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What is Germaphobia? Definition, Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, and More

What is Germaphobia? Definition, Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, and More

Updated on May 27, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD , Certified Psychiatrist

What is Germaphobia Definition, Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, and More

Key Takeaways

  • Fear of germs (germaphobia) develops between childhood and teenage.
  • There are good and bad germs in the human body.
  • Germaphobes often suffer from cleaning compulsions and try to avoid social gatherings.
  • Several treatment options are available for Germaphobia like Therapy, medication, VR Therapy.
  • The recent pandemic outbreak might aggravate germaphobia so seek help ASAP.

So, you’ve heard about Germaphobia recently… and are concerned if you or someone from your inner circle has similar symptoms.

Wait, don’t jump to conclusions… not yet.

…because it may not be as grave as you are thinking it to be.

In fact, it may not be Germaphobia at all.

There are other mental health disorders like OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) that has similar symptoms,

So how do you know you are suffering from Germaphobia? Read this until the last… and you’ll know.

Germaphobia Infographics

What is Germaphobia & Symptoms
What is Germaphobia & Symptoms
Germaphobia - Causes & Treatment
Germaphobia – Causes & Treatment

Germaphobia Definition

Germaphobia is the fear of disease-causing germs like parasites, bacteria, or viruses. It is also known as germophobia, mysophobia, verminophobia, bacteriophobia, and bacillophobia.

Germaphobia is a mental health disorder with a constant pathological fear of germs or microbes among the patients. They feel compelled to clean their hands or personal possessions in daily life.

In the post-covid19 world, hygiene maintenance is a huge public concern. Good hygiene habits can help you and your close ones avoid sickness for a long time.

You might see anyone wash their hands or use hand sanitizers and perceive them as an aware individual.

But imagine a person using a hand sanitizer or hand washing all the time… even when they did not contact a potential contaminant.

That’s what germaphobia looks like – it’s not something one does consciously or to maintain hygiene.

People with germaphobia cannot assess which situation truly threatens everyday life or the human immune system.

What causes Germaphobia?

Childhood trauma, family habit, lifestyle habits, or even some brain chemical imbalance might cause Germaphobia. This mental illness usually develops from childhood or teenage years.

All phobias have deep-rooted causes like a traumatic experience or a habit from an elder. People suffering from mysophobia nurture it between childhood and teenage years.

So, if one wants to treat their mysophobia, finding the actual causes can help through the treatment procedures.

Moreover, it can also prevent germaphobia development in your younger ones. Some reasons behind this pathological fear are likely…

1. Traumatic childhood experiences

Most people with mysophobia have a history of childhood trauma that connects to their current mental condition. There is a connection between their traumatic memory and germs, and with time, that one-time trauma is converted into irrational fears.

2. Genetic condition

Some phobias just run in the family… which increases the risk of all the family members.  

Even though children don’t inherit them from birth, they like to copy their elders because of their desire to grow up quickly.

They try to imitate their role models, and if this person suffers from a phobia, sadly the child also practices the same behavior.  

Some experts believe children may not necessarily inherit the exact phobia but may still be prone to other kinds of anxiety disorders or phobias.  

3. Life environment

If someone grows up with excessive cleaning rituals around them, they might eventually develop this mental illness. Hygiene maintenance is a great practice but you must not overdo it. In life, limit all the good habits, else it can impact you the wrong way.

4. Brain chemicals or enzymes

The sufferer’s brain chemicals can also lead to germaphobia. Sometimes the brain reacts to certain things without clear reason and develops phobias like a conditioned reflex.

The fear unknowingly activates in the patient when they see or experience something.

Just like Pavlov’s dog experiment, certain things can impact the brain unnaturally. Those conditions or things are also known as triggers.

A trigger can suddenly result in uncontrollable germaphobia symptoms in the patients.

For instance, the sight of bodily fluids like saliva or mucus, any unavoidable object of public use like doorknobs, a place with lots of germs like public restrooms or public commute, or even the sight of unhygienic practices.

Symptoms of germaphobia

A germaphobe can exhibit emotional or psychological, behavioral, and physical symptoms of germaphobia. They are often faced with severe anxiety attacks just by the thought of being in contact with germs.

Everyone in this world fears something or the other, but you can’t mix simple fears with phobias. A reaction from a phobia is very intense and the patients are hard to calm down after the phobia activates.

