We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Mysophobia?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 07, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Mysophobia is an intense fear of dirt and uncleanliness. It is typically associated with a fear of contamination with germs; some people call it “germaphobia” as a result. This condition can have serious repercussions for people who suffer from it, as they may embark on radical lifestyle changes to avoid situations in which they may potentially be exposed to germs. There are several treatments for this condition which can allow mysophobes to live relatively normal lives.

As with many psychological conditions, the root causes of mysophobia can be varied and difficult to trace. It may be related to various forms of trauma, for example, either experienced first hand or in the form of books and films. Some psychologists believe that conditions like mysophobia also experienced a sharp increase at the end of the 20th century, as people began to be concerned about conditions like AIDS.

The severity of mysophobia varies. Patients tend to feel tense around potential sources of contamination, and they may feel breathless or nauseated as well. Heart rates typically increase, which can make a patient feel physically ill as a result. Many mysophobes engage in obsessive compulsive behavior like washing their hands. Some people go to extreme lengths to avoid situations in which they might get dirty or sick, essentially cutting themselves off from society.

This condition was first described by William Hammond in 1879. Hammond was interested in the role of mysophobia in conditions like obsessive compulsive disorder. It can be easy to confuse mysophobia with obsessive compulsive activities like hand washing, but it is important to remember that the root causes of hand washing in mysophobes and obsessive compulsives are different. A mysophobe washes his or her hands repeatedly out of fear of contamination, while obsessive compulsive patients wash their hands because they feel like they have to in order to maintain the order of their lives.

The most common treatment for mysophobia is cognitive behavioral therapy, which attempts to get to the root cause of the condition and to address the specific concerns of the patient. Techniques like meditation and hypnosis may be utilized as well, along with medications which are designed to treat some of the stress and mental anguish associated with severe mysophobia.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon964213 — On Aug 03, 2014

I have been struggling with mysophobia for the past three years and I hate it so much.

By anon339678 — On Jun 25, 2013

My son claims he has this disorder but he pees the bed. How can you not want germs but wet yourself every night? Urine is okay but cleaning out the sink trap makes him scream in agony. I know some people may actually suffer, but for my son it is a choice to act out. He rages when I say clean anything: "You know I can't. It's filthy". Yeah, right.

By anon319602 — On Feb 13, 2013

I am mysophobic and it's just been getting worse and worse. I am afraid to do anything. When people try to touch me, I usually scream at them.

I have panic attacks often because someone touches me or something that is mine, or I accidentally touched something. I hate being this way, and I am worried. I want to live a normal life, and I know that with this condition I never can.

I have become distant with others and I think I am slowly becoming depressed. I don't know how I could ever possibly have a boyfriend, or get married, or have children. I can't imagine a future like this. I want to get treatment, but I don't know how to tell anyone that I want to go to a psychologist. I've told friends but they don't take me seriously. They all think its just a joke, and no matter how many times I tell them I have an issue, they keep trying to poke me or hug me or touch me in any way even though they know I get upset.

I wish I could just tell my parents, but I'm afraid they won't take me seriously, even though I know it's irrational because they would do anything to help me. I advise anyone else who has this problem to try their hardest to get help. Being mysophobic, or being a "germophobe" has really had a negative effect on my life. I pretty much fear having physical contact with everything, and I hate it and hate myself for listening to the irrational fears in my head.

I just wish someone would help me, because I can't do it alone. Society's immediate reaction to me and people with my condition is that we are freaks, weirdos, geeks and that it's our own fault. People always make fun of me for it, but they don't get that I just can't make myself do certain things. I laugh along with them, but lately I've realized that it isn't a joke, and that they're laughing at me and my mental condition.

I read that mysophobia is a problem in the brain. I try to explain the though process in my mind, but all I get is people trying to get me to touch door knobs or sit on the floor or laughing about it. I just can't do it. I really can't. I just wish someone would realize that it's not my fault that I am this way and that I have a legitimate problem.

By anon310431 — On Dec 22, 2012

My wife has developed this, and it's ruined our marriage, and is destroying our children's lives as well. It's progressive - the more she thinks about things, the stricter her rituals become.

It's past just not picking things up off the floor or not using public washrooms. We all have to change all of our clothes at the door when we come into the house, then immediately shower.

If anything from outside touches beyond the foyer, she has a meltdown. Needless to say, we never have people over and rarely visit other people. If she's out, when she comes home, she spends literally hours wiping the floor and washing anything she bought, including groceries.

She won't let me cook anymore, so frequently she winds up making dinner for the children after midnight. And the worst thing is, she denies there's a problem; she thinks she's the only normal one. I can't take it anymore.

If you think you're starting to develop this then first, congratulations on admitting it. At least you can maybe get help. And second, for your own sake, find some way to treat it, because it is progressive, and it will ruin your life.

By anon307262 — On Dec 04, 2012

I am an admitted germophobe and realize I can't live under a glass jar and neither can my family. One thing I learned in my quest to keep my house clean and control the level of our exposure to microbes and toxins was the issue of the doormat.

The dirty little secret about the common doormat is that they are a reservoir of microbial growth. Think of it as a "convention" of microbes at your doorstep. Think of all the places those soles of yours go in the course of a day. You come home and wipe only to re-infect those soles. The mat acts as an amplification site, the shoes get wiped and the creepy crud on the mat hitches a ride on the shoes to get transported through your house.

The first line of defense in our house is an antimicrobial treated mat that disables the microbes on the mat on contact. We can't control what is outside our home, but we can control what enters our home.

