Disinfect From Your Fear of Germs for Good

germs-for-good

They’re everywhere! Normal places everyone defends against – think toilet seats, remote controls, kitchen counters, etc. – sure, but they’re also lurking on every common surface out there. Beverage cans, your credit cards, money, seats and benches at the park – the list is endless.

Everyone knows that they’re out there – and many take precautions in the way of frequent hand washing and the occasional sanitary wipe. But you know that they are everywhere and that no matter what you do or how much you clean, it’s a constant battle against those germs. It’s consuming – and more than that, it’s begun to affect your relationships and your job performance.

At home, you lay awake at night thinking about the germs your husband/ wife is bringing into the bed – which is why you change sheets nearly daily. The bathroom is a nightmare – never mind thoughts of cleaning up after poultry in the kitchen.

At work, you only answer your phone with a carefully placed Lysol wipe – but forget answering the Polycom during a group meeting or, even worse, calling IT for computer help – they’ll get their germs all over your computer. You greet business meetings with pure terror – handshakes are paralyzing to you and you never can quite avoid them without making someone feel awkward.

These behaviors are normal to you – they’re what you know. But the truth is that they go far beyond “normal” prevention and defenses of germs. Most likely, you’re suffering from mysophobia – an intense fear of germs.

Exploring Mysophobia

Mysophobia is most commonly associated with obsessive compulsive disorder – or OCD for short. OCD can manifest in a multitude of ways, from repetitive behaviors to incessant perfectionism, obsessive cleanliness, and more; fear of germs and an obsession with preventing and avoiding them is another manifestation.

We don’t know exactly how many people in the United States suffer from this phobia, but we do know that it is experienced commonly enough to be fairly well known. Celebrities, including Cameron Diaz and Howie Mandell are quite known for their mysophobias, having brought attention and knowledge about this phobia to the public.

Though everyone experiences mysophobia a bit differently, in diagnosing this phobia, clinicians consider the following:

  • How often and for how long do you spend each day cleaning and/ or washing?
  • Do you clean and wash to relieve anxiety?
  • Is your obsession taking over and harming aspects of your life, such as productivity; your relationships; and your performance?
  • Are you aware that the obsession occurs? Are you compelled to clean/ wash in spite of it?

 Overcoming Your Mysophobia

There are countless methods of facing your fear, but since mysophobia is both psychologically and emotionally rooted in most cases, overcoming this phobia often requires a multi-faceted approach.

Most approaches involve response prevention or exposure and response therapy as part of the course of action. Essentially, in addition to working to recognize and be cognizant of your own behaviors and tendencies, these types of therapies work to explore the causes of those thoughts and behaviors to then recondition your mind.

Medications, often the same types used to prevent anxiety or depression, are also used to varying degrees in the course of treatment.

With mysophobia, your mind works perfectly well – the problem is that it works bit too hard, over-emphasizing things as they turn in your mind; this is what causes you to obsess on specific things, such as germs. These therapies work to explore those tendencies in your mind to “shut off” triggers and various reactions while reconditioning your responses to pare them down to more “regular” levels.

When you conquer your mysophobia, you will recapture hours of your life every week while also strengthening your relationships and job performance and productivity.

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