The mental health conditions of a germaphobe (one suffering from germaphobia) are unstable after or during a severe panic attack.

Germaphobes suffer from extreme stress and anxiety so they avoid germs at any cost.

You might see a person randomly cleaning their room at odd hours because of their suffering from mysophobia at that instant. 

Emotional and psychological symptoms

When it comes to a mental health disorder, emotional or psychological problems are of extreme importance.

Consult your physician if you notice any of these symptoms of germaphobia in your loved ones or you.

1. The thought of germs fills you/them with terrorizing fears.

2. You/they are constantly anxious about contacting germs from unknown sources.

3. You/they illogically worry about germs causing severe long-term sickness to even death.

4. You/they are aware of the irrational fears yet cannot control or suppress reactions.

5. You/they constantly try to dismiss the thoughts about germs.

6. You/they feel powerless for not being able to control this fear of germs.  

Behavioral Symptoms

You might not identify others’ psychological symptoms easily but behavioral symptoms are easier to observe, even from a distance.

1. You/they avoid any possible situation or place filled with germs or where you/they can contact germs.

2. You/they are always ready with prior excuses to avoid “germ-filled” situations (usually any public situation or with many people).

3. You/they cannot live everyday life like others because of this fear and are constantly seeking help to cope with it.

4. You/they also avoid important places with lots of people and miss out on life opportunities. For instance, school, work, or even family gatherings.

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms of germaphobia and anxiety disorders have a lot in common. Some of them include…

1. Breathlessness

2. Headaches

3. Chest aches

4. Dizziness

5. Nausea

6. Shivers or chills

7. Tingles

8. Shaking or tremors

9. Rapid sweats

10. Increased heart rate

11. Tense muscles

12. Agitation

Signs & Symptoms of Germaphobia in Children

Children exhibit germaphobia differently at different ages. They can’t express their disgust freely like adults so early identification becomes difficult.

It is easier to treat germaphobia at its roots – the onset of the mental illness during childhood or teenage. So, it’s better to observe your child’s attitude from the beginning and seek proper treatment for them.

Well, in the post-covid19 world, children grow up with covid-19 preventive measures so spotting germaphobia in your child can be a challenging task.

If your child’s hygiene habits mess with their lifestyle, that’s your cue to differentiate healthy hygiene from germaphobia.

If you notice these symptoms in your child, he/she needs help…

1. Your child experiences overwhelming and repetitive fear of falling ill because of germs in the vicinity.

2. Your child avoids contamination at any cost.

3. Sometimes it seems like your child is suffering from anxiety disorders (refer to the physical symptoms of germaphobia).

4. Your child follows a repetitive and symmetrical pattern in cleaning themselves or their possessions, like there is a rule for cleaning, and doing otherwise needs restarting the cleaning procedure.

5. The child hates or fears mingling with people or public places or objects because others’ presence may have “contaminated” them.

Spotting germophobic symptoms in children are hard even if you are the closest to the child.

This is because the anxiety symptoms may not always be visible to society no matter how intensely the child is suffering from it.

But it is easier to identify the germophobic “signs” in your child. Also, keep in mind that children of different ages express their germaphobia differently.

See if you’ve ever noticed any of these signs in your child’s behavior… if you did, seek help ASAP.

1. Your child goes to extreme lengths to avoid “contaminated places” – where a lot of unknown people visit; public places in general.

2. Your child takes extensive measures to avoid contacting any unknown object. For instance, using gloves before touching the public surface, and sometimes sanitizing the object before touching even if wearing gloves.

3. Children express all kinds of negative feelings with crying, so if your child tends to cry all the time in public places, you need to be more alert about other signs and symptoms of germaphobia.

4. Your child constantly nags about the cleanliness of a place or object. Or, he/she often expresses his worries about getting sick.

5. Observe if the child follows a specific meticulous pattern in their cleaning habit. The child doesn’t believe he/she or their belongings are clean until and unless they follow an exact process.

6. The child repeatedly cleans themselves and their belongings to the point of damaging skin.

7. Your child doesn’t do the normal things like other kids in their everyday life – playing with friends, going to school, communicating with friends – and you feel it is obstructing their progress.

But you won’t find all answers from browsing these because some signs and symptoms can be exclusive to your child alone.

