According to the phobia dictionary mysophobia is classified as the fear of germs. This common condition affects many people and is believed to be an offshoot of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Mysophobia is a little bit more than just being obsessive. While a common symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder is repeated and frequent washing of hands, it’s the motivation behind it that makes it different. A person who suffers from mysophobia is washing his or her hands frequently to remove dirt or germs that they fear may be present. A person who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, on the other hand, are compelled to relieve the distress they experience as a result of a non-completion of the act itself. This leads them to continually or frequently wash their hands. There are underlying motivation is not to remove unseen dirt, grime, or germs. It is important to understand the difference between the two in order to accurately diagnose the problem.
Mysophobia also compels the sufferer to clean their environment frequently. They’re much more than just neat freaks who want everything in a certain order in a certain way. They are cleaning in order to rid their home or environment from germs that may be present. Because the world is full of germs it makes it impossible for person to completely eradicate germs from their surroundings. This is why patients spend a great deal of time cleaning and scrubbing their environment. They were even go to extremes to expose themselves to harmful chemicals on a regular basis in order to ensure that the area is clean and sanitized.
Mysophobia can affect anybody. There are several well-known celebrities that also suffer from this fear. Probably one of the most well-known celebrities who suffers from mysophobia is Howie Mandel. But he is far from alone. Others who suffer from this affliction also include:
Probably one of the most well-known fictional characters who suffered from mysophobia would be Adrian Monk, the popular TV show detective.
Because of mysophobia can be confused for obsessive-compulsive disorder or just someone who is excessively tidy there are a few ways to tell the difference. If there is a persistent and excessive fear of germs than the person probably suffers from mysophobia. A person who has this condition also recognize that their fear is excessive but they cannot help the immediate fear response they feel. Their fear of germs interferes with their life to the point where they will not leave the house on a regular basis in order to avoid coming into possible contact with germs.
There are many different reasons why a person becomes mysophobic. The three main reasons include:
- personal fear, a fear in which you have feel intently about catching a serious uncontrollable illness from someone else or fear of living in a dirty environment;
- a witnessed fear, which is when you experience watching a family member or close friend get sick and die from a disease;
- an interpersonal or learned fear, this fear stems from learning the dangers of germs and the preventative germs in schools our from TV.
There is treatment for mysophobia. Normally this treatment includes cognitive behavior therapy coupled with an antianxiety medication or antidepressant. The medication helps the person feel at ease and calm enough to go through the cognitive behavior therapy. As exposure therapy begins to work and their fear and anxiety is lessened, the therapist will reduce the amount of medication the patient is taking. Learning coping and relaxation techniques, being exposed to areas that contain germs, and cognitive restructuring all play a part in helping the patient learn to not be afraid.