How Germaphobia and Mysophobia Can Change Your Life
We all have that one friend that lectures us on the dangers of germs. They’re constantly hounding us to clean our phones and forcing us to put out our hands for a dose of pre-meal hand sanitizer. We may think they’re crazy, but let’s be honest; being that clean MUST be healthy, right? Germs make us sick and are something to fear for the most part. You’d think trying to avoid simple exposures would be more beneficial than good.
The true mystery is if these germaphobes are more hygienic than the rest of us disgusting fools, or if they’re actually as ridiculous as we perceive them to be. I sway back and forth between wanting to adapt some of my germaphobe friends’ habits and ignoring their obsessive behavior. But where is the line drawn? How can you tell if someone is just very hygienic or actually suffering from something comparable to OCD?
When It’s Reasonable
There are plenty of habits that these “germaphobes” have picked up that are probably more reasonable than concerning. Behaviors like cleaning your phone, the gas pump, and avoiding touching the grimy hotel bed comforters have actually been proven to be excellent practices to prevent from exposing yourself to unwated germs.
Keeping It Kleen reported that cellphones have 18 times more bacteria than a toilet seat handle. Gross, right? Tens of thousands of germs can be found on almost every surface of these gadgets. We carry something around with us everywhere that is actually more unsanitary than visiting a public bathroom in a gas station. Yahoo News’s Article “7 Germaphobe Habits Everyone Should Follow” reports that, according to a Kimberly-Clark Professional study, gas pumps are probably one of the most unsanitary surfaces that we can touch. If you think about how many people touch and grab those things everyday combined with how little those handles are cleaned, it makes sense why people put a wipe in-between their hands and the pump.
Same applies to subways: imagine the microbes that can be found on the poles and seats. Being in New York and noticing how many times my hands transfer back and forth between my phone and the surfaces of the subway makes me really mad about not bringing hand sanitizer with me.
When It’s A Little Much
Like most things, too much of anything is not always good. The need to keep yourself guarded from harmful bacteria is an understandable behavior, but becoming obsessed and becoming fearful of germs may be caused by something more than just practicing good hygiene.
According to National Institute of Mental Health, a fear of germs and/or dirt (Mysophobia) can be a sign of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Recall the show Monk, a show about a brilliant detective and the poster child for OCD. He constantly repeated patterns and routines some of which included the avoidance of germs.
NIMH reports that over 2.2 people in America suffer from OCD, and perhaps more if we count all those undiagnosed. People with Mysophobia are not just wiping off counters or washing their hands because it’s good practice, but because it’s a compulsion and a legitimate fear of being contaminated. Becoming anxious at the thought of being contaminated with germs, cleaning despite knowing it’s excessive and unnecessary, and living in a Lysol bubble whilst letting this obsession affect your daily life are all symptoms of someone with true Mysophobia. Being scared of going out with your friends because you know you’ll be in possible contact with germs is not normal behavior.
Are Germs Something to Fear At All?
According to TIME magazine, about 8 billion pathogens live amongst and on us. They are everywhere, have always been everywhere, and are a part of our life. Being said, research has proven that not all of these microbes are bad for us. In fact, a good amount of them are good for us, and responsible for how our body functions.
We must be aware of the fact that being exposed to germs is an every day occurrence, and unavoidable. Yes, some of the germs out there are bad, but only a small percentage. Overall, they are what keep our immune systems strong. If we kept our distances from EVERY single germ out there for a couple years (pretty much live in a straight jacket) and then walk into a “germ-infested” room, we’d never stand a chance. Obviously, practicing good hygiene is a smart way to avoid common exposures to disease, but needing to stay as clean as possible past the point of reason may be more unhealthy than catching the common cold from sharing a cup of water with your friend.