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Mysophobia: Definition, Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Sharon Linde
In this lesson we will learn about mysophobia, a condition in which people are unreasonably fearful of germs, bacteria, filth and contamination. We will discover symptoms and treatments usually associated with this disorder.

Definition of Mysophobia

We've all been there. We've all been in a place that seems dirty or full of germs and we can't find a place to wash our hands. Feeling the need to get clean in some situations is normal, maybe even necessary, and it can be a little stressful if we can't wash right away. However, some people worry more about germs and bacteria than others - not just in situations like these but in other situations and on a regular basis. Their fears can be so intense that they interfere with their daily activities. These people have a disorder called mysophobia, also known as germophobia, an unreasonable fear of germs, bacteria, filth or contamination by them.

Howie Mandel, the comedian, actor, and host of the television program America's Got Talent, is open about his great fear of germs. He may or may not be diagnosed with mysophobia, but Howie has admitted to being affected by obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Many patients with mysophobia also suffer from OCD, which revolves around obsessive thoughts and behaviors that interfere with daily life.

Symptoms of Mysophobia

Mysophobia is a condition that can only be diagnosed by a medical or mental health professional such as a doctor. Some symptoms of mysophobia include:

  • Washing frequently or obsessively
  • Refusal to use public restrooms
  • Avoiding social situations or activities where people gather
  • Refusal to share some personal items: combs, brush, food, etc.
  • Refusal to touch doorknobs or shake hands

When mysophobes feel they are in the presence of germs they can have severe reactions and experience symptoms similar to those of panic attacks: sweating, nausea, rapid or irregular heartbeats, and even chest pain.

Treatment for Mysophobia

For patients with chronic cases of mysophobia, everyday tasks and social situations can become very frightening and complicated. The good news is that there are a number of options that have proven useful in treating those who suffer from mysophobia. Medical and mental health professionals are able to help patients with the following types of treatment:

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