Are you a germophobe? People have phobias of all sorts of things — heights, insects, blood, needles, dogs, you name it. However, people with a fear of germs typically do not have a phobia. Often, this is the contamination subtype of OCD.
This will often manifest in tendencies to avoid people, places, or things that are thought to be contaminated. Sometimes the concern is about a specific disease like HIV or hepatitis, or just general “germs.” Other times the contamination can be more vaguely defined. In its extreme forms, this type of OCD can result in people feeling that their homes are too contaminated to continue living in.
Is Fear of Contamination a Problem?
How do you know if your concerns are a big problem, or just a quirk? Here are some tips — you should consider seeking help if:
- the fear of contamination can “spread” from one thing to another and then another;
- attempts to rid yourself or your surroundings of contamination have caused you to be late to work, school, or other engagements;
- germ, disease, or other related fears have affected your sex life or your romantic relationships;
- efforts to prevent or avoid contamination have significantly lengthened your daily routines;
- time spent washing, disinfecting, or otherwise cleaning has become excessive, or is thought to be excessive by others.
Don’t let fear of contamination run your life. Help is available, and by changing some habits and improving your tolerance for discomfort, you can see great gains. It’s not easy but it can be done! People who complete ERP therapy are able to see exactly these kinds of improvements.
Subscribe to the Manhattan Center for Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy blog!