Everyday Health: "Neat freaks" are often mislabeled as having OCD. What's the difference, and do all people with OCD like things excessively clean?
Jeff Szymanski, PhD (ocfoundation.org)
Some of the confusion has to do with the terms themselves. "Obsessive" refers to a personality trait describing someone who thinks and worries a lot. "Compulsive" is also a personality trait, indicating someone who is hyper-organized, detail-oriented, with perfectionist tendencies. The "D" in OCD refers to "disorder"; this indicates that a person experiences significant, life-impairing anxiety. When obsessive or compulsive preferences are interrupted, it might annoy a person, but not cause them extreme, unyielding anxiety as is seen with OCD.
Jonathan Abramowitz, PhD (jabramowitz.com)
The main difference between "neat freaks" and people with OCD is that "neat freaks" like being neat. They want to be that way because they feel like it helps them and keeps them productive. People with OCD wish they weren’t that way, but feel they have to do their rituals in order to prevent some dreaded catastrophe that is unlikely in the first place. OCD is based on fear. OCD rituals are responses to obsessions. "Neat freaks" do not have obsessions like people with OCD do. Not everyone with OCD is focused on cleanliness. OCD is pretty diverse in terms of its symptoms and everyone has symptoms that are a little different – their own personal spin.
Steven J. Brodsky, PsyD (OCDHotline.com)
As I mentioned, no two cases of OCD are alike, and OCD can take thousands of diverse forms. Obsessions about neatness and cleanliness are experienced by only a fraction of OCD sufferers. As with all forms of OCD or any mental disorder, it has to impair social or occupational function or involve frequent excessive distress to be considered a diagnosable "disorder." Some examples include tardiness, inconveniencing others, social avoidance or disruption, and in some cases the person's physical health can be affected.
Charles H. Elliott, PhD, and Laura L. Smith, PhD (psychology4people.com)
People who are "neat freaks" generally aren't terribly worried about their so-called problem. They are able to go about their lives without excessive distress. Not all people with OCD are overly concerned about cleanliness because obsessions and compulsions can involve a surprisingly wide array of issues.
RELATED: Here Are the Best Online OCD Therapy Services
Jennifer Iverson, MC, LMHC (jenniferiverson.com)
It is a common misconception that "neat freaks" or "clean freaks" have OCD, perhaps because cleanliness and ordering are common types of OCD. But there is a difference between being a "neat freak" or "clean freak" and having an actual diagnosis of OCD. Like many things in the field of mental health, a disorder is a matter of degree. Part of OCD is that the person recognizes the obsessions and compulsions are excessive and unreasonable and they interfere with daily functioning. (There is the possibility of having OCD "with poor insight," in which case the person may not be aware of how excessive and time-consuming their obsessions and compulsions are. Children are also not held to the criterion of having insight into the excessiveness of their compulsions.)
Kenneth Schwarz, PhD (DutchessPsychology.com)
A "neat freak" is someone who likes to be neat. Of course, having to tidy up may be the neat freak’s way to avoid becoming anxious. That's not such a bad thing. We all have our ways when it comes to avoiding what makes us anxious. OCD, on the other hand, is taking the neat freak thing – the avoidance of anxiety, the anxiety-provoking unwanted thought – to about 14 levels higher. It's a mistake to think that excessive cleanliness is the only symptom of OCD sufferers.
Barbara Tako (clutterclearingchoices.com)
In my definition, the difference is when the behavior interferes with living your life. If you don't socialize because your home isn't "perfect" or if you turn down a social activity in preference for staying home to stay on a restrictive cleaning schedule, the behavior becomes OCD.
Allen H. Weg, EdD (stressandanxiety.com)
Here again, degree to which the symptoms interfere with functioning or cause friction with others are deciding factors in determining if the OCD diagnosis is given. Another factor is the degree to which the person can control his or her behavior and decide to not engage in a ritual by choice. While some people with OCD like things very clean and orderly, there are many who are no more clean and tidy than the average person. Paradoxically, if it takes many hours to take a shower because it requires the execution of elaborate and lengthy rituals, or it takes many hours to clean a room because it has to be done perfectly and by following a specific prescribed set of complicated rules, the person with OCD, even when cleanliness is very important to him or her, may forgo these activities because it is just too overwhelming to get started. So sometimes they may not wash or clean regularly to avoid all the hassle of doing things the way the OCD is making them do it.