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Germ Phobia

Germ Phobia 3

Germ phobia, also known as mysophobia, is an intense and irrational fear of germs: this problem is often associated with obsessional washing and cleaning akin to OCD. Mysophobia also leads to avoidance behaviours which, as the fear increases, become more and more complex. Indeed, the fear of contamination and infection sometimes becomes so intense that individuals are often unable to leave the house and constantly wash throughout the day; others will avoid doing tasks which are viewed as being ‘dirty’. For example, phobics may ask partners or close friends to take the rubbish out or clean the fridge because coming into contact with potential infection is too overwhelming for them. Other examples of maladaptive behaviours include: refusing to use public bathrooms, avoiding touching anybody; refusing to have any sort of intimate contact with someone; bringing sterile, plastic cookware into the workplace so as not to use their plates; constant checking; and holding the kettle with kitchen roll.


Germ phobia is not easily treated because it is closely associated with OCD and complex, entrenched behaviours; however, the best form of treatment is a combination of psychodynamic psychotherapy and hypnotherapy. The specific technique used in the hypnotherapy is known as systematic desensitization.


David Kraft, PhD

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