MYSOPHOBIA: Fear Of Germs Phobia (Symptoms & Treatments)

Mysophobia is the persistent fear and aversion to germs, microbes, or getting contaminated with germs. Hence, Germophobia, also known as mysphobia is a derivation from two Greek words: Myso-germs and Phobos-fear.

Individuals with mysophobia think of the world as a “place of filth“, filled with unseen germs and microbes that cause diseases. These individuals spend vast amounts of money on cleaning and antiseptic products and large amounts or time on cleaning and disinfecting the surfaces around them. These chemicals usually have a devastating and dangerous effect on their health eventually.  Unlike non-mysophobes, mysophobes are more concerned with decontamination and disinfection over the presence of dust on surfaces.
The difference between being mysophobic and being tidy/clean should not be lost. A lot of people world wide have an extreme fear and aversion to germs and diseases, they think persistently about microbes and getting infected with germs.  They fear germs, dirt, grime, people who are coughing or sneezing and sick people.  These go a long way in negatively impacting one’s life and work functioning.

CAUSES OF MYSOPHOBIA:

The causes of the fear of germs or germophobia include:
* Traumatic experiences involving loved ones or direct experience to oneself can induce and trigger mysophobic tendencies in an individual.
* Heredity and genetics are also responsible as mysophobia can be traced back from sufferers to their Obsessive-Compulsive parents or caregivers.
* The media also plays a role in causing the fear of germs. Young children and adults are exposed to information and reinforcements about germs and diseases to the extent that fear of them is instilled subconsciously.
* Obsessive compulsive disorder can cause mysophobia. People suffering from OCD have the urge to clean DNA wash their hands and surroundings in a routinely manner. Unlike mysophobes, which it’s motivation stems from the fear of germs and microbes. They should not be mistaken for another. A thorough medical examination is required to specify the type of disorder ailing the individual.

SYMPTOMS OF THE FEAR OF GERMS (GERMOPHOBIA):

Physical symptoms of a panic attack (in what is assumed or misconceived to be the presence of germs) such as shaking, dry mouth, sweating, nausea, rapid and irregular heartbeat etc are seen in people suffering from the excessive fear of germs. The patient is also likely to indulge in unreasonable behavior or actions like:
* Washing frequently and excessively.
* Refusing to use public bathrooms.
* Avoiding all kinds of social activities or places that include coming in contact with dirty people or animals.
* Refusing to share personal items like combs, brushes, or food with anyone.
Gradually, the individual may restrict himself from certain things which might include refusing to touch the doorknobs directly or shaking hands with anyone, as well as constantly using products like hand sanitizers or soaps, which, in large quantities, are (paradoxically) known to make one more prone to infections. Thus, Mysophobia can severely impact one’s occupational, social and familial activities.

TREATMENT OF MYSOPHOBIA:

Germs are an important, and necessary component of everyday living. To a mysophobic, this is different and wrongly percepted, making life harder.
There are various ways to curb and treat mysophobia and they include:
* A combination of treatments such as medication, gradual desensitization, human behaviour cognitive therapy, and relaxation techniques can be used to treat germophobia.
* Exposure therapy by gradually introducing the stimulus of the fear of germs to a mysophobic and helping the phobic to overcome his fear. Individuals also learn to relax, breath deeply, differentiate between reality and non-reality and also stay in a contaminated area.
* Human cognitive therapy involved gradually changing the negative thoughts to positive thoughts of the phobic. The patients are then encouraged to practice facing their fears.
Other treatment methods include: yoga, meditation, etc.

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