Yes, you can have OCD and be messy or untidy. Everyone’s different, so this behavior might result from the disorder or just an aspect of your personality.
As a formal diagnosis, OCD is characterized by two main symptoms: compulsions and obsessions.
Obsessions or obsessive thinking refer to intrusive, unwanted, and distressing thoughts, images, or urges.
In response to these persistent thoughts, someone with OCD feels the need to repeat certain actions to decrease the distress. This could include cleaning, arranging objects in a particular order, or repeating mantras (mentally or out loud). These would be compulsions.
If you live with OCD, you might think that following your compulsions will stop obsessive thoughts, neutralize a potential threat, or relieve anxiety.
In this case, your obsessions and compulsions might relate to cleaning or they might not.
For example, some common obsessions include:
- fear of being contaminated by germs (called contamination OCD)
- fear of doing something imperfectly, leading to a disastrous event
- fear of losing items you might need
- fears around superstitions
- thoughts that feel immoral or bad (sometimes sexual or violent in nature)
- thoughts that feel blasphemous (which can become scrupulosity OCD)
Common compulsions may include:
- cleaning or washing
- checking things excessively (such as verifying if the doors are locked or if the gas is off)
- constantly apologizing or asking for reassurance from others
- strictly adhering to certain superstitions
- praying excessively
This isn’t a complete list. There are many kinds of obsessions and compulsions, and everyone experiences OCD in their own way.
While some people may clean and organize constantly, someone else with OCD may engage in hoarding, for example. This can lead to a cluttered or seemingly disorganized environment.
For many years, hoarding disorder was classified as a type of OCD.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), which is used as a guideline for diagnosing mental conditions in the United States, specifies that hoarding disorder is now considered a standalone condition.
But hoarding, as a compulsion, can also be a symptom of OCD for some people.