The Fear of Bacteria Is No Small Issue
Do you feel the need to keep washing your hands after touching something or someone? Are you scared of staying too long in a crowded room and breathing in the air? Are you always worried you’ll catch germs and end up in the hospital?
Do you avoid eating in restaurants? After all, imagine how many people must have touched your plate, utensils, and food. Do you feel a knot in your chest when someone takes a bite of your sandwich? Perhaps you imagine that germs, those tiny invisible monsters, are lurking in a bowl of your favorite cereal.
Do you clean your house nonstop? Are you that person who wipes down their office equipment every couple of hours? Or the parent who hounds their children to use hand sanitizers? Do you avoid touching pets?
It must be difficult for your family and friends to understand what you’re going through. How long can you go on like this?
Overcoming the fear of germs is important, because it can affect your relationships, career, and mental health. You don’t have to live in extreme fear of germs.
What Is Bacillophobia?
In simple terms, bacillophobia is the fear of germs, fear of dirt, or anything that could make you sick. This condition is known by many names: mysophobia, germaphobia, and verminophobia. You may have a constant fear of germs, bacteria, or things that are not clean.
Why do you have this fear? It’s possible some incident took place in the past that made you sick, and this unpleasant memory has stayed with you ever since. As a result, you want to avoid at all costs the germs and diseases they bring. Those with a history of depression and anxiety in their family are also at a higher risk to develop this fear.
Bacteria, viruses, fungi are everywhere. They’re unavoidable, and you can’t remove them all. Even plain water, which we use to clean almost everything, contains germs.
Surprisingly, not all germs are bad. The good ones keep your gut clean and break down certain foods, while others live on your skin and provide another layer of defense. Getting rid of these good bacteria can cause even more trouble for your health.
The best you can do is practice basic personal hygiene like bathing regularly, brushing your teeth, and washing your hands before eating and after touching anything dirty. Washing your hands with water and a bar of soap should do the trick. You don’t need to wash every half hour, and you don’t need fancy products. In fact, experts say that the increasing use of hygiene items like sanitizers has increased bacillophobia in the United States.
Symptoms of Bacillophobia
All of us have fears. However, phobias seem unreasonable or unmanageable compared to the usual fears. The disturbance caused by the phobia is often more harmful than the germs themselves. A simple infection can get cured with antibiotics, but what should we do with a troubled mind?
Recognizing these symptoms is essential when dealing with bacillophobia.
- Keeping away from public places and areas that you assume have a lot of germs
- Avoiding physical (skin to skin) contact
- Spending too much time cleaning and sanitizing
- Washing hands too frequently
- Not sharing belongings
- Fear of children catching germs
- Staying away from crowds and animals
- Panic attacks
- Increased heart rate
The symptoms for most phobias are similar. They often overlap with anxiety and panic disorders. What sets each phobia apart is the focus or trigger. It may be challenging to diagnose bacillophobia, since each person shows different signs of this condition.
What Can I Do to Overcome Bacillophobia?
Now that you have identified your fears, you can start dealing with them . If you’re able to do that on your own, you may find there’s no professional assistance required.
Begin by educating yourself and learning to correct thoughts about germs and infections. Reading articles or watching videos about bacteria can make it easier to understand that they are a natural part of the environment. If you know how they function and how important they are, you can better manage your fear and worry.
Did you first learn about germs from a favorite teacher or family doctor? Share your fear with them and ask for advice. It may be useful to discuss your phobia with friends and family so they can understand the reason behind your seemingly odd habits.
Getting Professional Help
When your phobia proves to be hard to overcome on your own, the next best thing is to seek out a professional. Ask your family physician to recommend a therapist who can listen to your concerns. A therapist, especially one who’s an expert in dealing with phobias, can guide you as you discover the cause of your phobia and eliminate the fear. Therapy can help you manage the anxiety and reduce the obsessions that affect your life.
Exposure therapy is a common way to treat bacillophobia. In this process, you gradually stop doing behaviors that make you feel safe. Instead of every half hour, you could try washing your hands every couple of hours. This may sound difficult, but it could help you slowly lose your fear of germs.
Cognitive behavioral therapy allows people to identify and change thoughts that can be disturbing and destructive. These negative thoughts are challenged and replaced with more positive, happy, and realistic thoughts.
You must learn to trust these professionals and speak honestly about your symptoms. They need to know exactly how you feel and how fear impacts your life. With this information, an experienced therapist will suggest different therapies and coping strategies.
They could also administer tests to see if you’re suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Those with OCD may feel the need to constantly wash and clean themselves and their surroundings.
Coping with Bacillophobia
Even with therapy, there’s no guarantee of completely overcoming a fear of germs or a fear of dirt. That’s why learning to cope with the fear is a slow and daily process. Remember, it took you a while to form a phobia, so it makes sense that it could take a long time to overcome it too.
One of the best ways to deal with any phobia is to keep facing your fears. Familiarity is a useful tool when you come upon triggers. Try going out to public places, sharing a bite with a family member, or even washing hands less often. With each battle you win, your phobia loses its grip on you.
Why not replace your fears with a healthy lifestyle that will keep you in top shape? A proper diet and basic hygiene is often all you need. When you do your part, your body can do what it’s best at doing: protecting itself. Your body has built-in defenses that can fight off many germs in the environment. Trust them. Go ahead and lick that last bit of chocolate from your fingers.