If your instincts say something is wrong with your child, it is better to consult a doctor rather than guessing the possibilities.

Since this is the onset of the illness, your child can recover sooner if you treat them now over nurturing this sickness further.

Impact on Lifestyle

A germaphobe feels uncomfortable socializing – children may avoid playing with their friends or attending public gatherings like school; adults hate using common objects or places in workplaces; dating becomes unimaginable.

So, you were wondering how badly a fear of germs can impact your daily life: The patient may just clean their belongings and hands more frequently. And if it hurts their skin, they can apply some lotion.

Well, no, it’s not that easy, many people brush off the mental illness topic with oh it’s just in their head. Yes, it’s in their head and that’s why it needs immediate attention.

A germaphobe avoids public gatherings and makes petty excuses which is often misinterpreted as their snooty behavior.

Young germaphobes stop going to school, playing with their friends, even eating with others, whereas working adults avoid workplace or office parties.

Germaphobes build a bad reputation because of their phobia. They honestly don’t want to be so rude and unfriendly, rather they can’t control those urges.

Yes, the symptoms are too extreme to control even for adults.

Imagine how hard a germaphobe tries to socialize in their school or work environment. They can’t refuse to touch a computer keyboard because of contamination.

If they express extreme disgust or discomfort, they will get a suspension from school or lose their job.

Even if a germaphobe tries to control everything, their shaky voice or trembling body language will blow it as a symbol of low self-confidence.

Some adults might even avoid romantic relationships because they can’t imagine holding hands (as they don’t know what their partner touched) or kissing (bodily fluids disgust them). Married life is a germophobe’s nightmare – copulation is out of the question!

Imagine a person can’t relieve themself because they can’t use a public restroom – a germaphobe’s compulsion is extremely self-harming.

A germaphobe’s compulsive attitude about cleaning themselves or their belongings frequently helps avoid contamination but they are distracting and obstructing their daily life.

What is its Relation to obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Both people with OCD and germaphobe might or might not obsessively clean in common. But germaphobes clean to kill germs and people with OCD clean to pacify their anxiety.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is not always related to germs, cleaning, or falling sick. People with OCD obsess over something which leads to stress and anxiety. They find relief only with compulsive and recurring actions.

Cleaning is the most common symptom of OCD… which is also the dominant symptom among germaphobes.

But this doesn’t establish any solid relation between germaphobia and OCD. People might suffer from both or either.

Now if you want to distinguish the two, you need to identify the purpose behind their actions.

People suffering from germaphobia obsessively clean to avoid contaminants and sickness, whereas those with OCD do it to reduce their stress levels or anxiety.

Healthy vs unreasonable fear of germs

Precautions against germs are great but it becomes unhealthy or unreasonable when it harms your daily lifestyle or distresses you.

Everyone takes some preventive measures to avoid sickness… but how will you identify if your measures are healthy or unreasonable?

Well, healthy ones include regular preventive steps against common sicknesses like cough and cold. Especially during the weather transitions, you must take extra steps to fight germs.

Flu, cough, and colds are very common and contagious, so you have every reason to be cautious.

Moreover, you must also take prevention from spreading it to others. Even the WHO recommends influenza vaccines and hand washing to avoid the flu.

So far, it’s fine until your precautions don’t mess up your life. But, if it starts hampering your daily activity or distracts you, it might be the unhealthy one.

Notice if you experience any of these common symptoms of an unhealthy fear of germs…

1. You stress over potential contaminants on your body and belongings, and about weakening your immune system. You stopped socializing because of this horrendous fear of germs.

2. Daily cleaning is not about hygiene anymore – it rather feels like stalling an ominous presence threatening your wellness. Moreover, you feel low and unconfident about cleaning obsessively.

3. You know you overreact to the thoughts of contaminants but you cannot distract yourself from these pointless feelings and want help to overcome them.

If you experience either of these for a long time, seek mental health professionals because both your body and mind deserve a healthy life.

How is Germaphobia diagnosed?

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – edition five (DSM-5) includes detailed phobia diagnosis. Usually, a doctor interviews about your triggers, symptoms, and related history.

If you or a loved one is suffering from any of the signs and symptoms of germaphobia, it’s time to diagnose it for further treatment. Here’s how you can do that.

