Do you have fear of dirt?
Isn’t it funny how we fear things that we cannot see? Like germs and viruses?
These organisms are so tiny they can’t be seen with our naked eyes. They don’t have a nucleus nor organelles and membranes. Yet, just by hearing their names, we all cringe (some even puke).
Other than causing sore throat, germs and bacteria can cause respiratory illnesses, flu, and worse – infection.
Think about viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF).
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Don’t they give you chills?
Surely, they do. And it’s just reasonable that we all fear these microorganisms.
And if these illnesses and diseases are not enough to make you cringe, here are some more terrifying facts:
Every normal person will certainly feel terrified when they hear about these things.
But what does it really mean to have fear of germs?
Germophobia is a term used by psychologists to refer to a pathological fear of germs, bacteria, viruses, and all relevant things. They dire the possibility of contamination and infection. It is closely related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) because many studies suggest that those who have OCD tend to have fears of contamination, with symptoms like compulsive handwashing, cleaning, and extreme avoidance of potential contaminants. Some would choose to crap on their pants than to use a public toilet. Others won’t even share a glass with their spouse.
Like any other phobias, there doesn’t seem to be an exact cause of germophobia. However, experts agree that there are contributing factors to one’s risk of developing the fear of germs:
People with germophobia have the same manifestations. Symptoms include:
Whenever they are confronted with situations that trigger their phobia, germaphobes will exhibit symptoms similar to anxiety disorder, such as:
For ordinary people, they may think that germaphobes are simply overreacting. However, they are not. Like any other kind of phobia, their fear of germs is real and persistent enough to impact their day-to-day life.
The terms “germophobia”, “mysophobia”, and “verminophobia” are used interchangeably. Generally, they all mean fear of dirt and contamination.
Germophobia literally means “fear of germs”. It was coined by William A. Hammond when describing a case of OCD in which a person is repeatedly washing his hands.
The term mysophobia comes from the Greek word musos which means "uncleanness". People with mysophobia are fearful of places that are unorganized, filthy, and full of clutter such as public restrooms, thinking that these places might be contaminated with germs and infection-causing bacteria.
Verminophobia is another term for the fear of germs.
Germophobia treatment is similar to that of other phobias. The goal is to help the person become more comfortable with germs, thereby improving his or her quality of life.
Germophobia is treated either through therapy, medication, or a combination of both.
The most popular and considered more effective germophobia treatment is psychotherapy or counseling. Talking with a mental health professional lets a person manage his or her phobia by knowing where the irrational fear is coming from and learning healthy coping mechanisms.
There are two types of psychotherapy that work best for phobias.
Medications may be prescribed to a germophobe but only for short-term use. Such medications are similar to those that are given to people suffering from depression and anxiety. They include beta blockers that block the stimulating effects of adrenaline, such as increased heartbeat, shaking voice and limbs, and elevated blood pressure, as well as sedatives that help reduce anxiety by relaxing or calming the body.
Note that medications for germophobia are not recommended for long use because they have side effects and do not really address the root cause of the phobia. These drugs should only be taken upon the advice of a health professional.
In order to have mental calmness, germaphobes may use high-level disinfectants for example to clean some surfaces in the kitchen or to just disinfect different items like kitchen utensils, manicure kit and many more.
Mental health practitioners also recommend a few lifestyle changes in helping people deal with phobias. If you have fear of germs, you can incorporate the following strategies into your daily life to manage your anxiety better:
Germophobia or the fear of germs, like any other phobia, can take a toll in a person’s life. Thankfully, there are ways to manage it and hopefully, overcome the condition.
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