Germaphobia is the persistent and excessive fear of germs. As you know, we call them germophobic.
These are three ways you can alleviate germaphobia:
1. Be positive and hopeful
People with severe anxiety think catastrophically. Under any circumstances in which they are exposed to their fear, they will think of the worst possible scenario.
A person with germaphobia will avoid any uncomfortable situation completely because of “catastrophic” and invasive thoughts.
When we find ourselves in a situation that causes us anxiety, it’s important to have a positive attitude. When our brains receive this signal, it becomes easier to manage anxiety.
Also, people with germaphobia are hopeless about the future. Therefore, they would rather avoid being exposed to their fear at all.
Being hopeful can help us recognize that we have control of the situation by having a plan and taking care of ourselves.
But, most of all, being hopeful makes us realize that not everything has negative outcomes. Catastrophic thoughts are irrational and untrue.
Due to the rates for mental disorders in the western world being high, many Americans now turn to meditation for mental health.
Even though meditation comes from Buddhism, any religion is welcomed to practice it.
Throughout the years, meditation has become universal and people with different religious backgrounds practice it.
The purpose of meditation is to allow you to look deep into yourself and stay in the present. It’s a way to connect with your deeper self.
Spending that time of self-compassion will allow you to understand better your anxiety which leads to manage it better.
Buddhism has harsh truths like pain is inevitable. This religion believes that life is suffering and accepting emotional pain will help you alleviate it. Instead of avoiding suffering, learn to deal with it.
When you begin to surrender to it, you begin to accept it. The battle against fear and pain is over: Nirvana.
3. Stay grounded in the present
People with germaphobia and severe anxiety tend to live in the future. They are constantly vigilant of their present, foreseeing a catastrophic future when exposed to their phobia.
This will trigger irrational thoughts about suffering when it’s not happening. In other words, germophobes will suffer before something happens or they will suffer for what will never happen.
It’s important to shift your mind to the present and stay grounded in it.
Tell the catastrophic mind: “I am here, I am safe.” And, when you aren’t as safe as you would rather be, say: “I am still here breathing; this too will pass, and I’ll be OK.”
Anxiety and germaphobia are inextricably connected but not necessarily the same diagnosis.
So, what crosses the line between someone who is a germophobe and someone who is a little anxious about germs?
If we look at history, we can see that germs can wipe out entire populations. Besides global warming, another end-of-the-world scenario is an uncontrollable pandemic.
But, so far, no pandemic has been even close to exterminating us. So far, we were able to control the virus and its expansion. And so far, we had our happy ending: humanity continued to prevail.
Around the 1920s, yellow fever created anxiety about hot humid weather and its mosquitos. Yet, with ingenuity, fish were used to eat the mosquitos’ eggs.
Eventually, a vaccine was developed, and the disease was controlled up to this day. H.I.V is labeled as a pandemic and was controlled with medicines.
It’s not a death sentence anymore and people continue to live with the disease. Anthrax was controlled with an antibiotic named Cipro.
Throughout history, there have been many deadly pandemics, including the swine flu and the avian flu, but nothing was more serious than the Spanish influenza of 1918.
It killed at least 20 million people. Still, after this pandemic faded away, the homo sapiens continued to survive and rule the world.
During these historical pandemics, humans were witnessing their loved ones getting sick and dying.
Naturally, the fear of invisible murderer pathogens began to possess people.
However, some level of anxiety during a pandemic is normal. It can help.
Some level of anxiety reminds us to protect ourselves by being prepared. For example, using antibacterial soaps.
For anxious people, these products not only promise to clean your hands but promise to destroy the troublesome germs. This is a serious growing business.
In 1998, the profit for soap was about $400 million. It’s much higher now due to the pandemic.
According to the DSM-5, anxiety is the anticipation of the future while fear is an emotional response to threat.
The latter creates a fight or flight response while anxiety is associated with hypervigilance about imminent danger.
Avoiding touching doorknobs, public surfaces, using sanitizers, washing groceries, and keeping a distance from strangers without masks are all part of being cautious during these times.
This doesn’t make you a person with a serious anxiety problem or a germophobe. Germaphobia occurs when there is excessive fear and anxiety with the thought of coming into contact with germs.
Under the DSM-5, Germaphobia would be under the category of specific phobia. Like the extreme fear of spiders or heights, there is a severe fear of germs.
Phobias are usually characterized by overestimating the enemy. A germophobic will not be satisfied with only washing hands while singing the Happy Birthday song.
Another criteria presented in the DSM-5 is avoidance. Germaphobia will cause impairment in different areas of functioning such as work or social activities.
For example, a woman who misses her meeting at work due to persistent handwashing in a public bathroom where she takes a long period of time attempting not to touch anything.
Certainly, so far, we can’t stop pandemics from originating in some parts of the world, but we can learn to cope with the extreme fear of germs or germaphobia.