Being careful to sanitize and clean is important to everyday health, but if avoiding germs is always first on the to-do list, it is possible that one suffers from mysophobia. For “germaphobes,” avoiding germs dictates how they live their lives. Someone who fears germs might avoid contact with people or is constantly in a state of sanitation. A mysophobe who believes they have been contaminated will often feel physical side effects such as panic attack, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling, sweating, accelerated heart rate, chest pain and nausea.
Symptoms of Mysophobia
- If fear takes over and one finds themselves suffering from physical symptoms
- One recognizes that avoiding germs is taking over daily routines
- Avoiding people, places or things in order to prevent germ contamination
- Phobia has persisted over a significant length of time and is affecting one’s health, mood, work or family life
Causes of Mysophobia
Mysophobia can be triggered by an event or sometimes for no apparent reason. Some people can get by their phobias easily, but for those who fear germs, their phobia can be life altering. When dealing with mysophobia, the opinion of a professional is vital since many times mysophobia can be construed as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The difference is that people who fear germs avoid them or get rid of them while people with OCD have a routine set in stone (if they always clean, they will never just avoid the germs).
Treatment of Mysophobia
Luckily, methods to conquer the fear of germs are out there. Treating mysophobia can be approached from several different angles such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, more commonly known as exposure therapy. Some medications can also help treat the worst of the phobia symptoms or aid in coping with exposure therapy. Using the exposure therapy method slowly exposes a germaphobe to germs in controlled situations and then in real life situations. Over short to long periods of time, depending on the severity of the case, therapy can help people who fear germs get their lives back in order.
People with mysophobia can learn to help themselves, too. First is knowing what it is one is truly scared of. Second, controlling negative thoughts is also helpful as a negative train of thought can blow the actual effects of germs out of proportion. Lastly, practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga and muscle relaxation can help people avoid a mysophobia attack.
Germs are a common part of everyday life, both the good ones and the bad ones. Mysophobia treatment professionals are out there. Getting informed is the first step, next it is important to find a professional who knows how to lead you down the path of recovery. Continuing to live with a phobia will most likely disrupt a person’s social life and mental health, eventually requiring intervention from a medical professional in order to fully heal. If the problem is ignored, more serious issues like depression may arise and result in a whole new series of complications. Treating a phobia takes time but there are several methods that have proven successful in treating those struggling with mysophobia.
- Phobics-Awareness.org – General information on phobias
- Helpguide.org – Physical symptoms of phobia attacks
- Medinik.com – General information on mysophobia
- About.com – General information on mysophobia