What is Mysophobia or Germophobia & How is it Treated?

What is Mysophobia or Germophobia?

In greek language, Myso means germs and Phobo is often refer to as fear. When a person is afraid of getting infected form germs or has fear of microbes, then the condition can be termed as mysophobia or germophobia. You can also call this disease as bacteriophobia, bacillophobia and verminophobia.

Mysophobia or germophobia usually happens when people suffer from excessive fear of getting infected from germs and due to which they believe this world as filthy place for them to live in. Hence, they keep on washing and cleaning their hands too often. Besides this, many purchase cosmetic and other products which are effective in cleaning hands. Thus by washing too often they become victims of harmful chemicals that are present in hand wash, soap and other washing products.

People suffering from mysophobia or germophobia are excessively feared with harmful substances & germs infection. Irritation, unreasonable fear of germs plus anxiety often result in mysophobia or germophobia. People keep on thinking about microbes every time in such conditions. They even have fear of getting contaminated with surroundings like dirt, grime, and also other people suffering from cough and cold or dust. If a mysophobe falls sick on regular basis then he or she believes that habitual cleaning is quite essential. This can even impact ours daily routine.

What is Mysophobia or Germophobia?

What Phobia is the Fear of Germs?

  • Mysophobia or Misophobia is the fear of getting contaminated with germs or dirt.
  • Molysmophobia or Molysomophobia is the fear of dirt or contamination.

How Common is Mysophobia or Germophobia?

Many people often suffer from mysophobia or germophobia. However, there are many psychological health issues like OCD, Hypochondria and Nosophobia which can be accompanied with mysophobia or germophobia. Many popular hollywood celebrities also suffered from this mental situation and have extreme fear from getting contaminated from germs or contamination.

Causes of Mysophobia or Germophobia

There is no exact cause for mysophobia or germophobia. There are few theories associated with such mental illnesses according to health experts though there are no logical reasons behind such phobias. Phobias can be developed due to fear from big or large animals, due to height fear or from germs. People may react in very unusual way while suffering from it.

Past experiences of a person may also result in mysophobia or germophobia. Unnatural parents’ death, childhood illness, painful treatment can be reasons for extreme fear from germs.

  • Mysophobia or germophobia can be caused from OCD or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. An individual always feel to wash his or her hands and feet frequently. In OCD, the sufferer follow hand washing as a routine while in mysophobia or germophobia, an individual washes his or her hand due to germs or microbes fear. Thus, it is common that a patient can suffer from both of these illnesses. By the help of medical test, the difference in both illnesses can be easily determined.
  • Heredity is an important factor in causing mysophobia or germophobia. It has been seen that if a family member suffer from such problem then others may also become victim of the illness.
  • Mysophobia or germophobia can be triggered from random as well as traumatic event.
  • Through school learning, getting in contact with infected people and reinforcement of certain beliefs have also resulted in such kind of illness.
  • Various traumatic events, either witnessed or experienced, in the past may also have a roots of causing mysophobia or germophobia.

Signs and Symptoms of Mysophobia or Germophobia

Level of fear of any person is directly responsible for different sorts of signs and symptoms in an individual. Often people found with a kind of panic attack in the form of dry mouth, shaking, nausea, sweating, irregular and rapid heartbeats etc… can be frequently seen in the persons suffering from mysophobia or germophobia. Some of the other behaviors can also taken into account as signs and symptoms of mysophobia or germophobia, which can be enumerated as:

  • Avoiding use of public washrooms at any cost.
  • Refuse to share personal belongings with others, such as soap, comb, towel and food.
  • Washing excessively and frequently is a common symptom of mysophobia or germophobia.
  • Avoiding all of such social activities which have even slightest chance of coming in contact with infected persons.

Finally, individuals with mysophobia or germophobia develop a habit of imposing various kinds of impositions on themselves and refuse to come into social events or activities such as shaking hands, avoiding touching door knobs or handles, using hand sanitizers and antiseptic soaps very frequently. Such kind of behavior affects the personal and occupational life of individuals severely.

When to Visit a Doctor for Mysophobia or Germophobia?

Mysophobia or germophobia has a huge influence over routine chores of the people. In case any of the above given symptoms found in any person and keeps on persisting more than six months of duration, it is an alarming situation, indicating that it is the time to visit a doctor and act as per their advice. Moreover, mysophobia or germophobia can also occur along with OCD or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder condition as well, which may cause severe depression to the people. In such cases, these symptoms can be controlled through various treatment procedures under the care of expert medical practitioner.

