6 Tips To Go Through Life Without Fear Of Stains

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Hygiene is important for our health. Most people have a fixed morning and evening ritual for this and wash their hands regularly.

We also regularly clean our house so that bacteria and dirt cannot harm our health.

However, if personal hygiene and brushing become an obsession and determine your life, we speak of a fear of contamination or misophobia . This can manifest itself as follows:

  • You wash your hands excessively and shower several times a day.
  • If you have been in contact with others, you feel extremely dirty.
  • You avoid holding objects because you are afraid of the coronavirus.
  • You clean your house down to the smallest details several times a day, following a fixed ritual.
  • If you think something is not clean, you don’t want to touch it or you panic completely.

Are you indeed too hygienic or are you afraid of getting infected if you handle something? Are you busy all day keeping everything as clean as possible? Does the fear of dirt or viruses rule your entire life?

Then this article can certainly help you. I teach you what the main symptoms are and what the possible causes are of your fear of contamination. And I’ll also show you how to go through life without fear of contamination.

Purpose of this blog: with this article I give you insight into the problem of contamination or misophobia. We discuss the symptoms and go deeper into the causes. Of course, this background information is interesting, but if you suffer from a fear of contamination, you naturally want to tackle this problem. I would therefore like to give you some tips to overcome a fear of contamination.


What is a fear of contamination (misophobia)?

A fear of contamination is also known as misophobia. It is a fear of contamination from dirt, bacteria, viruses and other substances or objects. Yet a fear of contamination is much more than a phobia. It is a form of obsessive compulsive disorder or obsessive- compulsive disorder .


What is a phobia?

If you have a phobia, you are overly afraid of something. These can be objects, animals or situations. For example, people with arachnophobia are extremely afraid of spiders. If they see a spider walking, they are so scared that they can even have a panic attack.

Fortunately, this does not happen every day and most people can live with such a phobia. It gets worse when a phobia starts to determine your life. For example, agoraphobia (square fear) can lead to you not daring to go anywhere.

However, a phobia does not involve compulsions. These do occur in obsessive-compulsive disorder or obsessive-compulsive neurosis.


What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive means that thoughts start to rule your life, much like a phobia. If you have a fear of contamination, you are convinced that everything is dirty and dirty.

But it doesn’t stop there. Your fear of dirt and bacteria is so great that you constantly want to avoid getting infected. To do this, you perform compulsive actions such as washing your hands extremely often or brushing excessively often. These compulsive acts are called compulsions.


The symptoms of a fear of contamination

We all have fears, but phobias are generally considered unreasonable or excessive compared to standard fears.


Symptom 1: Fear of dirt and contamination

The very first symptom of contamination is an extreme fear of dirt and contamination. Everyone has an aversion to dirt, but if you have a fear of contamination, you feel more than just a normal aversion.

Dirt, contamination and bacteria inspire an immense fear in you. This fear is so great that you want to constantly clean yourself and everything around you. News of the coronavirus virus outbreak may exacerbate fear of contamination.


Symptom 2: Compulsive Acts

If you have a fear of contamination or misophobia, then a quick cleaning is not enough for you. Everything has to be done according to a certain routine and often you brush the same objects over and over again.

It can even go so far that if you can’t follow this routine, you’ll have to start all over again until you’re sure everything is perfectly clean.


Symptom 3: Avoiding handling used objects

If you have a fear of contamination, you try to avoid as much as possible to pick up something that has already been touched by others.

Shopping carts or door handles are often a real nightmare. If people with a fear of contamination really can’t avoid it, they sometimes only use part of their hands or elbows to grab something.

People with a fear of contamination often carry cleaning wipes with them and keeping everything in plastic bags is not at all strange for them.


Symptom 4: Excessive Personal Hygiene

Someone with a fear of contamination or misophobia is so afraid of dirt that they wash their hands extremely often or take a shower several times a day.

People with a fear of contamination often immediately change their clothes after they have been outside. Washing your hands regularly indeed lowers the risk of contamination, but washing your hands every once in a while until they become extremely dry can be a symptom of a fear of contamination.


Symptom 5: Panic Attacks

Sometimes the fear of dirt and contamination can be so great that you get completely confused when you have to touch an object.

Especially outdoors where you have absolutely no control over the hygiene of certain objects, this can lead to panic attacks.


Possible causes of fear of contamination

There is usually no apparent reason for contamination fear or misophobia. Scientific research has shown that both heredity and environmental factors play a role.

The International OCD Foundation , an American non-profit organization that specializes in obsessive compulsive disorder, identifies four possible causes for a fear of contamination:


Cause 1: heredity

Genes probably play a role in the development of a fear of contamination. If there is a family history of contamination, you may be more sensitive to it.


