeter of the bread (no exposed bread) and lead it back to the middle. Any excess will be removed.

Rinse and repeat with the jelly. Once the bread has been slathered with the peanut butter and jelly, the pieces of bread must be placed together perfectly. I cannot handle part of the bread hanging over the end. Then, I will eat it. It seems more daunting than it actually is. For the longest time I wouldn’t even allow my husband to prepare food for me because I was worried he would do it “wrong”.

Here are a few more examples. If I have an idea, I will research it to death. I will stay up all hours of the night until I feel completely satisfied with the outcome. Sometimes, this process takes weeks and it will be the only thing I can think of. I must have the remote at all times, whether I am using it or not. The idea of someone else having the remote makes my skin crawl.

So yes, my house may be dirty and my clothes may not be in color coded bags… But my OCD is very real.

OCD & My Dirty House

This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on July 5, 2014.

Heather Foster

Heather Foster is the creator of Mental Parent, a website that focuses primarily on mental health and parenting. She has a unique perspective into mental health issues as she is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and PTSD. For more information go to her website.

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APA Reference
Foster, H. (2019). OCD & My Dirty House. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 May 2019
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