Misophobia is the morbid and irrational fear of dirt. This is not to be confused with Germophobia, although the two are very similar. Misophobia sufferers, unlike Germophobia sufferers, are afraid of dirt only, and not just generally unclean environments. They may fear germs and environments that are unclean, but the main focus of the phobia is dirt.
Symptoms of Misophobia
Symptoms and characteristics of people with Misophobia can vary, since not everyone is exactly alike. Depending upon mental status, level of fear, and a variety of other personality characteristics, symptoms of Misophobia can be any level of severity and occur at many different frequencies.
General symptoms of Misophobia include anxiety when in dirty environments, especially the outdoors, feeling a compulsive need to clean, excessive hand washing or bathing, overuse of sanitizers (both on the body and furniture), and more. Overuse of hand sanitizers could also lead to a variety of other medical problems, since they also destroy bacteria needed to keep the body healthy. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is also often coupled with Misophobia.
When exposed to dirt, a person with Misophobia could experience a full on panic attack. Symptoms of these heightened states of anxiety and terror include rapid heart rate, chest pain, breathing difficulties, feeling a loss of control, tingling or numbness in the extremities, excessive sweating, and chills.
Causes of Misophobia
Causes of Misophobia, like symptoms, will vary from person to person. Most often, causes of phobias are a trauma, which typically occurs during childhood but can happen at any stage of life. Trauma in relation to dirt could be growing up in a very unclean environment, falling into a mud puddle, etc.
More often than not, though, Misophobia is caused by an already established psychological problem. Various disorders, such as Obsessive-compulsive disorder or Schizophrenia, could easily cause irrational fears of dirt. People with Obsessive-compulsive disorder, for instance, need a routine and become very uncomfortable and anxious if anything is out of place. The presence of dirt could lead them to feel threatened.
Other people may just fear dirt for no obvious reason at all. The phobia of dirt does not have to have a direct cause. Nobody really likes to be dirty, but some people just take this fear too far.
Treatments for Misophobia
Treatments are just the same as symptoms and causes; they vary. Usually, therapy will do the trick. People have the option of many different types of therapies which will both help to understand the cause of the phobia and deal with it directly. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, for instance, changes the way a person thinks about and reacts to dirt. Shock or exposure therapy also does this, by presenting the person with dirt and desensitizing them to it.
Medication is also available to treat anxiety and other problems caused by the phobia of dirt or panic attacks, such as chest pain. Special medications are also available to treat those with Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or any other psychological disorder for that matter.
Working to get a clean environment, mostly free of dirt, will also obviously help.
Lastly, various relaxation techniques will help alleviate anxiety. Examples include structured breathing, yoga, listening to music, and more.