bipolar parent

How Mental Health Affects Personal Hygiene

Hygiene is extremely important for health and morale-related reasons, but mental health conditions can negatively affect self-care. Keeping up a routine of frequent bathing can be difficult for many people suffering from bipolar disorder, unipolar depression, schizophrenia, and dementia. Teeth and hair brushing are burdensome for the mentally ill; indeed, getting that done on a daily basis is hard for me as well.

During my stay in the mental hospital, patients had to request that they be let into the shower, which was locked. The nurses required us to be dressed by eight a.m., but didn’t require oral care or hair brushing. As a result, my normally-straight hair became ridiculously tangled, to the point that I described it as a mass of Brillo pads piled atop my head.

Credit to user Niklas Gustavsson. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

Self-neglect is one of the major symptoms of depression, and can easily be tied into mania as well. Body odor, soiled clothes, and poor oral hygiene are all signs of something going very wrong in a person’s life. Loss of motivation, a lack of self-worth, and social isolation all contribute to poor hygiene.

One way to help remind yourself to wash is to have soap and other supplies readily stocked. Fresh towels, even if it’s difficult to do laundry, are essential to cleaning oneself. People who care about you can help keep you on task as well by asking if you’ve had a shower lately. And you don’t need to bathe everyday. Showering every day strips the oils from your skin and hair, drying them out. So just get a bath in when you can.

Hygiene can be hard to maintain, especially if you’re in the throes of a mood episode. But it’s crucial to managing moods. Best of luck engaging in self-care!


13 thoughts on “How Mental Health Affects Personal Hygiene

  1. I’ll be back to leave a “real” comment, but for some reason this post didn’t show up in my WordPress Reader! Boo! I saw it on Twitter. So I unfollowed and re-followed The Bipolar Parent, and I hope that does the trick! 😉

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  2. Okay, I’m back as promised! I got an email notification of this post (thank goodness) but it’s still not appearing in the Reader, so if you noticed I follow you again, you’ll know what’s up.

    This post is so comprehensive despite being concise. You totally “get it” when it comes to the significance of maintaining decent hygiene in the face of mental illness. I’ll never forget I was terribly depressed at home. I hadn’t showered for an entire week. Gross! A friend of mine came over unannounced, and she watched my girls and insisted I take a shower. Of course it was the LAST thing I wanted to do, but I did it. And it shifted things for me. The depression still sucked, but there was a change in energy, if you will, and it was a beneficial one.

    I really liked your suggestions and the reminder that we don’t need to be hyper-clean. We don’t need to shower daily, but we can’t wait a week either! Having people check in with us is such a great suggestion as well because if we’re not accountable, then it’s not likely to happen. On that note, um, I didn’t brush my teeth this morning. My mouth feels rather fuzzy, and that contributes to my feeling kind of yucky, so I’m off to brush the choppers now.

    I give you full credit for today’s tooth brushing, Cass! 😉 Xo

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    1. Excellent, Dyane! Thanks for commenting. I appreciate your compliments, and I’m glad you’ve decided to brush your teeth today. 🙂 It’s so difficult to maintain on a daily basis when you’re not used to any sort of a routine. Trust me, I know.

      I’m so sorry you were depressed, but good on your friend for watching your girls and insisting on self-care techniques.

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  3. Wow this makes so much sense. I stopped brushing my hair and teeth and stopped showering while in my postpartum mania. I had no idea that was what it was at the time, my mum was the one who picked up that I was not doing these things. Thanks, great post for reflection!

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    1. Taking care of yourself during a mood episode is so difficult. We don’t even know that we’re neglecting hygiene most of the time. I’m so sorry you faced that trial, but I’m glad you improved!

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    1. That’s difficult. I don’t want to offer an armchair diagnosis, so I’ll just give you my condolences and hope that you can reassess your relationship with bathing, and make it work better for you. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


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