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What is Microphobia?

written by: Dr. Kristie Leong • edited by: jen2008 • updated: 8/23/2010

Phobias are surprisingly common. One phobia that few people are aware of is microphobia. What is microphobia and what are its symptoms?

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    Phobias are actually quite common among the general population. Up to one in ten people suffer from some sort of irrational fear that can be classified as a phobia. Less common than some of the more typical phobias is an irrational fear called microphobia. What is microphobia and what kind of symptoms does it cause?

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    What is Microphobia?

    Some people fear things that are large such as flying in a large jetliner or a large body of water such as the ocean. Still others fear objects that are tiny – or even too small to see. Such is the case of a person who suffers from microphobia. Microphobia, as the name implies, is a fear of things that are minute or very small.

    Usually a person with microphobia fears things that are very small. A good example is a fear of “germs". The fact that germs are too minute to visualize plays a role in their anxiety and often debilitating fear. Microphobia isn’t restricted to just bacteria and viruses but can encompass anything that’s tiny in size.

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    What Are the Symptoms of Microphobia?

    A person with microphobia experiences intense fear and anxiety when they’re in the presence of the small things they fear. This phobia can be quite debilitating since they’re often afraid of tiny objects such as germs that they’re unable to see, but could be lurking anywhere. As a result, they have to constantly make an effort to avoid them. Their fear of dirt and germs can become so great that it takes on the symptoms of another phobia called misophobia - the irrational fear of dirt and germs. Misophobia and microphobia can co-exist in the same person.

    Some symptoms a person with microphobia might experience include intense anxiety, fear, shakiness, rapid heart beat, sweating, lightheadedness, dizziness, shortness of breath, shakiness, and a sense of impending doom. So intense is the fear a person with microphobia experiences that they’ll go out of their way to avoid the tiny things they fear. This avoidance can become so pronounced that they’re unable to leave home – which is symptomatic of another phobia called agoraphobia.

    As you can see, the symptoms of microphobia can occur in the setting of other phobias. All of these phobias have similar features – an intense and irrational fear that causes debilitating mental and physical symptoms.

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    Causes of Microphobia

    No one completely understands what causes phobias such as microphobia. Most experts believe it’s a combination of a biochemical imbalance in the brain, which may be genetic, along with environmental factors. An example of an environmental factor would be a frightening experience with the object or objects that are feared.

    For example, a person suffering from microphobia who fears tiny things may have had a bad experience with similar objects during childhood that left an indelible impression on them emotionally and “imprinted" in their brain. Some experts believe traumatic experiences like this can alter levels of brain neurotransmitters and can give rise to symptoms many years later.

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    What is Microphobia: The Bottom Line?

    Microphobia is an irrational fear that can cause a person a great deal of stress and anxiety – and can make it difficult for them to socialize with others - or even hold a job. Don’t underestimate the power of a phobia such as microphobia to alter a person’s life. This type of phobia can be a real life changer – for obvious reasons. Fortunately, there are treatments available to help a microphobia sufferer better deal with their irrational fear.

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    References

    Emedicine.com. “Phobic Disorders". Accessed 09/20/20.

    Merck Manual. Eighteenth edition. 2006.

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