Category: 

What is Mysophobia?

Mysophobia is the fear of dirt, as well as uncleanliness.
A mysophobe may wash his or her hands repeatedly out of fear of contamination.
Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
A camel can drink 30 gallons (135 liters) of water in under 15 minutes.  more...

August 21 ,  1959 :  Hawaii became the 50th state to enter the Union.  more...

Mysophobia is an intense fear of dirt and uncleanliness. It is typically associated with a fear of contamination with germs; some people call it “germaphobia” as a result. This condition can have serious repercussions for people who suffer from it, as they may embark on radical lifestyle changes to avoid situations in which they may potentially be exposed to germs. There are several treatments for this condition which can allow mysophobes to live relatively normal lives.

As with many psychological conditions, the root causes of mysophobia can be varied and difficult to trace. It may be related to various forms of trauma, for example, either experienced first hand or in the form of books and films. Some psychologists believe that conditions like mysophobia also experienced a sharp increase at the end of the 20th century, as people began to be concerned about conditions like AIDS.

The severity of mysophobia varies. Patients tend to feel tense around potential sources of contamination, and they may feel breathless or nauseated as well. Heart rates typically increase, which can make a patient feel physically ill as a result. Many mysophobes engage in obsessive compulsive behavior like washing their hands. Some people go to extreme lengths to avoid situations in which they might get dirty or sick, essentially cutting themselves off from society.

Ad

This condition was first described by William Hammond in 1879. Hammond was interested in the role of mysophobia in conditions like obsessive compulsive disorder. It can be easy to confuse mysophobia with obsessive compulsive activities like hand washing, but it is important to remember that the root causes of hand washing in mysophobes and obsessive compulsives are different. A mysophobe washes his or her hands repeatedly out of fear of contamination, while obsessive compulsive patients wash their hands because they feel like they have to in order to maintain the order of their lives.

The most common treatment for mysophobia is cognitive behavioral therapy, which attempts to get to the root cause of the condition and to address the specific concerns of the patient. Techniques like meditation and hypnosis may be utilized as well, along with medications which are designed to treat some of the stress and mental anguish associated with severe mysophobia.

Ad

Discuss this Article

anon964213
Post 24

I have been struggling with mysophobia for the past three years and I hate it so much.

anon339678
Post 23

My son claims he has this disorder but he pees the bed. How can you not want germs but wet yourself every night? Urine is okay but cleaning out the sink trap makes him scream in agony. I know some people may actually suffer, but for my son it is a choice to act out. He rages when I say clean anything: "You know I can't. It's filthy". Yeah, right.

anon319602
Post 22

I am mysophobic and it's just been getting worse and worse. I am afraid to do anything. When people try to touch me, I usually scream at them.

I have panic attacks often because someone touches me or something that is mine, or I accidentally touched something. I hate being this way, and I am worried. I want to live a normal life, and I know that with this condition I never can.

I have become distant with others and I think I am slowly becoming depressed. I don't know how I could ever possibly have a boyfriend, or get married, or have children. I can't imagine a future like this. I want to get treatment, but I don't know how to tell anyone that I want to go to a psychologist. I've told friends but they don't take me seriously. They all think its just a joke, and no matter how many times I tell them I have an issue, they keep trying to poke me or hug me or touch me in any way even though they know I get upset.

I wish I could just tell my parents, but I'm afraid they won't take me seriously, even though I know it's irrational because they would do anything to help me. I advise anyone else who has this problem to try their hardest to get help. Being mysophobic, or being a "germophobe" has really had a negative effect on my life. I pretty much fear having physical contact with everything, and I hate it and hate myself for listening to the irrational fears in my head.

I just wish someone would help me, because I can't do it alone. Society's immediate reaction to me and people with my condition is that we are freaks, weirdos, geeks and that it's our own fault. People always make fun of me for it, but they don't get that I just can't make myself do certain things. I laugh along with them, but lately I've realized that it isn't a joke, and that they're laughing at me and my mental condition.

I read that mysophobia is a problem in the brain. I try to explain the though process in my mind, but all I get is people trying to get me to touch door knobs or sit on the floor or laughing about it. I just can't do it. I really can't. I just wish someone would realize that it's not my fault that I am this way and that I have a legitimate problem.

anon310431
Post 21

My wife has developed this, and it's ruined our marriage, and is destroying our children's lives as well. It's progressive - the more she thinks about things, the stricter her rituals become.

It's past just not picking things up off the floor or not using public washrooms. We all have to change all of our clothes at the door when we come into the house, then immediately shower.

If anything from outside touches beyond the foyer, she has a meltdown. Needless to say, we never have people over and rarely visit other people. If she's out, when she comes home, she spends literally hours wiping the floor and washing anything she bought, including groceries.

She won't let me cook anymore, so frequently she winds up making dinner for the children after midnight. And the worst thing is, she denies there's a problem; she thinks she's the only normal one. I can't take it anymore.

If you think you're starting to develop this then first, congratulations on admitting it. At least you can maybe get help. And second, for your own sake, find some way to treat it, because it is progressive, and it will ruin your life.

anon307262
Post 20

I am an admitted germophobe and realize I can't live under a glass jar and neither can my family. One thing I learned in my quest to keep my house clean and control the level of our exposure to microbes and toxins was the issue of the doormat.

The dirty little secret about the common doormat is that they are a reservoir of microbial growth. Think of it as a "convention" of microbes at your doorstep. Think of all the places those soles of yours go in the course of a day. You come home and wipe only to re-infect those soles. The mat acts as an amplification site, the shoes get wiped and the creepy crud on the mat hitches a ride on the shoes to get transported through your house.

