What is Mysophobia (Germophobia)? The Fear of Germs

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OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) is a quite familiar term and people are well aware of this condition. There is another disorder called “Mysophobia” that is sometimes confused with OCD. Although both the conditions are similar but are treated as two different conditions. The term mysophobia was coined by William A. Hammond in the year 1879 while studying a case of OCD. The term comes from two Greek words (musos+phobia) meaning ‘uncleanness’ and ‘fear’. Mysophobia is related to fear of germs and individual suffers severe anxiety towards dirt and dust. Mysophobia is known by different names like verminophobia, germaphobia, bacillophobia, and bacteriophobia as all terms are related to germs.

Risk Factors For Mysophobia

There are microbes/germs everywhere including our body system also. Germs are our friends in many ways and not all germs are a threat to our health. To keep unhealthy germs at bay cleanliness is crucial. It turns into phobia when done in excess and interferes with our normal activities. A person with mysophobia condition has a fear of contamination with different pathogenic agents and they develop ritual behavior.  They face a constant drive to clean everything. As per studies, this phobia is linked with families with a previous history of anxiety and depression. People with OCD have a high risk of developing mysophobia.


Here are a few of the symptoms related to mysophobia although it can vary from person to person:

  • Compulsive hand-washing
  • Urge to clean everything around them
  • Frequent use of cleaning products/sanitizers
  • Avoiding to visit places with dust and crowd
  • Sometimes use gloves/mask to avoid contamination
  • A big no to public toilets
  • Refuse to share their personal things
  • Avoid physical close contact

An individual with such condition when exposed to germs they can experience the physical symptoms like panic, increased heart rate, nausea, shortness of breath, sweating, etc.


There is one simple way for diagnosis:


Mysophobia has started in interfering normal life activities. The person is spending more time in cleaning and decontaminating, so it is becoming a threat to relationships also. The individual need to observe closely their symptoms.

Treatment For Mysophobia

Mysophobia is a treatable mental health issue and therapy used to cure OCD can also help people with mysophobia. It is generally observed that people suffering from any kind of psychological disorders are reluctant to open about their mental health.

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There can be different reasons for that:

  •  They have the feel of shame
  • Do not like to discuss past as it can hurt
  • Not ready to accept the problem
  • Worry about the stigma related to mental health care

 There are several reasons and mostly mental conditions are not considered as serious health issues. In most cases people are not comfortable to open up with their condition and it builds up more stress and anxiety in them. Some of the recommended treatments for mysophobia are:

  • Exposure therapy:

 The person is exposed to germs in a controlled and safe environment. This helps them to deal with their anxious behavior towards cleanliness.

  • Education is the biggest cure: 

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As it is a psychological problem so the best cure is to get educated about the condition. We need to know that mysophobia does exist and how we can overcome it.

  • Anti-anxiety medications: 

Some medicines are also available to control the level of anxiety that help to reduce the level of stress.


  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy:


Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a well known and effective therapy against this condition. The therapist recommends some behavioral exercises about changing their ritual behavior.


  • Psychotherapy: 


The best cure is to talk about mental health so we have a therapist. A trained therapist can help people to change and improve their quality of life. It is best to seek the help of a therapist to overcome this condition. The therapist will listen to you and will help you to overcome it.

A therapy, will power and education is like a blessing that can help to manage, reduce and improve any kind of phobia intervening in a person’s life. A person needs to understand that mysophobia is a state of mind and it’s imaginary and unrealistic. It can be cured and one needs to fight back with it using different therapeutic approaches. The above-mentioned facts about mysophobia will help you in some way to overcome this phobia. 


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Dr. Jyoti Sharma Pillai
Dr. Jyoti Sharma Pillai
The author has been an academic writer and editor for more than eight years. The author has diverse experience and has provided freelance services to various organizations. Her doctorate degree in the field of biology has given her a wide spectrum to write on different topics. She loves to write about topics related to early childhood education, data-analysis, environment, and human psychology. Her research papers and articles are published in well-renowned journals and pages. She works as a freelance writer and counselor also. She has well-traveled and lived in different cities across India that have given her a platform to closely observe different cultures and traditions. Her hobbies include listening to classic rock and traveling.

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