By anon272195 — On May 30, 2012

I'm 21 also have this condition and have never kissed a guy before because I find it icky. I can't even share beverages with people. It's so bad and I hate it so much.

By anoncontrol — On May 14, 2012

My fear is being contaminated and/or infected by anything contagious. Society’s general response to a germaphobe is “you won’t die” if you touch it/eat it (whatever “it” may be). I know I won’t die. My fear is about what I may have to “live” with that frightens me, and makes me wash my hands over and over.

I know full well that the likelihood of a contaminant being on everything I may touch or that may come into contact with me is zero, but my imagination runs riot, and I see it everywhere. In an attempt to overcome this problem, I’ve spent quite a bit of time self-diagnosing my behavior. I’ve found that when I’m depressed and dispirited my mind and thoughts are “sluggish” and it’s then that the fear of being contaminated dominates. When I’m happy, when my mind is active and when I’m mentally and physically busy, I do things without a second thought as to being contaminated and I’m not bothered with hand washing. I seldom drink coffee, however. When I do, it is such a mental stimulant that I then too seem to be “freed’ from the problem, but my mind is then so active. This fear makes me so unnecessarily and one-sidedly wanting to control situations and circumstances, especially at home.

My fear causes a need to control others and it’s terribly unfair to them, and in an attempt to make my problem less intrusive to others, I’m constantly being creative in getting around situations and discreetly do things not to upset them. It’s amazing what I’ve achieved this way.

When I’m away from home the fear is much less intrusive. Somehow, I can handle the situations and move on without the need to wash my hands. Could it be because there’s no access to a tap so I simply go on and get through the problems (just fine) and I do things I would never do at home. But when I get home again I’m suddenly overtaken by the need to wash my hands, and remove my clothing if I feel it got contaminated. Again, it’s control.

I’ve gotten through all these situations at home and in public and I’m in good health, so what’s my problem? This is it. I recently learned that two aunts on my mother’s side of the family and a brother have the same problem! It's in the genes! I’ve inherited the damn phobia. It's in my head!

By anon240823 — On Jan 16, 2012

I don't trust anything to be clean unless it has been bleached, so I'm not bleaching everything, but if my roommate puts a fork on the counter and then into soup I won't eat it because I know the dish cloth that wiped the counter is full of bacteria and was not bleached.

I don't like to put hair ties or bobby pins in my hair that have fallen on the floor without washing them because I'm afraid the germs will crawl off my hair onto my pillow and onto my face. I prefer to open public doors with a piece of newspaper or plastic bag, or shove it open with my foot. I never flush public toilets with my hand. I use my shoe, and I always open bathroom door with paper towel. My favorite technique to use the wheelchair automatic door opener.

By anon188424 — On Jun 20, 2011

Ah, gotta love the trolls. Obviously we know the fears are completely irrational. That is the whole definition of a phobia, the irrational fear of something. You telling us that germs and dirt won't kill us has absolutely no effect, because the disorder is not rational.

By anon163031 — On Mar 25, 2011

it's all very well for people who do not suffer this problem to make sarcastic comments. I understand how bad it can get. I carry germ stuff in my bag, I hate public toilets - mostly because they stink! And I think in general people are dirty and have dirty habits like not washing hands are visiting the toilet.

Is it any wonder there are so many viruses out there? Our survival instincts tells us to be clean, it's only just that people become focused or obsessed about it. I have to be careful not to get infections because of my immune system. So, being a germaphobe definitely helps. get help if you need it. I think that a lot of our concerns are very real.

By anon141748 — On Jan 11, 2011

I am 21 and I believe I have this. It is hard to live with. But I am seeking help. I take medication and it helps. My hands are so dry they crack and bleed but I continue to wash them. But I know I have a problem and I will get the help I need to be normal again. I hope that those of you that read this and learn that you also have a problem will find the help you need.

By anon96342 — On Jul 15, 2010

I am a 39 year old male still single, never married. The reason is for this is that I am afraid of germs so much that living alone only makes me feel comfortable.

My house is very clean and I always try to get rid of dust particles and hair from the floor and counters. It is very difficult for me to touch door knobs, taking public transportation, and using public restrooms.

I always cover my car seats with garbage plastic bags. If I drop something on the ground, I would not pick it up because I would think it is contaminated with germs.

By anon66133 — On Feb 17, 2010

the world is covered with grime. humans have survived it so far. we are not a race of pansies. did any of you germaphobes know that when you inhale a scent, you are actually inhaling particles of what you are smelling?

use all the purell and hot water you can find but there are still fecal particles in your nose after you go to the bathroom. think about the smell of a public restroom. you will survive. germs and dirt will not kill you.

By anon60704 — On Jan 15, 2010

I think i have Mysophobia and i spend ages cleaning and washing to not get germs on my hands.

By anon54858 — On Dec 02, 2009

I am 16 years old and i have it. sometimes i just turn the shower water on the hottest setting and lie there and cry and i burned my skin once because of that, but no matter how much it hurt, i felt like my skin was cleaner. I hate having this.

By anon42450 — On Aug 21, 2009

I have mysophobia =( not fun stuffs ... grr

By anon36685 — On Jul 14, 2009

hello, I am a man 44 years old and I can't have any pleasure to have intimate relations with somebody, because I suffer from mysophobia. I am very depressed because I feel very lonely. Is there any therapy who really helps ???

By millhouse — On Aug 25, 2008

Celebrity Howie Mandel is perhaps one of the most well known mysophobes.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.