Mental Health and Daily Hygiene

Poor mental health can affect so many parts of your life including your relationships with others, your
performance at work, and even day-to-day tasks such as daily hygiene. Daily hygiene such as
taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and doing your laundry may seem like simple tasks for
some, but for someone struggling with mental illness these same tasks can feel like pushing a
300-pound boulder up a hill. But why?

Why does mental health make it so hard to take a shower?

For starters, depression is often characterized by diminished interest in activities and feeling
fatigued. In other words, you probably have little motivation or energy to maintain your hygiene
when you’re feeling depressed. But depression isn’t the only mental health diagnosis that affects
daily hygiene. Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, and PTSD have all been linked to
negative impacts on daily hygiene.

So what can you do when mental illness is affecting your hygiene?

For starters, you can try some of these techniques:
If taking a shower seems like a lot of work, try starting by just standing under the water for a
minute. Yes, you may not be as clean as if you used soap, but it will make the task of showering
seem less intimidating and can help you both physically and mentally.
Think convenience! Use things like antiperspirant, dry shampoo and wipes regularly. You can
buy cleaning wipes (usually made for kids) almost anywhere, and they don’t require any water!
If you have days where taking a shower seems like too much work, there’s no shame in doing
what you can to maintain hygiene.

If you absolutely cannot bring yourself to brush your teeth, use mouthwash with extra fluoride
and rinse liberally for as long as you can. You can also take more preventative measures such as
using a toothpaste with extra fluoride so you have extra protection when you do brush, and visit
the dentist for more consistent checkups (say every 6 months versus every year).
If you’re struggling to do your laundry, ask for help. A friend or family member may be willing
to help you tackle the overwhelming pile of laundry that’s been building for the last few weeks.
If you have social supports, utilize them! You can also use this as a time to catch up with your
loved ones.

What if all of these are still too overwhelming?


If you’re struggling to practice hygiene even when you know you should, you may need help.
In general, you should reach out for help if an issue is making it difficult to function. If your poor
hygiene is starting to affect things like work, school, personal relationships, or your health,
consider contacting a professional. A therapist can help you further explore your struggles with
hygiene, and provide you with appropriate skills to make managing your hygiene a little bit
easier. If you think psychotherapy may benefit you, feel free to reach out to our office to
schedule an appointment.

-Jennifer Tietjen, LMSW