Categories: Health & Fitness

Fear of germs, dirt: what is mysophobia?

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Eviction from hospitals and other places filled with microbes or dust… When this phenomenon becomes pathological, we speak of mysophobia. Where is that from ? What are the symptoms” ? How to treat it?

Definition: what is mysophobia?

From the Greek mysos (defilement, impurity) and phobos (fear), mysophobia corresponds to pathological fear of germs, dirt, dust, stains and bad odors. The person with mysophobia is aware that his fear is irrational but she can’t control it. In the grip of more or less strong manifestations of anxiety, she adopts avoidance strategies to flee situations that trigger panic attacks: hospitals, analysis laboratories, an old house… “Mysophobia is a phobic disorder which belongs to the large family of anxiety disorders. Phobia is different from anxiety in that phobia has a well-defined object, unlike an anxiety attack which triggers without an object”specifies Pr Anne Sauvaget, psychiatrist at the University Hospital of Nantes.

Cause: where does mysophobia come from?

Mysophobia can be linked to a set of factors: genetic, family, environmental, educational or even psychological. A child who grew up with anxious parents is more likely to develop a phobia. Mysophobia can also be related to a traumatic event that occurred in childhood or as a result of observing other people’s behavior. Moreover, the Covid-19 epidemic could have contributed to accentuate the mysophobia.

What are the signs of a mysophobic person?

Mysophobia should not be confused with being a cleanliness freak. The real fear of germs and dirt can cause anticipatory anxiety. The subject fears, in anticipation, to find himself in a hospital, a laboratory, a dirty place or filled with dust. He adopts avoidance strategies and when the situation cannot be avoided, he can a panic attack. “This phobic disorder is often accompanied by obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) such as taking several showers a day, washing your hands ten times after going to the toilet, avoiding kissing people for fear of catching germs or doing housework for hours“, details the psychiatrist.

Is there a test to diagnose mysophobia?

The diagnosis of mysophobia is clinical, it is essentially based on questioning the patient. There is no specific test to detect it. The psychiatrist bases himself on the ailments of which the patient complains.

What is the treatment for mysophobia?

Simple phobic disorder does not require drug treatment. Treatment is primarily based on cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT) which target the symptoms of the phobia in order to help the patient confront the object of his fear. Virtual reality could be a therapeutic avenue future, because it also allows you to immerse yourself in the scary situation and increase the effectiveness of CBT“, informs our interlocutor.

Thanks to Pr Anne Sauvaget, psychiatrist at Nantes University Hospital

#Fear #germs #dirt #mysophobia

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