Mysophobia, also known as verminophobia, germophobia, germaphobia, bacillophobia and bacteriophobia, is a pathological fear of contamination and germs. The term was coined by William A. Hammond in 1879 when describing a case of obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) exhibited in repeatedly washing one's hands. Mysophobia has long been related to compulsive hand washing. Names pertaining directly to the abnormal fear of dirt and filth include molysmophobia or molysomophobia, rhypophobia, and rupophobia, whereas the terms bacillophobia and bacteriophobia specifically refer to the fear of bacteria and microbes in general.
Signs and symptoms
People who suffer from mysophobia usually display signs including:
- excessive hand washing
- an avoidance of locations that might contain a high presence of germs
- a fear of physical contact, especially with strangers
- excessive effort dedicated to cleaning and sanitizing one's environment
- a refusal to share personal items
- a fear of becoming ill
Mysophobia greatly affects the everyday life of individuals and can range in severity of symptoms from difficult breathing, excessive perspiration, increased heart rate, and states of panic when exposed to germ-enhanced conditions.
There are many underlying factors and reasons that a person may develop mysophobia, such as anxiety, depression, or a traumatic situation. Developing in a culture where hygiene is heavily integrated into society (use of hand sanitizers, toilet seat covers, and antibacterial wipes for commonly used items such as grocery carts), can also be a main driving force for the development of mysophobia.
- Hammond, William Alexander (1879). Neurological Contributions. Putnam. p. 40 – via Internet Archive.
- "Cleanliness Rules Germaphobes' Lives". WebMD. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
- "Bacillophobia – Fear of microbes". Retrieved September 3, 2014.[unreliable source?]
- μύσος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- φόβος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- Smith, Kathleen. "Mysophobia (Germophobia): Are You a Germaphobe?". Psycom. Retrieved 2019-11-17.
- Thomas, Sarah (2014-03-24). "Famous Germaphobes". NHPR. New Hampshire Public Radio. Retrieved 2019-11-17.
- Lippman, Daniel (July 7, 2019). "The Purell presidency: Trump aides learn the president's real red line". Politico. Retrieved March 3, 2021.