DURING the coronavirus pandemic, everyone was a little more conscious of germs and other nasties.
But for some people being overly aware of viruses or bacteria is a full-blown phobia.
Mysophobia, also known as germophobia, is an extreme fear of germs, experts at the Cleveland Clinic state.
This type of phobia often occurs in people who suffer with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Most of the time, it's normal to have a little bit of fear around situations that make you feel uncomfortable or that are dangerous.
But people with mysophobia will often get anxious about things that can disrupt their daily activities.
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This includes experiencing worry about things that could affect your wellbeing, like illnesses or disease, the experts say.
You might also become worried about foods that will make you sick, and that may have become contaminated either through the production process or through other people touching them.
Phobias like this can cause intense feelings and can often be difficult to control, the medics state.
What are the signs?
If you are living with mysophobia then you might go out of your way to avoid these four situations:
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- Avoiding contact with other people's bodily fluids, such as sweat
- Staying away from mold, dust, dirt – or anything else associated with germs
- Avoiding contaminated food, this could be food you haven't prepared or food that you think may have been tampered with by someone else. For example sharing things like crisps or eating food from a buffet
- If you don't know whether or not surfaces or items have been cleaned, then you might also avoid these
You might also struggle with behaviours such as excessive hand washing or wearing gloves to prevent contact with germs.
People who suffer with the condition may also avoid social situations and take multiple showers each day to wash away any dirt or grime.
Physical symptoms might also include frequent bouts of crying, lightheadedness, irregular heart beat, restlessness and brain fog.
How to combat it
If you think you're suffering from mysophobia, then it's important you speak to your GP or healthcare providers, as they can then refer you on to services or give you medication that might help.
In most cases, you will be recommended some form of therapy.
This is usually in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
This will help you understand why certain things trigger you, while also giving you practical tips on how to manage your feelings.
Medications might also be prescribed to help with your symptoms, these could include antidepressants or anti anxiety medications.
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