What is Germophobia?
Germophobia, also known by its scientific name, mysophobia, is an extreme fear of germs, illness, and/or dirtiness. Most of us don’t like getting sick or being in filthy environments, but germophobes cannot stop thinking about the impact of being exposed to even the slightest amount or smallest risk of these things. They will compulsively wash and clean themselves – even to the point of irritating their skin.
Germophobia is recognized as a common symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a condition that affects nearly half a million Australians. But people suffering from germophobia may see this symptom alone as a major issue, and that is why they may choose to get help for it, specifically.
Do I have germophobia?
Again, germophobia is not simply a normal desire to be clean and to avoid filthy environments or situations where you’re very likely to get sick. It’s an obsession with the very idea of those things, combined with compulsive cleaning.
Here are the common symptoms of germophobia:
- Anxiety about being dirty or contaminated that can only be alleviated by performing rituals like washing
- Spending at least an hour a day compulsively cleaning
- Knowing that your obsession is unreasonable, but continuing to engage in it
- This behavior has started to take over your life
What are the negative effects of germophobia?
The most obvious negative effect of germophobia is when it has gone so far that it takes over your life and keeps you from doing things like leaving the house. Physical health risks include excessive exposure to harsh cleaning chemicals, and washing skin so much that it becomes irritated or even infected.
What causes germophobia and OCD?
Like its parent condition, obsessive-compulsive disorder, germophobia is most often caused by an event or series of events that are built into a belief due to an obsessive style of thinking. Once this belief is in place, the thinking continues and runs through the mind building anxiety. The anxiety heightens, and is accompanied by thoughts about how bad the mess, dirt or germs are, and every sufferer has their own personal version of this. The building anxiety creates a compulsion to clean, so that the suffferer can move away from the fear of the mess, dirt, germs or potential infection. When the compulsion to clean is acted upon, it provides a level of relief - albeit a temporary relief. This feeling of relief creates a circular no-win situation that cements the idea that only the cleaning or washing will relieve the pressure and the compulsions to clean when the obsessive thoughts run just get stronger.
How to cure germophobia?
Treatment for germophobia and obsessive compulsive disorder usually involves long-winded talk therapy, and most doctors suggest some form of antidepressant. The Thrive programme, which is a research-backed, psychological training programme shows how your memories, your beliefs and attitudes, create the symptoms and problems you are experiencing. Thrive will equip you with the self-awareness, skills and resources you need to genuinely resolve your problem.
Over the course of 6 Thrive training sessions, we’ll explore your way of facing difficulties and discover a way to think differently when it comes to your disorder. You’ll find yourself able to live normally again, without germophobia being an issue.
The Thrive programme has helped people around the world. You can read some moving testimonials here.
Like Jayne’s story: ‘I washed clothes at 60 degrees or higher to ensure I removed any contaminants (of course this meant clothes were discoloured and ruined!). My hands looked like those of a 90 year old due to the constant washing and my skin was terrible due to excessive showering. “What if” was my favourite phrase and cleaning “just in case” was part of my daily routine….I was sceptical when I arrived at my first session and didn’t really believe that something could work in such a short period (given all of the alternatives I had tried). How wrong was I! I started to see results within a couple of weeks…. I am rebuilding my life. I look back at some of the things I was doing and I genuinely can’t believe it…..Why was I choosing to waste my life, literally “washing” my life away?.... [P]lease if you have OCD or anxiety don’t live with the illness any longer.’
If this sounds unpleasantly familiar to you, give me a call on 0409777116 and we can have a chat about how the programme can work for you.