Arrange a check-up with your doctor about your problems. The doctor might prepare an interview to collect information about your symptoms and history (about any past trauma, family lineage, etc.).

You can read more about germaphobia under the specific phobias category of DSM-5 which lists a few conditions of phobia diagnosis.

Moreover, any phobia results in stress and anxiety that impacts your daily life and can persist for more than six months.

Your doctor might also cross-check any relation between OCD with your germaphobia.

Complications with Germaphobia

Germaphobes have difficulty socializing for their irrational fears and unaware people perceive it as hostility. Germaphobia results in distancing from friends and family.

Social situations are a big NO to germaphobes because more people indicate more contamination. Germaphobes don’t discriminate between personal or professional gatherings and avoid all of them equally.

Even when you force a germaphobe to join a meeting or a party, they will stick out conspicuously because of their physical distancing and cleaning habits.

Later on, such behaviors push away loved ones and even colleagues because nobody knows about their condition.

Others might misinterpret their medical condition as unfriendliness or paranoia. Others’ reactions towards their attitude can also nurture other phobias like fear of socializing or communicating.

Germaphobia Treatment

You can treat germaphobia with therapy, medications, self-help, or virtual reality therapy. You can also hire a professional and learn more about your condition to overcome your fears.

Thankfully germaphobia treatments exist in this world. But a germaphobe might find a treatment for their condition absurd if they are not aware of their situation.

They might even think that the treatment might increase their vulnerability to germs. The good news is that both diagnosis and treatments are possible for germaphobia without endangering health.

Moreover, you will lead a better life after the treatment. Imagine when you can walk on the roads without your mind telling you “Don’t touch this, it may contaminate you!”

So, let’s learn about the treatment options available for germaphobia.

1. Therapy

You can opt for professional help and undergo psychotherapy (also known as counseling) to fight your phobia. Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT and exposure therapy have the highest success rate in treating any phobia.

In exposure therapy, slight exposure to germs steadily brings out germophobic triggers. It helps to desensitize you from each trigger individually.

Long-term treatment reduces reactions like anxiety and limitless fear of germs and helps completely overcome your fear at some point.

On the flip side, you can use a combination of CBT and exposure therapy. Learn a sequence of coping mechanisms in CBT whenever thoughts about germs overpower you.

Later you can apply the survival mechanisms in real-life situations to overcome your fears.

2. Medication

Though therapies alone are useful for germaphobia, medications are also available to help handle the symptoms.

Sometimes, experts recommend anxiety medications to relieve the symptoms after exposure therapy as a mental backup.

Some medications involve selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRI, and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors or SNRI.

Other medications like beta-blockers, sedatives, and antihistamines also relieve some of the anxiety symptoms in patients.

However, none of these must be consumed without a doctor’s prescription.

3. Self-help

If the condition isn’t too serious, try helping yourself overcome germaphobia independently.

Actually, many people try this because they feel uncomfortable showing their vulnerable side even if it is for treatment.

Here are some ideas to relieve germophobic symptoms…

1. Try meditation or yoga every day for a fixed duration to treat your anxiety

2. Take deep breaths the moment a symptom activates

3. Include physical exercises in your daily routine

4. Sleep for a healthy duration

5. Have balanced meals and don’t skip any meals

6. Reach out to a society of similar people for moral support and discussions about your experiences.

Mental health patients experience estrangement and find it harder to deal with the situation. If there are others like you, coping can be easier and emotionally soothing.

7. Once you start controlling the situation, push yourself a little more every day against your fear of germs – slowly overcome small fears

8. Consume fewer stimulants like energy drinks and caffeine.

4. Virtual Reality Therapy

In the post–covid19 scenario, everything is available online, be it a therapy or a support group. Seek professional guidance along with therapy over the internet (also known as Virtual Reality or online therapy) as many found it useful to their mental health concerns.

Many experts suggest undergoing VR therapy as you can opt for it from the safety of your home and it is equally effective as other treatments.

5. Hire an expert

Treating your germaphobia while noting your progress can be hard for you. You will either be too lenient or too strict with yourself.

So, hiring a professional can help with suitable treatment selection, treatment intensity moderation, seeking unbiased feedback, and proper motivation.

If you do it all alone, you might push yourself too hard or too slow both leading to below-average results.

However, your professional will help reinforce your treatment for the best results. You can also get a customized routine from an expert further accelerating your treatment.

