A pathological fear of catching any germs and infection is called germ phobia. Alternatively it is known as mysophobia, germaphobia, verminophobia, bacteriophobia and bacillophobia. This is a kind of obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD which was founded in 1879 by Alexander Hammond. When one is suffering from this kind of phobia, washes their hands repeatedly out of fear of getting contaminated with germs.

Any illogical or irrational fear from an object or a situation is called phobia. There are primarily two kinds of germs. Ones are the good bacteria that help in digestion of food and the other is bad bacteria which bring illnesses such as cold and flu. A person suffering from germ phobia constantly lives under the fear of contacting the harmful bacteria that could in turn, get illness.

Germ Phobia or Bacteriophobia or Verminophobia

This kind of phobia is a common sight in the United States. The belief of world being an increasingly harmful place is the onset of this phobia in Americans is what some experts say. Spreading of AIDS is also a factor that has contributed to the onset of this phobia. The recent emergence of many hygiene related products like hand sanitizers, various soaps, cleansing liquids, use and throw toilet seat covers are one of the few reasons for the growth of this phobia.This obsessive compulsive behaviour is an anxiety disorder that arises due to excessive worrying and overthinking of possibilities of contacting germs.

Causes of Germ Phobia or Bacteriophobia or Verminophobia

The experiences contribute majorly to the development of germ phobia or bacteriophobia or verminophobia. The experience could be first hand or personal wherein the person might have had an illness due to contacting germs or it could be second-hand or due to watching something on the television or hearing someone's story that may have impacted the person deeply. Germ phobia could develop when worrying too much or anxiety disorder runs in the family.

Signs and Symptoms of Germ Phobia or Bacteriophobia or Verminophobia

Feeling of nausea, breathlessness, palpitations, rise in heart beat are all symptoms and signs of germ phobia or bacteriophobia or verminophobia when the person with germ phobia is exposed to germs. In this phobia the person feel lack of control over the situation leading him/her to be anxious thus bringing out such symptoms.

There might be incidents of repeated irrational behaviour of the person suffering from germ phobia. These actions could be:

  • Repeated washing of hands which surprisingly in turn makes the person susceptible to catching infections
  • Avoiding going to public toilets due to fear of catching infections.
  • Not sharing food, utensils and other personal belongings with anyone.
  • Not going to social dos or meeting less number of people and avoid touching or being in close proximity with animals.

This phobia can restrict person from doing normal day to day activities. They may even deny shaking hands with people, touching door handles and could even repeatedly use hand sanitizers and soaps.

This in turn could lead to restricted socialising because of the fear of contamination of dirt or germs. Other people could too get surprised seeing such behaviour of person declaring him/her to be paranoid for no reason, thus in turn, isolating or alienating them.

The Effects of Germ Phobia or Bacteriophobia or Verminophobia

The germ phobia or bacteriophobia or verminophobia is not harmless. This can lead to major unwanted changes in life. Some people may understand that they are suffering from germ phobia and that their fears are not rational and they are fussing too much on cleanliness and in spite may not be able to deal with it.

Avoiding social life, not consuming food not cooked by them or avoiding intimate relationships are all effects of germ phobia. Germ phobia or bacteriophobia or verminophobia can lead a person to become lonely, depressed and over anxious and stressed. When a person completely avoids germs he could in turn develop health problems. Using too much of cleansing solutions and hand sanitizers makes a person more vulnerable to catching germs as their body is not used to fighting them off naturally.

How to Detect if One has Germ Phobia or Bacteriophobia or Verminophobia?

Ask yourself the following questions if you are having symptoms of germ phobia or bacteriophobia or verminophobia.

  • You feel unhygienic about a person who did not cover his mouth while sneezing.
  • You own too many hand sanitizers.
  • You feel like running away seeing a person sneeze
  • House cleaning agents such as Lysol are of prime importance to you.
  • Unnecessary or too much bodily contact is something you really avoid.
  • Shaking hands with people bring out anxiety in you.
  • If your partner has been sick you try and avoid them.
  • You fret over functions like family gathering
  • You are alright with cancelling plans if other they are unwell.
  • You hate being licked by animals on your face
  • You don't like sharing food with others.
  • Public transport and traveling by planes freak you out.
  • You avoid public pools and soaking in a hot water tub is not something you like doing.

