- The fear of germs, or mysophobia, is a common and harmful one; this disorder can cause one’s life to be ruled by their stress and anxiety related to germs.
- Symptoms of this disorder include excessive hand-washing, avoiding dirty surfaces, and obsessing over cleanliness.
- Mysophobia can make everyday tasks daunting—additionally, those who suffer with this disorder may experience harmful side effects such as panic attacks, chest pain, and nausea.
- Even kids can develop mysophobia; it might help to relieve their worries by explaining how germs can be helpful rather than harmful.
- Fortunately, a few treatment methods have proven effective: cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, medication (like antidepressants), and relaxation techniques.
Before you even touch the cart at the grocery store, you grab a disinfecting wipe and scrub the handle. Similarly, before you open any door, you sterilize the knob or use a paper towel as a barrier. Whatever it takes to avoid coming into contact with germs—consider it done.
A person’s life can become controlled by their stress and anxiety related to their fear of germs. They worry about sitting, eating, and touching any surface. It can even extend to a fear of touching other people or cause panic when somebody gets too close. As one of the most disabling fears out there, mysophobia can make it virtually impossible to live a normal life.
Do I Have Mysophobia? What Are the Symptoms?
When people have mysophobia, their life is dictated by avoiding germs. This excessive fear of germs is actually pretty common and may be related to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Do you worry excessively about coming into contact with germs? If the answer is yes, you might have mysophobia. To gain a better understanding, take a look at the symptoms of this disorder below:
- Excessive hand-washing or sanitizing
- Obsession with cleanliness
- Avoidance of germy areas or surfaces
- Severe fear of becoming contaminated
Why Is Mysophobia Harmful? Can It Afflict Children?
As mentioned previously, mysophobia can make everyday living seriously difficult. Think about it: we come into contact with hundreds of foreign surfaces a day, of which are crowded with germs. Those who grow anxious about this very fact have a tough time doing just about anything outside of their sanitary bubble. Furthermore, these individuals may experience harmful side effects like…
- Shortness of breath
- Quickened heartrate
- Panic attacks
- Chest pain
Even children can develop mysophobia and experience these troubling effects. In fact, it’s very common among children. My own brother used to display symptoms when he was about 10 years old—he’d furiously douse his hands in hand sanitizer every 20-30 minutes. Fortunately, he grew out of it on his own. Other kids aren’t so lucky. Now, this isn’t to say there’s no hope. A counselor at Thriveworks Manassas can help your child with this phobia. Additionally, the following may prove comforting to children who struggle with a fear of germs:
- “Did you know that most germs are harmless? In fact, they help us! They help us digest our food and protect us from other irritants.”
- “Doctors found out that a lack of germs can lead to health problems! We need germs.”
- “People who live on farms have stronger immune systems because they’re exposed to more germs thanks to all the dirt! See? Germs are good!”
Treatment for Mysophobia: How Can I Fix It?
The good news is that there are several effective treatments for mysophobia, some of which are rooted in therapy. These include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This form of therapy focuses on helping the individual to change their unhelpful thoughts and behaviors—in this case, those related to germs. The providers at Thriveworks Durham are experts when it comes to CBT (and other approaches to therapy).
- Exposure therapy: This method slowly exposes a germaphobe to germs in controlled situations and eventually in real-life situations.
- Medication: Some medications help to treat symptoms. More specifically, some antidepressants, which are also used to treat anxiety, can prove effective.
- Relaxation techniques: Deep-breathing, yoga, and other relaxation techniques can also prove helpful to people who suffer with mysophobia.
Remember: you are not alone. You don’t have to navigate your mysophobia by yourself. A mental health professional can help you better understand your specific presentation of this disorder and determine the best approach to treatment for you.