Rupophobia: Unnecessary Fear of Dirt
Does dirt make you crazy? Do you clean house obsessively, because you don’t think it’s ever quite clean enough? Are you stuck washing your hands repeatedly because you feel they’re always dirty? Do these obsessive behaviors control your life? If so, you might be suffering from rupophobia.
What Is Rupophobia?
Rupophobia is the extreme and irrational fear of rubbish or dirt. It is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a condition in which the person who suffers from it engages in obsessive cleaning behaviors. For example, it causes someone to spend unnecessarily long hours cleaning their house. If this impulse is not satisfied, it can lead to a great sense of general dissatisfaction and anxiety.
Rupophobia can affect a person’s daily life in terms of work and social relations. In extreme cases, people with rupophobia might not even leave their home for fear of being exposed to dirt. They might not allow anyone to get close to them, because they’re afraid of getting dirty. One can see the debilitating effects this condition can have in its sufferer’s quality of life.
Genetics or environmental factors could cause rupophobia. Research has shown that people who have a parent or relative suffering from a phobia have an increased risk of developing the condition compared to others who don’t.
Is Rupophobia a Phobia of Fear or Disgust?
For instance, some individuals with rupophobia could have been exposed to situations that embedded in them an extreme fear of dirt. They might have seen a relative suffer from their morbid fear of dirt or germs.
Another probable cause would be neurological factors. While research is still ongoing, several studies suggest a brain’s structure and functioning may have something to do with this condition.
People with a fear of dirt display symptoms that are similar to other phobias. These can be categorized as physical symptoms and psychological symptoms. Let’s have a look at some of them.
Physical Symptoms of Rupophobia
- Increased heart rate
- Frequent washing or cleaning of items that might come in contact with dirt
Psychological Symptoms of Rupophobia
- Panic attacks
- Inability to concentrate
- General dissatisfaction
Treatment for Rupophobia
Several non-medical intervention measures can be done by phobia sufferers to cope with their condition, especially in instances where reactions are extreme. Common rupophobia treatment options include:
Self-Help to Overcome Rupophobia
The basic aim of self-help is to try and trick your mind into forgetting about the phobia. This goal is difficult to achieve, but several innovative methods can help:
- Whenever you come across a dirty object or place, try to close your eyes and walk past it. Try calming yourself by taking deep breaths. This practice can help prevent you from having panic attacks and experiencing breathlessness.
- You can also try visualization. Visualization involves combining breathing, relaxation, and mental visualization techniques. Visualization can help you react productively when exposed to situations that could trigger the condition. Simply put, phobia sufferers mentally prepare themselves for dealing with situations where they are face-to-face with the object of their fears.
- Joining a self-help group is also another self-help method phobia sufferers can try. Through the group, you can meet people who are going through similar experiences and you can share ways of coping with your phobia.
It is important to note that self-help techniques are not meant to stand on their own, but go hand-in-hand with professional therapy.
Although self-help techniques work, a sufferer of rupophobia also needs to seek professional help. The treatment plan for rupophobia consists of therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, etc.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a form of psychotherapy treatment that uses a practical approach to solving issues such as depression, addiction, anxiety, and phobias.
This treatment focuses on reframing the negative thoughts and ideas that trigger these mental disorders. A psychotherapist uses CBT to help the patient challenge their unhealthy beliefs and thoughts.
The therapist can use CBT to show the patients that phobia is an irrational fear, and they need not be afraid. Through CBT, patients may learn ways to replace with positive thoughts those unhealthy thoughts and beliefs that caused the phobia. They will understand that their perceptions—not their surroundings—are responsible for their fear.
Through CBT, more objective and impactful thoughts will be imparted on patients’ minds, paving the way for recovery.
Exposure therapy is another technique proven effective in treating phobias. Slowly, the therapist exposes the patients to conditions that cause them stress and trigger their condition. Although this treatment is difficult for the patients, the aim is to teach them how to deal with their phobia and not let it control them. This therapy is done only after a complete analysis of the nature and severity of the phobia. In this regard, the patients might be exposed to the object of their fear (e.g., a dirty environment), and receive skills to help them cope with it.
Exposure therapy treatment takes some time. The patient is exposed gradually yet consistently to an environment where the object of their fear may be present. The aim is for the patient to normalize their fears and become free from the phobia.
This is considered one of the best treatment methods for any phobia, given that it is a practical and direct mode of treatment.
Going to Therapy
Deciding to seek medical help is a giant leap toward overcoming your phobia. The next step would be to make sure you can provide a good picture of your condition to your medical provider. You can do so by preparing as many details as you can before seeing your chosen medical provider for the first time. Some of the details that you should remember sharing include:
- Symptoms you experience and what triggers them
- Medical conditions you may have (and the medications you take for them, if any)
- Your medical and mental health history
- Questions you have about the treatment
A few of the questions your therapist may ask you during your first meeting include:
- Why did you decide to come to therapy today?
- Have you seen a counselor before?
- Have you recently had a phobia episode? How often do you experience the problem?
- What do you hope to achieve in this therapy?
How to Overcome the Fear of Dirt?
Professional treatment is the best way to fight this phobia, but you still have your part to play towards recovery. Here’s some simple tips to overcoming rupophobia.
- The first step to living a phobia-free life is first acknowledging the condition and deciding to actively work toward recovery.
- Continue keeping your immediate surroundings clean. Try to think that although things around can’t be as clean as you want them to be, it’s OK. You’re safe. A little dirt never hurt anyone.
- Don’t hide away. Strive to go out and catch up with your loved ones and friends. The people you trust the most can be your best support as you journey toward recovery.
- Avoid going to extremely messy or cluttered places. If you find yourself coming across a dirty object or place, close your eyes, take deep breaths, and walk away as quickly as possible.
You Can Beat Rupophobia
Overcoming the fear of dirt is difficult, but possible. The first step is deciding to not allow this fear to control your life. With determination and the right support including from people you trust and mental health professionals, you’ll be free of rupophobia and be able to live your best life.
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