Complications in Mysophobia or Germophobia

A mysophobia or germophobia condition involves various complications with it, including medical and social conditions. People often find themselves helpless as their reactions are unreasonable and because of that they would not be able to help themselves. People suffering from mysophobia or germophobia, completely avoids any sort of public contact, developing intimate nature of relationships and even eating food which is not made by them as well.

Such severe detachment from society and normal life leads this condition of mysophobia or germophobia towards more advance stage in which people fall into the grip of depression, anxiety and social isolation. This attitude of avoiding germs completely augments the conditions of other health ailments. Such relentless use of disinfectant and antibacterial agents enables germs to grow with more resistant power or even create a new form of microorganisms with higher resistant power against antibacterial stuffs. Children unexposed to germs can develop different types of allergies as well.

Tests to Diagnose Mysophobia or Germophobia

Initial Self Diagnosis for Mysophobia or Germophobia

There is a fine line which decides the difference between the preventive measures of avoiding germs and mysophobia or germophobia. Considering over the few questions, would clear out the picture regarding having mysophobia or germophobia conditions or not. These points can be enumerated as:

  • Do you use mask and gloves at public places, in a way to avoid any sort of contamination?
  • Are you seriously conscious about using public washrooms? and Do you avoid public washrooms at any cost?
  • Whether you are obsessive of cleaning house?
  • Whether you use to wash your hand so frequently that your hand skin comes to notice cracks as well as bleeds?
  • Are you afraid of leaving house instead of encountering germs?

If most of the them or even all questions seems to be answered in ‘yes’ by any individual, then for sure, it is his/ her time to visit any experienced psychiatrist, who can advise them whether mental treatment would help them or not.

Treatment for Mysophobia or Germophobia

It is recommended to treat the mysophobia or germophobia and OCD or anxiety, by combination of therapeutic procedures. Some of the prominent methods or therapy procedure includes cognitive behavior treatment, gradual desensitization treatment procedures, relaxation training programme and drugs.

  1. Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT for Treating Mysophobia or Germophobia

    Cognitive behavior therapy or CBT for treating mysophobia or germophobia helps an individual to change his thoughts or attitude towards fear of microbes. A person is desire to write down the entire positive along with negative thoughts which he or she posses about germs. For e.g. ” I fear that I would die because of germs” or ” in some cases microbes are very healthy as well as useful for humans” etc… afterward patients are asked to take deciding decision about germs.

  2. Another Way to Treat Mysophobia or Germophobia is by Relaxation Training

    Whenever a person has mysophobia or germophobia, the relaxation training which is based on tools of calmness and mental peace can be used to fight against the fear of minute germs. Visual exercise, breathing technique, physical exercise or meditation is effective in reducing your fear of micro-organisms.

  3. Exposure Therapy is yet Another Way to Treat Mysophobia or Germophobia

    Exposure therapy is yet another way to treat mysophobia or germophobia in which the patient is exposed to the environment very slowly in order to relearn how to face the world which is filled with germs. This will help a person in refraining from cleaning his or her hand again and again.

Prevention of Mysophobia or Germophobia

As it is often said that prevention is better than cure therefore most therapies for mysophobia or germophobia are based on preventing complications of it. Micro-organism is important for all living beings. People having fear of such organisms can make their life stressful as well as complicated. Nevertheless, you will find multiple treatment or healing therapy for mysophobia or germophobia.

It is correctly said that washing ones’ hand can be good prevention from cold, diarrhea, meningitis, flu and hepatitis A as per CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Yet you cannot scrub your hand too frequently. There are few recommended guidelines by CDC for washing hands:

  • Before eating.
  • Someone who is suffering from cold.
  • If your hands are dirty.
  • After sneezing or coughing.
  • After using bathroom.
  • Before preparing food.
  • After handling waste of animals.

In order to wash hands properly:

  • You need to wet hands and then apply soap or liquid hand wash. Always place the soap on the dish where it can get dry easily.
  • Take 15-20 seconds for scrubbing your hands from all side.
  • You have rinse well plus pat dry hands. If you are using public restroom then make use of dryer or any paper towel.
  • Gel sanitizer and hand wipes can be used in absence of water & soap.

Prognosis/Outlook for Mysophobia or Germophobia

The prognosis or outlook for mysophobia or germophobia is excellent if the sufferer continues to follow the treatment till the end. About 80 percent of the patients can get a relief from majority of the symptoms of mysophobia or germophobia. The chances of recurrence is present so it is advised by the specialists that the patients of mysophobia or germophobia should completely finish the therapy and other treatments and in near future if the patient becomes the victim again or if there is a recurrence then they can use the tools which are provided in the therapy sessions to come out of difficult situations.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 22, 2022

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