The first line of defense in our house is an antimicrobial treated mat that disables the microbes on the mat on contact. We can't control what is outside our home, but we can control what enters our home.

anon272195
Post 15

I'm 21 also have this condition and have never kissed a guy before because I find it icky. I can't even share beverages with people. It's so bad and I hate it so much.

anoncontrol
Post 14

My fear is being contaminated and/or infected by anything contagious. Society’s general response to a germaphobe is “you won’t die” if you touch it/eat it (whatever “it” may be). I know I won’t die. My fear is about what I may have to “live” with that frightens me, and makes me wash my hands over and over.

I know full well that the likelihood of a contaminant being on everything I may touch or that may come into contact with me is zero, but my imagination runs riot, and I see it everywhere. In an attempt to overcome this problem, I’ve spent quite a bit of time self-diagnosing my behaviour. I’ve found that when I’m depressed and dispirited my mind and thoughts are “sluggish” and it’s then that the fear of being contaminated dominates. When I’m happy, when my mind is active and when I’m mentally and physically busy, I do things without a second thought as to being contaminated and I’m not bothered with hand washing. I seldom drink coffee, however. When I do, it is such a mental stimulant that I then too seem to be “freed’ from the problem, but my mind is then so active. This fear makes me so unnecessarily and one-sidedly wanting to control situations and circumstances, especially at home.

My fear causes a need to control others and it’s terribly unfair to them, and in an attempt to make my problem less intrusive to others, I’m constantly being creative in getting around situations and discreetly do things not to upset them. It’s amazing what I’ve achieved this way.

When I’m away from home the fear is much less intrusive. Somehow, I can handle the situations and move on without the need to wash my hands. Could it be because there’s no access to a tap so I simply go on and get through the problems (just fine) and I do things I would never do at home. But when I get home again I’m suddenly overtaken by the need to wash my hands, and remove my clothing if I feel it got contaminated. Again, it’s control.

I’ve gotten through all these situations at home and in public and I’m in good health, so what’s my problem? This is it. I recently learned that two aunts on my mother’s side of the family and a brother have the same problem! It's in the genes! I’ve inherited the damn phobia. It's in my head!

anon240823
Post 12

I don't trust anything to be clean unless it has been bleached, so I'm not bleaching everything, but if my roommate puts a fork on the counter and then into soup I won't eat it because I know the dish cloth that wiped the counter is full of bacteria and was not bleached.

I don't like to put hair ties or bobby pins in my hair that have fallen on the floor without washing them because I'm afraid the germs will crawl off my hair onto my pillow and onto my face. I prefer to open public doors with a piece of newspaper or plastic bag, or shove it open with my foot. I never flush public toilets with my hand. I use my shoe, and I always open bathroom door with paper towel. My favorite technique to use the wheelchair automatic door opener.

anon188424
Post 11

Ah, gotta love the trolls. Obviously we know the fears are completely irrational. That is the whole definition of a phobia, the irrational fear of something. You telling us that germs and dirt won't kill us has absolutely no effect, because the disorder is not rational.

anon163031
Post 10

it's all very well for people who do not suffer this problem to make sarcastic comments. I understand how bad it can get. I carry germ stuff in my bag, I hate public toilets - mostly because they stink! And I think in general people are dirty and have dirty habits like not washing hands are visiting the toilet.

Is it any wonder there are so many viruses out there? Our survival instincts tells us to be clean, it's only just that people become focused or obsessed about it. I have to be careful not to get infections because of my immune system. So, being a germaphobe definitely helps. get help if you need it. I think that a lot of our concerns are very real.

anon141748
Post 9

I am 21 and I believe I have this. It is hard to live with. But I am seeking help. I take medication and it helps. My hands are so dry they crack and bleed but I continue to wash them. But I know I have a problem and I will get the help I need to be normal again. I hope that those of you that read this and learn that you also have a problem will find the help you need.

anon96342
Post 7

I am a 39 year old male still single, never married. The reason is for this is that I am afraid of germs so much that living alone only makes me feel comfortable.

My house is very clean and I always try to get rid of dust particles and hair from the floor and counters. It is very difficult for me to touch door knobs, taking public transportation, and using public restrooms.

I always cover my car seats with garbage plastic bags. If I drop something on the ground, I would not pick it up because I would think it is contaminated with germs.

anon66133
Post 6

the world is covered with grime. humans have survived it so far. we are not a race of pansies. did any of you germaphobes know that when you inhale a scent, you are actually inhaling particles of what you are smelling?

use all the purell and hot water you can find but there are still fecal particles in your nose after you go to the bathroom. think about the smell of a public restroom. you will survive. germs and dirt will not kill you.

anon60704
Post 5

I think i have Mysophobia and i spend ages cleaning and washing to not get germs on my hands.

anon54858
Post 4

I am 16 years old and i have it. sometimes i just turn the shower water on the hottest setting and lie there and cry and i burned my skin once because of that, but no matter how much it hurt, i felt like my skin was cleaner. I hate having this.

anon42450
Post 3

I have mysophobia =( not fun stuffs ... grr

anon36685
Post 2

hello, I am a man 44 years old and I can't have any pleasure to have intimate relations with somebody, because I suffer from mysophobia. I am very depressed because I feel very lonely. Is there any therapy who really helps ???

millhouse
Post 1

Celebrity Howie Mandel is perhaps one of the most well known mysophobes.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email