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New Mom Charlize Theron Is Example of Parenting with OCD

Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- New mother Charlize Theron may have a tougher time than other new moms adjusting to her first child. That's because she's admitted to suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD.

"I have OCD, which is not fun," she told Australian radio show Kyle and Jackie O. "I have to be incredibly tidy and organized or it messes with my mind and switches off on me."

Babies, especially once they reach toddler-hood, aren't exactly known for their neatness. The Oscar-winning actress announced last week that she is the "proud mom of a healthy baby boy named Jackson." This is the first child for the 36-year-old actress, who has been single since her split from actor Stuart Townsend in 2010.

For parents with OCD, having children can actually make symptoms worse. "OCD symptoms tend to latch on to things that are most important to us, so parents with OCD may have doubts about their abilities or intrusive thoughts about their child's safety or hurting their child," Stephen Whiteside, a psychologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who specializes in anxiety disorders including OCD, told ABC News.

OCD is an anxiety disorder that at its basic level is a fear of one's thoughts, whether it's a fear of messiness, germs or something else. To relieve the anxiety associated with such intrusive thoughts, an obsessive-compulsive will feel compelled to behave in a certain way, such as cleaning out their cabinets before going to sleep or checking and rechecking their child.

Whiteside has heard anecdotes of OCD patients actually improving once they became parents. "It's certainly possible that when you have something that is of greater concern to you -- you're not just taking care of yourself but a baby -- those emotions can overwhelm the OCD and motivate you to do the things to get better. The best treatment is exposure or facing your fears," Whiteside said.

That's what happened to Julianne Moore, who scrapped her daily routine of leaving her apartment at exactly the same time and pacing her walk so that she only got green lights, after having children Caleb and Liv. "Having two young children means you drop all that sort of rubbish!" Moore told UK's Guardian.

Moore admitted she's still "fanatical about straightening furniture and lining stuff up, but I'm much more laid back than I used to be!"

Theron also struggles when things are out of order. "I have a problem with cabinets being messy and people just shoving things in and closing the door. I will lie in bed and not be able to sleep because I'll say to myself: 'I think I saw something in that cabinet that just shouldn't be there,'" she was quoted saying in London's Daily Mail.

Comparing herself to the character she played in her most recent film, Young Adult, she told the Australian radio show, "I am not dirty at all, I'm actually the opposite."

Whiteside's advice to her and other new parents with OCD: "Try to put things in perspective, reminding yourself that you're going to do a much better job as a parent if you leave things messy and spend time with your child than being perfect."

He said, "It might be uncomfortable at first, but the feeling gradually goes away, and it should get easier."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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