6. Learn about Germaphobia

Learning about your condition can help minimize illogical thoughts about fears of contamination and illness.

Check out YouTube videos or other online medical videos and learn more about germaphobia issues and treatment. These videos might also provide information about the harmlessness of most bacteria.

The human immune system isn’t so weak as to fall ill to random contamination. Moreover, many bacteria are helpful in the environment and in your body.

It can also guide you about healthy hygiene practices.

Managing Germaphobia at School or Work

School and work are essential parts of life with a lot of people and “contamination”. Prepare an emergency kit for fighting germaphobia publicly and seek help from organizations.

After Covid-19, situations changed – with a computer system and stable internet connections, children and many adults can study and work from their homes.

But soon, many academies and workplaces might resume their original functions and a germaphobe’s nightmares kick in.

If you or a loved one suffers from germaphobia, prepare a coping kit.

Take a box or bag and put in anything and everything that helps you cope with stress and anxiety from germs, and carry it every day to your academy or workplace.

Fill it with hand sanitizer, surface disinfectants, alcohol wipes, any stress-relieving object like an edible, perfume, or even stress balls, and a fresh change for an emergency.

Some organizations have special policies for their workers or students about such critical circumstances.

Discuss your problem with your organization to seek any kind of relief – for instance, a spare clean room with no interruptions.

You can visit the room for a short period, control your reactions with your usual coping skills and return to your classes or work.

Also, avoid expressing your condition to anyone who bullies others. If your academic or workplace performance sparks their jealousy, they might use it against you.

Germaphobia and the Covid 19 Pandemic

Covid 19 heightened germaphobia like any other microbe outbreak in the past.

During the Covid 19 pandemic, many lost their jobs, and the remaining faced salary cuts. But skyrocketing commodity prices during the crisis led to anxiety development in many people.

Sudden long-term worldwide quarantine took a toll on the mental health of the mass. Worries about earning, following safety precautions properly, having enough resources at home, kept many adults awake at night.

People had more time to overthink and stress about the situation as they stayed at home throughout the day. And many countries suffered from panic buying which later led to actual commodity shortages.

Anxiety disorders impacted the mass in multiple ways and germaphobia aggravation was one of them. Regular hand washing, hand sanitization, social separation, everything triggered the worries and fear about germs.

The spreading awareness about the contagious character of the virus increased the chances of developing germaphobia in a noticeable amount of mass.

Germaphobia in potential and existing germaphobes aggravated noticeably.

People had more time to overthink, and mentally distance themselves from others during the quarantine. Covid 19 turned a germaphobe’s nightmares into reality in multiple ways.

Possibly, many recovering germaphobes suffered a mental crisis too because their changing beliefs about the world being “safe”, and “random contamination won’t hurt the human immunity” shook intensely.

Moreover, public places became REALLY dangerous during the pandemic.

Probably, many “pandemic babies” will grow up to be germaphobes because of the global crisis and parents will face difficulty noticing if their child is concerned and aware about covid or is it germaphobia.

Diverse populations used distinct coping mechanisms to pacify germaphobia like over-intoxication, unnecessary online panic buying, or even healthy diversion methods.

Germaphobia During Covid-19: 10+1 Tips to Manage it

Calm yourself first; be sensitive and honest while sharing awareness; Practice optimism, self-care, and balanced life; Seek medical help in serious situations.

During the global pandemic, and its long quarantine, most people will stay back at home unless they work in the medical field or essential commodity production.

As covid 19 aggravated germaphobia, you need to be mindful of a few germaphobia signs and prepare backup plans for loved ones…

Here are a few things you must do, especially if you have a child at home.

1. Diagnose the adult family members for Germaphobia

If any adult around the child suffers from germaphobia and exhibits the signs and symptoms, the child might notice and misunderstand the symptoms as good habits.

And who can you blame for a child imitating an elder… they only want their loved ones to appreciate and encourage them to “grow up” sooner. Unfortunately, their innocence might attract them towards something worse.

Treating the adult or older family member with germaphobia will minimize their pronounced signs and symptoms. Hence the child will not notice or catch up on similar habits or fears.

Also, keep your family doctor’s contact and respective health emergency contacts ready for medical experts’ aid.

2. Calm down

While speaking about Covid 19 to a probable germaphobe or a child in your family, do not express any stress in front of them.

