Written by Emily Whitton
Emily Whitton
Hypnotherapy Directory Content Team

Reviewed by Natalie Swanson
Last updated 18th April 2024 | Next update due 18th April 2027

Mysophobia, also known as germophobia, is the extreme fear of germs. It has become more common since the Covid-19 pandemic, so what options are available for those living with it? 

On this page, we’ll explore what the fear of germs is, including its causes and symptoms, and how it can be managed.

What is mysophobia?

Mysophobia is more commonly known as germophobia. It is the irrational fear of germs, dirt, infection, and contamination, whether they’re real or perceived. You might also see it referred to as bacillophobia, bacteriophobia, or verminophobia.

We are naturally cautious of the cross-contamination of foods, our hygiene, and bodily fluids, however, mysophobia is the extreme fear of germs that impacts daily life, as people often go out of their way to avoid anything that might make them unwell. Mysophobia is linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) but people can live with it without having OCD. 

A fear of germs can significantly reduce a person’s quality of life as their feelings take over. They might avoid socialising with friends and family, avoid intimacy with their partner, public transport, or even school or work - all of which might lead a person to feel isolated and can affect their ability to concentrate on day-to-day tasks.

Germophobia and OCD

Many people associate a fear of germs with having OCD, however, there are differences between the two.

OCD is when a person experiences recurring, persistent, and unwanted urges, or compulsions, to do something to relieve their distress and anxiety. OCD presents very intrusive thoughts which compel a person to complete an act or ritual. For example, they may wash their hands a number of times as any less may result in distress from not completing the routine.

Meanwhile, mysophobia involves the person completing an act in order to rid them of the germs themselves. Someone can live with both conditions simultaneously or one but not the other.

Signs and symptoms of germophobia

There are various signs and symptoms that may help you determine whether you are experiencing germophobia and allow you to recognise when your thoughts are taking over so that you can work through them. These can be broken down into physical actions and symptoms, and psychological thoughts. 

Physical symptoms:

  • irritability
  • lightheadedness
  • shaking 
  • sweating 
  • rapid heartbeat 


  • Frequently washing your hands, multiple times in a row, or for a prolonged period of time.
  • Wearing gloves to prevent contact with germs.
  • Avoid socialising with friends or family for fear of catching germs.
  • Taking multiple showers a day.
  • Using hand sanitiser every time you touch a surface unknown to you.
  • Avoid sharing food or drinks, even with your partner.
  • Excessively using cleaning products.

Emotional signs:

  • Germs consume your thoughts, sometimes keeping you up at night.
  • You have an extreme sense of worry that germs will make you ill.
  • You're unable to control your fear even though you recognise it is excessive.
Therapists who can help with mysophobia

Overcoming mysophobia

Treatment for mysophobia aims to reduce anxiety and help a person learn to manage their fear. Let's explore some helpful treatment options:

Hypnotherapy for the fear of germs

Hypnotherapy can be an effective way to help manage your symptoms of mysophobia and overcome your fear of germs. Using hypnosis techniques, a hypnotherapist can help you uncover the root cause of your fear. Most phobias develop as a result of a traumatic experience or learning from family, so once you can target the cause of your germophobia, you can work with a professional to learn how to take back control.

Throughout your sessions, your hypnotherapist will likely teach you self-hypnosis techniques, which you can practice at home and if you encounter an uncomfortable situation with germs. Rather than accepting your fear, you will develop a series of coping strategies that will help you reframe your thinking and tune into your subconscious thoughts to remind yourself that this feeling will pass.

Other treatments for germophobia

Exposure therapy is the most common treatment for overcoming the fear of germs. As the name suggests, this involves gradually introducing you to your fear, so that you’re eventually able to calmly face it in real time with the support of your therapist.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is another treatment that can help overcome the fear of germs. It works by helping you to recognise your negative, fear-provoking thoughts and replace them with more positive emotions and behaviours when confronted with potential germs. By breaking down your fear, you can learn to realise that it can be managed and you can begin to live your life free of these thoughts. 

An extreme fear of germs can take over your life. By acknowledging that you need support to manage your fear, you've already begun your journey to taking back control. 

Meet our expert panel Our content is reviewed by professionals Find out more
Damien Scott Amy Odd Neville Mundy Neil Brown Natalie Swanson Faye Hatch
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