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What is Automysophobia?

written by: Malka M. Feast • edited by: jen2008 • updated: 10/26/2010

Are you constantly washing your hands and taking baths more often than usual due to fear of becoming in contact with dirt or germs? If so, then you may be a victim of automysophobia. "Auto" meaning self, "mysos" meaning dirt and "phobia" meaning fear breaks down the meaning of this disorder.

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    Automysophobia is the medical term for the fear of being dirty. Many people are unaware that they have this disorder although they may constantly wash their hands and bathe more often than usual. People who possess these characteristics also feel the need to clean their surroundings in the same manner leading up to obsessive compulsive disorder.

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    Causes of Automysophobia

    • Thoughts of Being Dirty - The mind tricks the person into believing that they are covered with germs
    • Feeling of Being Dirty - One may feel that he or she is dirty and give off a foul odor that others can smell.

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    Signs & Symptoms of Automysophobia

    • Anxiety Attacks - Anxiety attacks consist of shortness of breath, nausea, dry mouth, shakiness, dizziness, heart palpitations, the fear of dying, inability to think coherently, agitation, sense of losing control, and a sense of being detached from reality.
    • Feeling of Paresthesias - Paresthesias is when the skin feels numb or tingly in certain areas.
    • Body Temperature Either Extremely Hot or Cold - The person will either get hot flashes or sudden chills which can alternate from one instance to another.
    • Excessive Sweating - The person may feel sweat on their palms and from other areas of the body such as the forehead, underarms, and the back of the neck.
    • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - An instant feeling occurs of having to scrub his or herself clean and everything he or she comes in contact with to be rid of the dirt.
    • Depression - Depression usually sets in when the person calms down from the panic attack and realized he or she has isolated his or herself from the world.
    • Anhedonia - After the feeling of depression lingers for awhile, anhedonia starts inhibiting the person from what is going on in his or her environment.
    • Become Anti-Social - The person will avoid other people for fear of someone smelling his or her odor only to be ridiculed or gossiped about.
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    Treatment for Automysophobia

    • Anti-Anxiety Medication - The medication will calm the attacks, but the patient must be willing to go through extensive therapy to alleviate the stress of this phobia.
    • Cognitive Behavior Therapy - This therapy will help the patient separate the fear from reality. Through training the mind to think the opposite will help to cure the phobia. This therapy will take months, but in the end it will pay off so that the patient interact with other people comfortably.
    • Physical Examination From a Medical Doctor - A physical examination will prove to the patient that there is no medical reason for him or her to feel dirty.
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    If you or someone you know is suffering from automysophobia, then seek help immediately. No one can isolate his or herself from the world; thus, it's a crowded place and you will be missing out on having a good life, good friends, and peace of mind.