This induces reassurance in the other person’s mind. Whether you talk about fixing a mask, maintaining social distance, or hygiene practices, do not blow up.

Instead, show an optimistic, calm, and relaxed body language and voice to push out any distress from the person’s mind.

Sometimes the same safety commodities (like masks, hand sanitizers, hand wash) can inflict fear on their mind, so induce some positivity while they use it. 

Next time they use safety commodities, they will remember the happy memories which will further eliminate any kind of anxiety.

3. Establish rules for when it’s necessary to wash hands

All the entertainment channels (television, radio, online posts) were spreading awareness about handwashing and hygiene maintenance during the pandemic.

They took responsibility and did their part, but sometimes it becomes hard to identify the necessary time of applying those remedies.

Especially children need guidance about following these rules properly – nobody wants their tender skin to go rough and dry from excessive washing and sanitizing rituals.

Teach them when it is actually important to do it.

For instance, they must clean hands, after they touch an object from outside, after a sneeze, cough, or nose blowing, before and after meals, after visiting the restroom, after returning home from outside, and whenever there is visible dirt on their hands.

Write this down on a few sticky notes and put it up in their room and common space. It will seem colorful, heart-warming, reassuring, optimistic, and also safeguard your child.

4. Don’t overdo hygiene protocols

All the entertainment channels are already spreading awareness about healthy hygiene and covid 19 norms. If everyone is following proper rules at the moment, the rules are already a norm in their head.

Everyone is stressed from the sudden and pressing rules, so you don’t need to talk about it anymore.

5. Talk about topics that don’t involve Covid-19

The hot topic is covid and I’m sure you’ve had ENOUGH conversations around it. Instead, divert everyone’s mind to something other than the pandemic.

Ask the working adults about their work life and the children about school. Or, connect to elder relatives and have a warm video chat with the whole family.

Refer to some funny show or incident and remind them of good memories. It will soothe your elders living far away from you.

You can even immerse yourself in online games with friends and relatives. Communicate and stay in touch, all while the world is still healing.

Communication and mental support can also help your close ones cope with anxiety attacks.

6. Don’t dismiss the conversations about Covid

Just because I said, you mustn’t talk about covid doesn’t mean you will dismiss the conversation if your family has some genuine concerns.

If a child or other person wants to consult you about the current pandemic situation, respond. Work may not allow you enough time for family but be open to resuming the topic after work.

Try to clear all the misconceptions they have about the current situation and address all their concerns. However, you don’t have to initiate topics that they aren’t aware of.

Also, be honest to a worried person seeking help, else the conversation might have an opposite effect.

7. Be “friendly” to family

Why are people usually more open to their friends than their family? It might be because friends don’t police strict behavior or judge others’ thoughts.

Of course, a family does not always impose strict rules on everyone… but at times people do not understand their blood relatives because of distinct life circumstances.

Every individual faces diverse challenges and the brain responds differently in every situation. So, everyone in a family needs different support at different times for different reasons.

Someone might ignore a person’s troubles because they are not an adult leading to children’s mental estrangement.

Talk to everyone with equal compassion because they chose you over others in this vulnerable moment. If you ignore the person now, they will curl up with fear and find solace in the darkness.

Make it a habit to talk about sensitive topics and comfort each other in the family. This will encourage the child to talk about their concerns.

8. Maintain a gratitude log

If you notice anxiety overpowering someone close, provide mental support. Point out the positives in life over the roots of anxiety.

For instance, the government-imposed quarantine for everyone’s safety so even if one goes out for work or emergency, fewer people in public places, covid 19 norms, and protective gear decrease contamination chances drastically.

Ask them to point out a good thing in life every day and note them in a diary… keeping a gratitude log helps many people overcome anxiety.

9. Introduce self-care

Pick out a common free time throughout the day and practice a relaxing activity together with family. It will soothe the mind and promote unity. Take turns in choosing activities so that nobody feels left out.

Learn meditation together or practice reading dramatic storybooks. Include everyone in the dinner preparations. Regular chores can also be fun and relaxing if all of you commit to doing it together.

Introduce ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) YouTube videos to anxious family members and let them choose any stress-relieving toys or let them make one.

Various videos and articles are available for DIY stress relievers – explore and act.

