OVERCLEANING MAY BE AN UNHEALTHY COVID COPING MECHANISM
The covid pandemic has undeniably made most people more active in their everyday cleaning habits.
Since it all began at the start of 2020, the government was promoting and pushing people to wash their hands more thoroughly, clean surfaces properly, wear masks, use disinfectant on a more regular basis, etc.
It became apparent that cleaning had become a sort of outlet for many people, something that had a positive impact on their mental state. But there is also the flip side of it; many people took cleaning too far, and in some cases, actually developed OCD. Like all things, a balance is necessary, so we wanted to perform a study that looked at what the general public believes and what experts believe has been happening to people’s mental state due to this increased need to clean.
We found that 47% of Brits now believe that cleaning positively benefits their mental health. Out of that 47%, 60% were women, and 40% were men, respectively. 25-34-year-olds believed the most that cleaning positively impacted mental health; however, people aged 45-54 didn’t think that cleaning positively affected their mental health.
We spoke to Dennis Relojo-Howell, the founder of Psychreg, who offered his thoughts on the situation:
“The well-known idiom ‘a tidy home is a tidy mind’ has some merit to it, as some research has shown that organising your home is about more than just making it aesthetically pleasing. A tidy living space can reduce stress and anxiety, leaving you feeling more energised and positive.
“Clutter can impact anxiety levels and the ability to focus, making you less efficient in the long run. It can even trigger coping and avoidance strategies like excess snacking and binge-watching TV shows. However, things should be done in moderation, as many health psychologists warn ‘overcleaning’ can have an impact on people’s mental well-being. Cleaning shouldn’t just be a ‘coping mechanism,’ as this could start to exacerbate your stress, rather than reduce it”.
A number of those surveyed explained that concerns around catching the virus had spurred them on to be more fastidious about everything from the cleanliness of surfaces to preventing contamination in the air. Subsequently, what many respondents then found was their cleaning provided added peace of mind in knowing they’d helped make their properties safer.
The concern from experts such as Dennis Relojo-Howell is that if cleaning becomes an obsession due to the pandemic, we could start to see large numbers of people developing OCD which can become a serious mental health concern if left untreated.
A study of 36,799 Swedish patients published in the scientific journal Molecular Psychiatry discovered that the risk of death by suicide in people with OCD was approximately ten times higher than in the general population and the risk of attempted suicide was five times higher.
Alan Wakeling, founder of Hydrus Hygiene added:
“As well as citing COVID-related reasons, many of the respondents in our study said cleaning up gave them a real sense of achievement and – in some ways – control of their lives, knowing that their living spaces were much more organised and tidier. Hygiene has never been more important, but cleaning should not become an obsession – if you feel like your cleaning is getting out of control, speak to a loved one or seek professional help to express your concerns”.
To summarise, cleaning is essential and being thorough is necessary now more than ever, but like everything, it should be done in moderation. The moment it starts to become unhealthy, seek help or support to fix it before it gets out of control.