Mysophobia is the overactive fear of germs or contamination. This particular phobia is often associated with OCD, since many people who have one also have the other and since some of the symptoms of the two are similar. Mysophobia, like other phobias, can lead to social isolation and other problems, but it can be overcome. Here’s what you need to know about this condition and what you can do to overcome it:

Symptoms of mysophobia

It’s normal to be cautious about contamination, food poisoning, and personal hygiene. It’s a good thing, in fact! With mysophobia, though, the fear is taken to an extreme level. Symptoms of this disorder include compulsive hand washing for the sake of getting rid of germs. Those with mysophobia may also avoid shaking hands with other people, using a public restroom, sharing food, or using public transportation. Besides this, these people often shower several times a day, and they might always carry hand sanitizer to use after shaking someone’s hand or even touching a doorknob.

Those with mysophobia will also experience symptoms of extreme fear when they are exposed to bacteria, dirt, or other things they consider to be contaminated. These reactions include heart palpitations, crying, sweating, or even shaking. This is the type of fight or flight fear response you’d expect from someone facing a feral tiger, but this happens every day to people experiencing this phobia.

Also, those who suffer from this extreme fear of germs often eventually start to withdraw from society. They may only function well at home and may avoid social situations, which they perceive as more germy and full of risks of contamination. They may also be picky about foods and the way they are prepared, which can make social situations awkward. Mysophobes are often misunderstood and perceived to just be weird, rude, or neurotic, but they really have a psychological problem that can be overcome with the proper steps.

How mysophobia is treated

One of the most effective ways to treat mysophobia, like other phobias, is cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy is useful for treating all sorts of phobias, since it gives the patient various ways to deal with the thought processes and behaviors that make the fear worse. Those who are afraid of germs and contamination might also benefit from progressively being exposed to the things they fear so that eventually they’ll learn to get rid of the fear response.

Another option for severe mysophobia is medication, which can calm some of the fear reaction. This, however, is not always used to treat the condition. It’s best to talk with your therapist about different medications that may be used to treat phobias like this one. For some people, it’s a good idea to start off on a medication alongside therapy and then to move towards therapy techniques alone while being weaned off of the medications. This can help you learn to manage your symptoms more effectively at first while letting you get off of the medications eventually, which is what most sufferers prefer to do.

Mysophobia can be a debilitating condition if you let it get out of hand, as it can seriously interfere with having a normal social life and even being able to go out into the world to work or enjoy life in general. If you think you’re suffering from this phobia of germs and contamination, see a therapist in your area as soon as possible so that you can get treatment for the problem and learn to get your life back from this phobia.