Thanks to everyone who filled out the survey last week on mental illness and hygiene. Now it’s time for the results!
In order to protect privacy, I’m being somewhat vague in reporting some of the responses. I won’t say exactly how many people responded, but I think it was enough to make the results meaningful.
1) How often do you take a shower or bath, on average, at times when you’re experiencing symptoms of your illness?
- 1/3 responded one or more times per day
- 1/3 responded every 2-3 days
- 1/3 responded every 4 days or less
2) How often do you think you’d take a shower/bath if mental illness wasn’t an issue?
- 60% of people said one or more times per day
- 40% said every 2-3 days
3) What the main thing that typically prompts you to take a shower/bath?
The top three reasons were:
- I get concerned I might smell or look unclean
- I want to maintain good/decent hygiene
- I feel like I should maintain good hygiene even though I don’t want to or don’t care
4) When particularly unwell, do you ever leave showering/bathing until you smell badly enough that it grosses you out?
- 60% of people said never
- 16% said yes, occasionally
- 24% said yes, regularly
5) How often do you brush your teeth?
- 44% multiple times a day
- 32% once a day
- 24% less often
I realized after looking at the results that I should have asked this question differently to differentiate frequency during illness vs. wellness, and I should have given better options, but it is what it is. I’m actually rather impressed that so many people stay on top of this.
6) Is your frequency of face/body hair management activities (shaving, plucking, etc.) impacted when your mental health isn’t good?
Of those that do this typically:
- 62% said the frequency decreased
- 38% said it stayed the same
It would have been interesting to break this down by gender. As a female, when I don’t pluck my eyebrows or shave my legs/armpits, it’s not especially noticeable to others, but for guys to go furry is much more overt.
7) When unwell, do you sleep in your daytime clothes or spend the day in your PJs?
- 40% regularly
- 28% sometimes
- 32% rarely or never
8) How does your mental illness influence your hygiene?
I realized I should have set up the responses differently, but anyway, having less energy and caring less were about equal as the top two impacts. Almost 30% of people said it makes showering/bathing feel unpleasant. While in most cases the issue was decreased hygiene, in some cases there was a hyper-focus on maintaining hygiene.
9) Anything else you’d like to share?
I’ll broadly paraphrase some of the points that people shared:
- Good hygiene can help you to feel good, which can aid in recovery
- When dealing with multiple mental illness, hygiene can go overboard or get worse depending on which illness is having a flare.
- It can be hard to make peace with the fact that doing the best you can doesn’t necessarily get you at the level you want to be.
- Anxiety can make the idea of being dirty distressing.
- Hot water can help with pain, and that can make showering a good thing.
- Starting to get itchy can be a prompting factor for showering.
- Living with someone can be a motivating factor for maintaining hygiene.
- Washing at the sink can be easier than showering.
None of this really surprised me. I suspect diagnosis makes a difference, with depression, schizophrenia, and schizoaffective disorder likely being the major offenders getting in the way of hygiene. Regardless of diagnosis, though, I think the results pretty clearly show that we’re not alone in our struggles, and I think it’s awesome that so many people were willing to share about a topic that’s not really socially acceptable. Thanks to all who responded!
What do you think of the results? Were there any surprises for you?