By: Researcher Taymur
Depression, anxiety, PTSD, and even sensory treatment disturbances can influence our personal hygiene. Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about that.
It’s not just You “It’s not just You” is a column written by the journalist for mental health Sian Ferguson to examine less-known symptoms of mental illness. It’s not just You.
Sian knows the strength of hearing firsthand, “Hey, it’s not only you.” While you may know your sorrow or anxiety, there’s much more to mental health than that, so let’s talk about it!
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One of the worst things about mental disease is how it penetrates so many areas of your life, affecting even the worldliest things such as swimming and teething.
And we often have difficulties talking about this part of mental health. One of the reasons why we struggle to talk about hygiene is because it shouldn’t be moralized.
Hygiene is a good thing because disease can be prevented, and our bodies can be taken care of. However, we often link hygiene failure to poverty, laziness and homelessness— all of which are discriminated against by us as a society.
What this means is that hygiene is very disgraceful. This shame can fuel both hygiene obsessions and the stigma of mental illness that makes basic hygiene difficult for us to practice.
My mental disorders meant that I had symptoms on the opposite ends of the spectrum, I often had too much vigor and obsession with myself and sometimes fought hard to maintain hygiene.
And the more I speak about it, the more I understand how common it is and how few people understand that their mental state can affect their hygiene relationships.
“A lack of personal hygiene or an obsession with personal hygiene unfortunately create further stress and anxiety for the patients on both sides of the spectrum,” says Carla Manly, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and a writer.
Let’s examine how your ability to practice hygiene can affect mental health–and what you can do about it.
Why are my teeth or shower so difficult to brush?
My showering wasn’t very difficult while I have a number of mental illnesses. But a week ago, when I felt particularly poor, I had a hard time brushing my teeth. Because i just had to brush my teeth twice that week.
So I know what you think gross. I know what you think. Yup, I was thinking that as well.
However, I can’t brush my teeth with me. I washed my body, I was dressed, I was able to leave even my house, but I had an abhorrence of thinking about brushing my teeth. And worse is I could not tell my therapist because I felt so disgusting and ashamed.
Most people have difficulty completing basic hygiene activities when they are stressed. This may include showering, hand washing, teeth brushing, laundry, or hair brushing.
Melissa A. Jones, PhD, HSPP, an Indiana based clinical psychologist, said, “They do not report having enough energy to do simple selfcare tasks, such as brushing their teeth or washing hair. “Many do not care for personal hygiene unless a family member reminds them of this.”
Why is that, however? Why is it so difficult to shower from depression? Manly states that major depression is often characterized by reduced activity motivation and fatigue. In other words, you are probably not motivated or energy-inducing to keep your hygiene down.
“I worked with clients describing their depression as’ a constant gray cloud” a sense of stacking under a lot of bricks’ and’ a heavy weight that makes even getting out of bed almost impossible,’,” Manly says.
“When you look at depression through the lens, the mentally healthy actions are obvious to those who suffer from serious depression.”
Jones adds that people can also stop showering due to physical symptoms of depression, such as physical pain. “The physical pain of depressed people and their depressive symptoms will also cause them to feel unable to cope physically with their needs for personal hygiene.”
In addition to depression, anxiety and sensory processing disorders can make washing and keeping personal hygiene difficult.
“Those with sensory processing problems can fight to shower because they experience physical pain in the temperature or the actual physical touch of the water,” Jones explains.
Should you be hygienic too?
You can surely be hygienically too obsessed. Some mental disorders could lead to people being over-washed or obsessed with sleepiness.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is the most common mental disease associated with cleanliness. OCD’s pop-cultural depictions of “Monk,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Glee” often mean that we see OCD’s people as exasperating, super-organized germophobes and as convenient jokes punches.
Cleanliness is not always a matter of OCD and it is often misunderstood, even when it’s. OCD consists of obsessions and compulsions (actions that you undertake to reduce distress) (disruptive thinking that you cannot stop thinking of).
It could also be a worry, such as hurting someone or yourself or angry God. The obsessions may well be hygiene and hygiene. When hygiene rituals are involved, like washing your hands, it can be about germs (or obsession), but it can be something else.
Manly explains that you could wash your hands a number of times or brush your teeth with a certain number of strokes when you have hygiene-based OCD compulsions.
“Persons with OCD may have problems dealing with fluid personal hygiene because they may feel the need to repeatedly perform specific hygiene rituals (for instance, to wash hands a number of times) before moving to the next task,” Manly said. These constraints can make it hard for you to leave the house all day long.
Other disorders apart from OCD may also cause you to obsess too much with cleanliness, contrary to popular belief.
“Those with chronic anxiety may find their personal hygiene is too important for them, and they can often inspect a mirror to make sure their appearance is’ perfect,'” says Manly. “Certain people with anxiety is very worried about appeal and appearance and might change their clothes several times before they leave home.”
For me, when I was sexually assaulted, I became too obsessed with hygiene. Later and whenever the remembrances about the assault triggered me, I scrubbed too much, often with hot water, to the extent that my skin was raw and wretched.
Years later I learned it was a symptom of a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a common reaction. “Although very different from OCD, repetitive actions that often arise in unconscious ways to relieve stress and anxiety in PTSD can be associated with some PTSD cases,” Manly explains.
You can also vigorously wash yourself after traumatic experiences, like sexual assault. “The final aim of such conduct is to reduce the sensation of being infringed and’ dirty’ and to increase the feeling of safety.” But I didn’t really see it simultaneously as a symptom of mental illness or something bad in themselves hygiene is a good thing, right?
This mentality prevented me from receiving help, just as when I struggled to brush my teeth it prevented me from getting help. I felt I wasn’t worried about cleanliness and then I struggled to deal with how extreme my obsession was.
Fortunately, I was able to find help and healing by talking to others and having a great therapist. However, it needed to understand my obsession with hygiene as a sign of mental illness.
What to do with your relationship with hygiene is that affect your mental health?
Many people feel a bit lazy once in a while to shower. Many of us feel a little “gross” sometimes and choose to wash ourselves harder than usual. So, how do you know that it’s “bad enough” to help you?
In general, if a problem makes it difficult for you to work, you should get help. Even if you know you should struggle with hygiene, or if you feel you are washing yourself too much, you may need help.
A good starting point is therapy. As I did, you may feel ashamed to tell your therapist you are striving for good hygiene. Please bear in mind that this is a relatively common mental illness and your therapist will probably have previously been helping people in your shoes, and they are there, not judging you for your mental condition.
With regard to excessive washing, Manly says that to address the problem, the root of anxiety has to be addressed. This often also involves treatment. “The individual can also work towards reducing anxiety by learning to use calming techniques for breathing, short meditations and positive mantras to lower the levels of washing in combination with therapy,” says Manly. Works like these can be used to relax the mind and body, as they promote self-recomfort and self-control.’ It is important to remember that moralizing hygiene is no help to anybody, regardless of which self-care techniques support.
Sure, for public and private health we should all practice hygiene. But you should not be afraid to seek support if your mental health makes it difficult to take care of yourself.