10. Promote a healthy life

Make a lifestyle chart for your loved ones including timely balanced diets, regular exercise, and adequate sleep hours. Spend some time in nature’s lap – if you can’t go out, laze on the porch or rooftop, or take a walk on the lawn.

Contact your distant loved ones and share positive thoughts with everyone. If anyone spreads negativity or makes you anxious, take a break from them to manage your stress and help them too.

11. Seek medical advice in an emergency

If any loved one overreacts to the pandemic or social norms (like anxiety, panic attacks, depression, excessive cleaning habits, or any distracting mental situation) and domestic help is not enough, do not delay seeking a mental health expert.

Search for certified therapists to help them cope with their anxiety attacks. Learning to overpower their fears from an expert can help them heal faster.

The therapist can also help induce realistic awareness during the sessions.

FAQs about Germaphobia

Now that you understand Germaphobia its signs, symptoms, and treatment a little better, you might have many questions about the details like the beginning, history, or even its connection with some other mental health conditions. 

Don’t worry, you will find all your answers here. 

1. How does Germaphobia manifest itself?

Initially, people with germaphobia impulsively clean themselves and their surroundings to avoid any possible germs in the vicinity. They spend long hours cleaning and sanitizing themselves and their belongings. This results in wasting time, energy, and resources for excessive cleansing.

If you spot a few symptoms like the below, it might symbolize germaphobia manifestation…

Excess tooth brushing, frequent unnecessary showers or hand-cleaning, forced symmetry in cleaning rituals, timing any cleaning process, washing for a long time after visiting the restroom, and avoiding any public place, situation, or object.

A germaphobe’s life quality drastically degrades because of their restlessness about contamination and sickness leading to distraction from daily life.
Germaphobes might have red, swollen, cracked hands with visible skin irritations. Skin infections like eczema or dermatitis from repetitive washing are some other visible symptoms.

Some symptoms in social situations are avoiding human contact, repetitive unnecessary hand sanitization, touching public objects (handrails) with a barrier like plastic, or just wearing gloves all the time.

Germaphobes behave aggressively in public places even when others are not a possible threat. Sometimes, they understand their attitude and want to change it but their anxiety activates in social circumstances.

2. Are all germs harmful?

The human immune system works efficiently in the coexistence of both harmful and harmless germs. The harmful germ exposure helps in strong immunity development in the childhood years. By the time humans reach adulthood, the immune system builds resistance to most germs.

Practice good hygiene but do not overdo it, else immunity against germs can deteriorate leading to actual sickness. Always follow a basic hygiene routine and take preventive measures against contagious diseases, until it impacts social, personal, or professional life.

Try harmonizing with the rules and be comfortable with them. Preventive measures help prevent sickness, not terrorize you about the sickness. If you can prevent it now, why let the opposite outcome worry you?

3. Has the prevalence increased over the years?

Germaphobia prevails whenever some disease concerning germs (like coronavirus, Ebola, AIDS, etc.) comes into the spotlight. No research to date proved any germaphobia upsurge over the years.

Whenever public awareness about any germs circulates, germaphobia reporting surges simultaneously. The mental illness activates more intensely from the awareness of unknown and harmful germs instead of increasing through the years.

Germaphobia does not spontaneously activate or deactivate itself, instead, the signs and symptoms become visible when a germaphobe is anxious about germs and contaminants.

Germaphobia is more visibly reported in the current world because of higher mental health awareness than in the early years. About a century ago, mental health was not even a real “thing”.

Initially, mental illness treatments were brutal and fatal, but fortunately, advanced medical technology helps mental patients in the current world.

4. Can usage of antibacterial products increase the occurrence rate of Germaphobia?

Antibacterial products are important for many industries like the health sectors and food hygiene sectors. These products help in hygiene maintenance and are beneficial for the population at large.

Nobody will ban the domestic application of these products. However, control and limit the product application as most people do not notice or follow the caution that comes along with it.

Some scared people promote overusing the products without prior knowledge and share false preaching and advice.

Moreover, overuse of antibacterial chemicals increases asthma and allergy development in children. So, seek more authoritative information on the usage before using these products in a house with children.

5. Is it still possible to be a Germaphobe and be filthy?

All germaphobes share the common fear but different individuals might define dirt differently… It depends on perception too. For instance, some germaphobes believe that they can be infected by germs from others but their dirty living conditions do not nurture them.

