Why are some obsessed with cleanliness?

Cleanliness is always appreciated in any community. After all, cleanliness and hygiene is an essential aspect of health. Dirty, unhygienic conditions can often lead to the development of various infectious diseases. However, you may have noticed that some people take this behavior of staying and keeping clean to a whole new level- even to the point where it becomes an obsession. This may often even be a kind of an obsessive compulsive disorder(OCD).

OCDs relating to cleanliness can be of different types. Some people feel the constant need to wash their hands repeatedly; others cannot seem to focus if they notice a speck of dust nearby, some feel the need to straighten pens or slippers. Although not all people who seem like neat freaks have OCDs, it is helpful for us all to understand the reasons for their excessive obsession with cleanliness. So let us tell you about them.

Parental Conditioning

Parents have a massive effect on their child’s development! (source:

In Japan, the first few years of schooling focuses on building good habits and behaviors. This is because habits and morals form during these crucial years. Keeping this in mind, you might notice that those obsessed with cleanliness often have parents who value cleanliness to the same extent. Parents often instill values of cleanliness into their children, not realizing that this way later develop into an obsession. This may sometimes be the parent’s coping mechanism to their own stresses, compulsion, fear or vulnerability.

A Need for Control and Stability

Often in broken homes and disruptive families, people crave stability and control. In this situation, keeping things clean and organized gives people the perception of having things under their control. This is especially true when disruption (such as divorce, violence, stress) in the family occurs when the victim is a child. The child learns to clean everything extensively in an attempt to cope with the situation.


A phobia is defined as an “extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to

Germophobia-the pathological fear of contamination and germs. (source:

something”. People can often be obsessive over cleanliness due to these phobias. Phobias may range from a simple phobia of dust to mysophobia(the fear of contamination and germs.) These phobias can sometimes be crippling, affecting the individual’s life in all aspects. A person may feel that if he doesn’t clean and organize something then he is doomed.  It may seem crass to an outsider, but to him it is very real. The person may feel extremely anxious if he is unable to fulfill his cleaning routine. Some studies suggest that such anxiety and phobias may be passed down genetically as well.


Perfectionists are amazing when it comes to their work and their life. This includes the cleanliness aspect as well. They cannot mute out the voices in their heads telling them that everything has to be perfectly arranged, otherwise everything will fall apart. Although being a perfectionist is often a good thing, it can sometimes be crippling too.


Erika Jayne

Mally Mall