How bacterial phobia becomes a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder

Many people openly admit that they are bacterial phobias. Although it is not an actual medical term, most people agree that bacterial phobia refers to people who are engrossed or obsessed with cleanliness, bacteria, and infectious diseases. Although bacterial phobia does not necessarily mean that you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), obsessiveness with hygiene, cleanliness, and bacteria, and compulsive behavior around washing or disinfection may indicate a deeper problem.

Worries about bacteria are common

Worrying about bacterial contamination and/or infection with infectious diseases is common in our society. You only need to look at the existence of hand sanitizer dispensers in public places or the large number of advertisements for antibacterial products, and you will realize that our society is preoccupied with bacteria to some extent.

In other words, in daily life, most people don’t spend more than a few minutes. In that case, they worry about loosening their shoelaces after touching door handles, pressing elevator buttons, or tying them to public toilets in an office building. For most people, if the thought of pollution flashes in their minds, common sense methods of washing their hands or disinfecting for a few minutes will relax their minds and continue their day.

However, if you are bacterial phobia, you know that these conditions can cause anxiety, which may even make you want to avoid places that may be contaminated or bacteria. It should be noted that obsession with cleanliness, pollution and/or bacteria is also a common OCD symptom.

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When does the focus on bacteria cross the line and become obsessive? When did personal hygiene habits or cleaning programs become an obsessive-compulsive disorder? Let us try to answer these questions with two examples.

Tina and John: The story of two bacterial phobias

Case 1: Tina is a 38-year-old financial analyst. Tina can easily describe herself as a phobia of bacteria, and everyone who knows her has noticed her concern about bacteria. When Tina opens the door of a public toilet, she often covers her hand with a tissue. On the subway she rides every day, she would rather not touch the seat. She cringes when she has to take out the trash every week, but it does. When shaking hands with someone at a business meeting or social occasion, Tina almost always thinks of germs for a minute or two, but this quickly left her mind after a few seconds. If she is really worried that her hands are dirty, then a quick application of hand sanitizer will always solve the problem.

Tina is not distressed by her concern about bacteria. In fact, she feels that her vigilance allows her to avoid multiple colds every year and maintain efficiency at work. In addition, although her attic is usually spotless, she does not spend more than three hours a week cleaning and often postpones dinner with friends or time with her partner.

Case 2: John is a 42-year-old part-time computer consultant. John also described himself as a bacterial phobia, which his wife and children thought was the perfect label for him. John rarely let eggs or chicken into the house because he was worried that they would contaminate the house with Salmonella. When his wife was cooking with eggs, he asked her to wash her hands in very hot water for more than two minutes. In addition, John must wear thick rubber gloves when handling the egg carton, and must wash his hands afterwards, otherwise he will feel very anxious.

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John refused to enter the public toilet, and over the years he cancelled many activities with friends because he was afraid of having to use the toilet in public. If John finds that someone in the office has gastrointestinal flu, he will become obsessed with whether he has been in contact with that person within a few hours, and often take a bath because he feels dirty. He knew it was meaningless and often felt that he was going crazy. John spends up to five hours a day to bleach all the surfaces in his home. His constant cleaning and concern for pollution have put a lot of pressure on his relationship with his wife and children. In addition, although he was initially able to cope with his obsessions at work, his attention to bacteria has begun to affect his ability to perform duties related to this work.

Analysis: bacterial phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or both?

Both Tina and John describe themselves as “bacteriophobia”; however, it is clear that Tina’s attention to bacteria has little impact on her daily functions, and John’s life is falling apart and being infected by Salmonella, gastrointestinal flu, and infections Dominated by bacteria and other pollution. bathroom. His life is also dominated by compulsive behaviors designed to relieve anxiety, such as hand washing and disinfection.

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In addition, although Tina is not bothered by her concern about bacteria, John often feels that she is going crazy, cannot tolerate the possibility of contamination, and over-ensures that all bacteria have been eliminated. Most importantly, although Tina has a healthy personal and professional relationship, John’s relationship at work and family has been compromised by his obsession with pollution.

Therefore, although they all call themselves “bacteriophobia”, John’s symptoms are very consistent with OCD, and Tina may just have above-average concerns about bacteria. John is likely to benefit from consulting with his family doctor or mental health professional to complete clinical interviews and medical history to make a clear diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder and explore potential treatment options.

When to seek help

If you, your family, or others you know are very concerned about bacteria that are painful, unwanted, uncontrollable, and affect daily functions, then it may be time to consider talking to a mental health professional. This problem may be deeper than simple bacterial phobia. Effective psychological and medical treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder can be carried out.

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