What Does Anal Retentive Mean?

Do you have a tendency to keep large redundant amounts of things like laundry detergent or money? If so, you may be an anal retentive person.

Anal retentive refers to a person who is excessively orderly, fussy or overly meticulous. This personality trait is believed to originate during the anal stage of childhood.

Freud’s Theory

Sigmund Freud posited that there are many personality quirks that originate from childhood experiences. One of these is the anal retentive fixation. A person characterized as anal retentive tends to focus obsessively on details of passing feces such as their consistency, color and aroma. In some cases, this behavior can cause constipation.

The anal stage is the period during which children learn to control defecation. According to Freud, it is a time when children’s libido energy shifts from the mouth to the anal region. He believed that negative parent-child interactions during this period – such as harsh toilet training – can lead to the development of anal retentive fixations.

Anal retentive fixations result in an adult who dislikes mess, is obsessively neat and clean, and has a compulsive need for order. These people can also be stingy and stubborn. They are akin to the “daddy’s girl” that we have all heard of who spends her entire life trying to win the attention and affection of her father.

Other forms of defense mechanisms that might be employed in the anal retentive phase include regression, in which a person acts much younger than their actual age, and projection, in which a person denies their own unconscious feelings by seeing them in others. It is important to seek a mental health professional for evaluation and treatment when anal retentive behaviors are causing anxiety or interfering with normal functioning.

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Psychiatric Disorders

A person who becomes obsessive over details can become a nuisance to those around them. But is this person suffering from a psychiatric disorder or a personality quirk? A psychiatric disorder is any mental, emotional or behavioral problem that limits a person’s functioning at home, work or school. Symptoms may include severe mood fluctuations or persistently irrational fears and anxieties.

Freud’s theory of the anal stage and toilet training suggests that children who struggle with their parents during this phase will develop a personality characteristic of miserliness, stinginess, excessive thoroughness and obstinacy (19). He also believed that if children fixate on controlling defecation, they will become self-righteous as adults.

Anal retentive behavior is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but it shares some traits with obsessive-compulsive disorder, including overly fussy or overly meticulous habits and a desire to control their environment. People with this condition may have trouble getting rid of things or spending money.

Other disorders that share some anal retentive traits are hoarding and perfectionism, which can lead to a buildup of clutter, and narcissistic or psychopathic behaviors, such as egomania and psychopathy. The latter involves a person’s inability to feel empathy for others. This can lead to a need for extreme power and control, impulsive behavior and aggression. Other symptoms of psychiatric disorders include panic disorder, eating disorders and phobias.

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Personality Quirks

Quirks are little character traits that distinguish a person and make them memorable. They can be physical (like spiky blue hair or brightly-colored scarves) or behavioral. They may be something simple like clicking their teeth when nervous or a habit they can’t stop doing. They’re often used in fiction as a way to help readers identify characters quickly and to add some depth to their personality. Some of the most popular and well-known quirks include Harry Potter’s lightning-shaped scar, Katniss Everdeen’s skill with her bow, or Spider-Man’s tendency to spout humorous quips while stringing up bad guys.

Unlike personality disorders, personality quirks are harmless. In fact, some can even be endearing or funny to those who know them. However, it’s important to note that they should not be confused with psychiatric conditions that cause serious harm and interfere with daily life.

Those with anal retentive personality characteristics are known for their fastidiousness and stinginess. They tend to keep large redundant amounts of sundries such as laundry detergent so that they never run out. They also micro-optimize the order of their money by wear-and-tear so that they always have enough to cover their expenses. While they think of themselves as being meticulous and thorough, others view them as sloppy and lazy.


In a colloquial sense, an anal retentive person is someone who pays excessive attention to detail. However, the term has a more sinister connotation, as it derives from Freudian psychoanalysis. An anal retentive personality type is fussy, overly meticulous, and often rigid or obstinate. This personality trait can lead to problems such as perfectionism, a need for control, and resistance to change.

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According to psychoanalytic theory, anal retentive behavior features are developed during the anal stage of childhood development when children discover that they can control defecation. These behaviors can manifest in adulthood as frugality, stinginess, and obstinacy. This type of behavior can also cause chronic constipation, a disorder that affects quality of life and results in the loss of $820 million each year in laxative costs (13).

If you are concerned that your anal retentive behavior is causing a problem in your life, it is important to speak with a mental health professional to see if there is any underlying condition at play. A mental health professional may recommend a variety of treatment options, including cognitive behavioral therapy or medication. In addition, a medical professional may recommend dietary changes or physical activity to help relieve symptoms. Moreover, it is worth noting that a recent study found that anal retentive behavior features are more prominent in patients with functional constipation than healthy subjects (18). Therefore, anal retentive behavior may be a factor in the development of this common gastrointestinal disorder.

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