Cause 2: stress

Stress can also lead to obsessive-compulsive behavior. It’s like a defensive response of the brain when you feel you can’t handle things in a routine way.

By focusing on compulsions, you get the feeling that you have things under control after all.


Cause 3: Perfectionism

If you are a perfectionist, you are more likely to develop a fear of contamination. After all, if you suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you want to be in total control and that is precisely one of the hallmarks of perfectionism.


Cause 4: deficiency of certain substances in the brain

In particular, a shortage of serotonin (also called the happiness hormone) can be a cause of obsessive compulsive disorder.

Whatever the cause, contamination is hard to live with. If you suffer from a fear of contamination, this not only has consequences for your own life, but also for that of those around you.


The consequences of a fear of contamination

Because you are so afraid of infections, a fear of contamination can lead to social isolation. You do everything you can to avoid situations that could lead to contamination, such as eating out at a restaurant or having sex.

  • In the first place, you look up to visitors. You are afraid that people will touch something in your house and that you will become infected. When the visitors have returned home, you clean the house all over again.
  • If you have a fear of contamination, you also avoid situations where you can get infected. As a result, you often only go outside if there really is no other option. For many people with a fear of contamination, shopping is a real nightmare.
  • Fear of contamination is not only an annoying condition for yourself, your environment can also suffer from it. Relatives or friends often find it quite irritating that you want to keep everything extremely clean and often get the feeling that they are not welcome at all.

If the social isolation becomes too great, you can even end up in a depression due to the fear of contamination .

If you have a fear of contamination, then you realize very well that this is not normal behavior. Yet it is often difficult to overcome these obsessions and actions.

 If you think it’s high time to get through life a little easier, the following tips can certainly help you with this:


Tips for treating a fear of contamination

Anxiety can be treated in different ways. Very often people with a fear of contamination are referred to a psychologist.

If you’re not ready for this or don’t want to go that far yet, there are plenty of other ways to overcome your fear of contamination:

Tip 1: Exposure Response Prevention Therapy (ERP)

If you have read this article carefully, you have probably learned a lot about fear of contamination. Informing yourself about this is already a first step in the right direction.

ERP is when you voluntarily expose yourself to the source of your fear over and over, without exerting any compulsion to neutralize or stop the fear.

By repeatedly facing something you fear, you force your brain to recognize how irrational it is.


Examples of ERP treatment:

Your therapist may ask you to make a list of things you fear, such as touching door handles or not washing your hands. Your therapist may then ask you to rank the items on the list by how anxious they make you feel.

Then you start the exposure exercises, starting with the relatively low anxiety tasks. The tasks become more challenging the further down the list you go.

In the end, you may end up doing things like handing a homeless person a euro coin or touching the faucet in a public bathroom.


Tip 2: how do others deal with hygiene?

Everyone thinks personal hygiene is important and wants to keep their house tidy. Be aware of how others deal with this.

Most likely, your friends or relatives are not too extreme about this. Do these stay healthy? Will something bad happen to them if they are less concerned with this? Do they get sick of touching objects?

Most likely, the answer to these questions is negative. Then why should you brush so compulsively?


Tip 3: step by step

Although it won’t be easy, try to skip something during your brushing routine. Then check with yourself whether something has happened as a result of this or if you have been infected with something.

New? Then the first step towards healing has already been taken. This way you can tackle the brushing less thoroughly step by step.

Be aware that normal hygiene is important, but that you should not be compulsively involved in this.


Tip 4: talk about it

If you have a fear of contamination, you can usually not count on much understanding of your environment.

Still, it’s important to talk about this. A good conversation with someone is always a relief. After all, this allows you to name your problem and you can look at things better from a distance.


Tip 5: structure

You may consider the routine that you follow while brushing as a certain structure in your life.

Structure is indeed important, but try to replace this brushing structure with other structures. This allows you to break the cycle of obsessive thoughts and actions.

Try to find another way to fill your day. Plan your day in advance with nicer things and stick to this.

Life has so much more to offer if you don’t worry about dirt and contamination all the time.


Tip 6: keep a diary

Keeping a diary can also help you overcome a fear of contamination.

Start naming your fears. What are you afraid of? How do you deal with this fear?

Then consider whether this fear is justified. Also keep track of your daily routine in the diary.

 Are there days when you have not been able to perform this routine? Has this had any negative consequences?

If you read your words again after some time, you can judge them more critically. Then try to replace these fearful thoughts with more positive thoughts. Keep track of what changes over time.

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