Germaphobia has more to do with your wild uncontrollable thoughts than reality so it is absolutely possible to come across a filthy germaphobe.

6. What makes an intense fear of germs more likely?

Anxiety disorder is the root of many phobias in children, so if your child suffers from anxiety, he/she might soon pick up germaphobia more so than kids without anxiety disorders.

Some children suffer from both OCD and germaphobia, so their impulsive cleaning pacifies both their anxiety and germophobic reactions. And that’s the reason why many mental health professionals also diagnose patients with OCD.

Also, if someone obsesses over worries of sickness or infections, they possibly suffer from OCD too. They exhibit similar symptoms like germaphobes like extreme body, possessions, or personal space cleaning, avoiding public situations, and so on.

7. What to do for someone who hates being touched?

If someone around you does not feel comfortable with physical touch, people without medical knowledge cannot help them. So, it is better if you don’t do anything without medical advice. Rather advise them on therapy or refer them to a renowned mental health expert.

You cannot remove the extreme discomfort of personal space invasion within days. Depending on the patient’s condition, it may take months or over a year to completely overpower this fear.

Parents must teach personal space concepts to their children from early years to develop basic boundaries. Slowly, they will catch on to the “good and bad touches” concept and grow into wiser adults with respect for others. It can also prevent fear of touches alongside.

8. “I hate when someone touches me” – Germaphobia or something else?

Germaphobes try to avoid germs at all costs, be it evading romantic contact, friendly hugs, or even professional handshakes… because they can’t stand the thought of contacting germs from the other person.

However, on the flip side, someone might avoid touches but isn’t really scared of germs… NO that’s not germaphobia or “selective germaphobia” – it is a different phobia of touch and known as haphephobia. Once again, the roots of haphephobia also lie in anxiety disorders.

However, if one does not fear touch but feels hostile or extreme discomfort from it – it is known as Allodynia.

To sum up, allodynia is super sensitive to human contact whereas haphephobia is an irrational fear of touch which can disturb their daily life and activities.

9. Research says: spending more time in Nature can reduce ‘Germaphobia’ – How?

In the studies of Robinson, Cameron, and Jorgenson (2021), they researched the connection between time spent in nature and germaphobia with an online survey of around a thousand respondents.

Their research reports people who spent a longer duration in nature reacted optimistically towards germs. From that, they extracted two conclusions…
Germaphobes do not like to spend time in the natural environment.


Longer time in nature can decrease germophobic tendencies.
So, the researchers came up with a new idea for treating germaphobia. They suggest staying in natural environments for longer hours which will allow them to contact diverse microbes.

This helps them build a stronger immune system than the original. Once the immune system fights with a microbe, it (memory cells) remembers the resistance towards similar microbes and fights them if ever you’re contaminated with similar kinds of germs.

Moreover, there are other mental health gains from spending time with nature like reduced anxiety and distress, increased social coherence with feelings of unity.

Germaphobia can also develop from ignorance about germs, so gaining knowledge about how germs and immunity work can help you cope with it. In fact, it is so beneficial that even children’s education must include more information about microbes and their benefits for humans and the environment.

10. What Is Germ Theory?

After the germ theory development in the 19th century, the human race understood the reasons behind many sicknesses. It helped them throughout to combat the ill effects of germs and identify threatening microbes.

Although not even a hundredth of all microbes are fatal to humans, yet most people blame them for so many illnesses. Poor microbes, right?

Many businesses marketed chemicals as “antimicrobial”, “antibacterial” and so on which fuelled the fear of germs – let’s say that was the beginning of this extreme phobia.

And guess what? That was also the beginning of avoiding nature and environmental components like soil, natural water bodies, and shutting oneself in. Coincidentally, or not, it was also the beginning of deteriorating human immunity.

A word from ThePleasantMind

Germaphobia is troublesome, both for the patient and their close ones and that’s why awareness is important. You never know who might develop germaphobia, so it’s always best to be prepared beforehand.

Ignorance is the worst enemy of mental health. So, educate yourself and others… so that you can help yourself and others.

Remember, germ awareness and hygiene maintenance go hand in hand… if you learn both simultaneously, chances of developing germaphobia will decrease significantly.

Article Sources


Are you interested to know more about ‘Acrophobia’ then click here?

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