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Ablutophobia (from Latin ablutere 'to wash off") is the persistent, abnormal and unwarranted fear of bathing, washing, or cleaning. This phobia is a situational specific phobia. Ablutophobia tends to be more common in children and females than in males. However, the fear generally dissipates in children as they learn that bathing is not something to be feared.[1] Ablutophobia is more common in European nations as well as people of European descendants in other countries, it is because bathing was not a common practice for a long time in most part of Europe until modern age. Scientists say that in 16th century, almost all people of English, French and other European countries had symptoms of ablutophobia. Elizabeth the first of England is known as one of the most "clean" person of Europe from that period of time, for washing her body once a month. However, back then that was considered to be too much of washing and unhealthy. A research shows that the symptoms of ablutophobia led to a major contribution of the development of fragrance.


The symptoms of Ablutophobia as well as many specific phobias are as follows:

  • Feelings of panic, dread, horror, or terror
  • Recognition that the fear goes beyond normal boundaries and the actual threat of danger
  • Reactions that are automatic and uncontrollable, practically taking over the person’s thoughts
  • Rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, trembling, and an overwhelming desire to flee the situation—all the physical reactions associated with extreme fear
  • Extreme measures taken to avoid the feared object or situation.[2]

Feelings of shame are also not uncommon. Many cultures place a heavy value on cleanliness, and refusing to bathe can make someone the target of mockery or teasing, which can increase the severity of the phobia. It may also cause the sufferer to not seek treatment.[3][4]


There are also many options for treatment of Ablutophobia. Generally seeking professional help from a person with a background in psychology is the best option. A sufferer of Ablutophobia can also undergo Exposure-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in which the person is allowed to confront the feared object (in this case, water) in controlled situations.[5]

There are anxiety medications that medical professionals can prescribe as well, however these medications have yet to show much promise in the treatments of specific phobias such as Ablutophobia. The use of d-cycloserine (DCS) in conjunction with Exposure therapy is the only drug to show developments in alleviating the phobia-related symptoms even after a 3-month period.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

The New Zealand Artist, Sheep, Dog & Wolf released an EP in 2011 entitled Ablutophobia.

The 2006 comedic play Mistakes Madeline Made written by Elizabeth Meriwether features a main character Edna who develops Ablutophobia shortly after her brother dies in the Middle East.[7]

In the 1993 film What's Eating Gilbert Grape the character of Arnie develops Ablutophobia when Gilbert forces him to take a shower.

The 1960 movie "Psycho" in which there is an iconic shower scene where one of the female characters is stabbed in the shower. Though the character did not have Ablutophobia, the movie introduces the theme of Ablutophobia to its audience members in terms of a person developing an irrational fear towards bathing after experiencing traumatic events.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "What is Ablutophobia?". WiseGeek. Retrieved 5 November 2014. 
  2. ^ "Phobias". American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved 5 November 2014. 
  3. ^ "What is Ablutophobia?". WiseGeek. Retrieved 5 November 2014. 
  4. ^ "Gabbard's Treatments of Psychiatric Disorders". Psychiatry Online. American Psychiatric Publishing. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
  5. ^ "Phobias". American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved 5 November 2014. 
  6. ^ "Gabbard's Treatments of Psychiatric Disorders". Psychiatry Online. American Psychiatric Publishing. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
  7. ^ "Mistakes Madeline Made – Elizabeth Meriwether". That Unforgettable Line. Retrieved 5 November 2014. 
  8. ^ Fritscher, Lisa. "Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho". About Health. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 


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