Treatment for Germ Phobia or Bacteriophobia or Verminophobia

There are many ways through which germ phobia or bacteriophobia or verminophobia can be treated that will alter the way you live in a positive way.

Treatment of germ phobia or bacteriophobia or verminophobia involves medication such as anti-depressants like SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) and therapies such as CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. They are considered quite effective in the treatment of this OCD.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) involves basically three steps which are exposure therapy, cognitive restricting and relaxation training. A mixture of these steps helps the person come out of germ phobia. These steps are performed either at the doctor's clinic or even at your home.

What is Exposure Therapy for Treating Germ Phobia or Bacteriophobia or Verminophobia?

In exposure therapy for treating germ phobia or bacteriophobia or verminophobia, the patient is exposed to the possible situations which he/she fears to get contaminated with germs. The person might be made to touch dirt or touch plants that were touched by a person wearing gloves that planted it without letting the person wash their hands. This therapy further intensifies then the person is made to keep away from washing their hands and being exposed to germs without them feeling the need to use hand sanitizers or disinfectants.

What is Cognitive Restructuring for Treating Germ Phobia or Bacteriophobia or Verminophobia?

Cognitive restructuring treatment will help the victims of germ phobia or bacteriophobia or verminophobia. This is crucial part of the CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) where a person's mind set is altered and there thought pattern is changed concerning the germ phobia. An example of this could be that the person believes they could contact illness or even die due to the germs surrounding them so they might want to question their belief system and think about their irrational behaviour and thus in turn altering it. Being able to survive in the germs is something they would change their mind set about.

What is Relaxation Training for Treating Germ Phobia or Bacteriophobia or Verminophobia?

Relaxation training can help in treating germ phobia or bacteriophobia or verminophobia. When exposed to germs, the person might get the signs and symptoms of nervousness and anxiety. Relaxation therapy helps them calm down. They might include tools such as visualization activities, breathing techniques and mental cues that help in relaxation. Meditating and watching videos that help to calm down and meditation is also quite helpful.

Prescribed Medication for Germ Phobia or Bacteriophobia or Verminophobia

Medications can help the sufferers of germ phobia or bacteriophobia or verminophobia. If you are unwilling to face the fears medication also helps to a great extent. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI's) is some anti-depressant drugs for example Zoloft, Paxil and Prozac. These are majorly helpful in treating personality and anxiety disorders.

Alternative Treatment Options of Treating Germ Phobia or Bacteriophobia or Verminophobia

Hypnotherapy for Treating Germ Phobia or Bacteriophobia or Verminophobia

Hypnotherapy for treating germ phobia is helpful in treating problems in subconscious state of mind. The fear residing in your subconscious mind and restructured by an expert where you would be in a vulnerable position mentally and emotionally and the doctor plays with your mind restricting your thoughts.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) for Treating Germ Phobia or Bacteriophobia or Verminophobia

Neuro-Linguistic Programming for treating germ phobia is a process which is done to practise on you your own idea of reality is created. A problem such as germ phobia has arisen as a result of situations you create in your mind that have turned sour. With the help of this technique your idea of reality is revealed and altered in order to minimise the fears.

Energy Psychology for Treating Germ Phobia or Bacteriophobia or Verminophobia

Energy psychology for germ phobia or bacteriophobia or verminophobiais a new but unproven therapy for treating fears and phobias. This method is rapid, safe and even long lasting as the studies suggest. It is similar to acupuncture and is often referred as emotional acupuncture. Further in depth knowledge could be done on it based on research and asking around experts.

Herbal Medication to Treat Germ Phobia or Bacteriophobia or Verminophobia

Herbal medication to treat germ phobia or bacteriophobia or verminophobia is considered to be helpful although it is not really verified by the scientific community. It is made from an organic formula and it is believed to have no side effects. It is considered to be extremely beneficial if you have been suffering from psychological disorders concerning anxiety and other kinds of phobias.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: April 11, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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