Mysophobia Facts: What is the Fear of Microbes?
We are being told all the nasty stories about microbes since childhood. That’s why the fear of getting anything after touching someone’s dirty hands is quite natural. But where is the line between adequate precaution, cleanliness, and phobia of germs? The answer can be found by learning about mysophobia. Mysophobia facts will help us to better understand what is the fear of microbes and how one can overcome the fear of germs.
This disorder is the fear of microbes, bacteria, and the infections they provoke. It is considered a neurotic disorder, akin to the compulsive disorder syndrome. In fact, it is an intrusive, uncontrolled, constant desire to protect oneself from contact with any forms of pathogens. This psychological disorder is a serious deviation, because it limits and complicates one’s life activity.
People suffering from mysophobia are constantly tormented with a phobia of infected with something. This does not allow such people to fully lead a normal lifestyle. Examples include:
- fear of shaking hands.
- touching anything.
- obsessive hand washing.
Fear of microbes makes it very difficult for social activity, causing inconveniences and suffering both to the person and his relatives.
William Hammond is considered the pioneer of phobia of microbes. He served as a military doctor and studied neurological disorders, including obsessive syndromes. He discovered mysophobia from one of the patients, who was always burning with the desire to wash his hands. By the way, it was this symptom that for a long time was perceived as a disorder itself. Later it was found that it is based on the fear of germs and infection.
In addition to endless washing of hands, the symptoms of fear of microbes (from the behavioral side) include:
- Refusal to shake hands.
- The use of disposable dishes.
- Unwillingness to visit public places and take public transportation.
- Limiting contact with others.
Also, such people are easy to recognize by their clothing: they wear a lot of clothes even in the warm season, use gloves, and a medical mask as accessories.
In the case when the person cannot avoid contact with the objects of his fear, he experiences a number of physiological and emotional symptoms:
- Disgust, up to vomiting and stomach cramps
- Severe irritation and anxiety
In addition, there may be heart palpitations, respiratory failure, high blood pressure, dizziness, hand tremors, etc.
People may suffer from the fear of microbes for various reasons, most of which are worth looking for in negative experiences from the childhood.
First of all, a serious infectious disease (in particular, suffered in early childhood) could become the beginning of a mysophobia. The concomitant reasons for this disorder include emotional susceptibility, impressionability, hypochondria, and a rich imagination.
In addition, the phobia of microbes can be transmitted by inheritance: a child who can adopt in adulthood the style of behavior of one of the parents who has suffered from this disorder to some extent.
In recent years, the number of those who are afraid of germs is inexorably growing. This syndrome occupies a leading position in the prevalence among phobias. The blame is the inexorably growing number of infections and deaths of such dangerous diseases as AIDS, hepatitis or tuberculosis. You can find out more about the reasons for mysophobia from my essay on this disease.
Most people suffering from mysophobia adjust their lives, work, and leisure to their own characteristics, that is, fear dictates the conditions of their existence. That is why it is believed that the mere recognition of their problems, the recognition of their disorder, and the call for specialized help are already the first big step on the way to mental recovery and getting rid of the fear of microbes.
Often, psychiatrists and neuropathologists offer to curtail the basic behavioral and physiological symptoms of mysophobia medically (antidepressants and neuroleptics). But more effective methods are those that try to find the deep causes of fear of microbes, including psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, and homeopathy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy also provides good results for overcoming this disorder – it is based on the transformation of negative thoughts and the behavioral fixing of this.