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thisisausername's avatar

How to stop being scared of uncleanliness?

Asked by thisisausername (38points) January 30th, 2016 from iPhone

Ok so first things first- I don’t really think I’m germaphobic. I might be, but I don’t think I am. I’m not really scared of germs or getting sick, I’m just afraid of being dirty. And by afraid I mean that I basically have a mini panic attack if I get “dirty” and don’t clean it off.
I fee dirty if I touch anything in public- door handle, chair, bus (can’t even think about going on a bus…), etc. Also, going to the bathroom is a nightmare. While my bathroom isn’t spotless, it’s far from filthy. Even so, I basically have to change any clothing that touches any surface in there. I visit to the throne pretty much requires a whole outfit change. On at hrs enough bathroom talk.
I feel gross even if the thing I’m touching is in my own house. If I touch my shoe I need to wash my hands- I can understand that, I mean who knows what you step in- but thinking you get dirty after your hand brushing a wall is ridiculous.
If I feel dirty, I just need to splash some water of the area to feel clean (mostly). This makes no sense, because I know that a bit of water will not clean enough to do any good (not that there’s anything to wash off, usually).
I don’t know why I fee the way I do. I know that there’s not really anything to be afraid of, but if I don’t wash stuff off it feel like my heart beats really fast (not sure if it really does), my breathing gets a bit weird, and I have this gross sense of panic/terror/general unease wash over me. It’s not fun.
While this is currently a really annoying issue, it’s not a huge problem. However, I worry that it will become one later. This is annoying to me alone, but it also is creating some tension between my parents and I. They’re getting pissed at my incessant washing, and I can’t stand to think about how “unsanitary” they are. They tel me to “just stop”, like it’s something I can turn on and off at will. I hate it more than they do, and wish it could just be normal, but I can’t.
I can’t stand being like this, and I want to do something about it. I’ve tried looking it up, but all I’ve found is stuff about what germaphobic is (I’m probably not looking hard enough (sorry)), which doesn’t really do much good. So, any suggests anyone has to offer would be greatly appreciated. Sorry for such a long and boring description thing.

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13 Answers

janbb's avatar

I hate to diagnose over the internet and I’m not an expert but this certainly sounds like some form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A friend of mine had it. It seems to be hampering you greatly so you probably want to get some help from a doctor or a therapist. You certainly can be helped to deal with this more comfortably. Good luck!

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

You can bring Purel with you.

CWOTUS's avatar

Welcome to Fluther. I can’t improve upon @janbb‘s response. On the one hand, it’s good for you that you can recognize that this is an internal and subjective problem, and not believe that the world is somehow out of order. So take some comfort in that. (My understanding of psychosis is that the truly psychotic and delusional never recognize their own mental / emotional shortcomings and strangeness, but perceive that ‘the world around them’ to be strange.) So you’re just neurotic, and not psychotic.

Most of us probably have neuroses of one kind or another, but for most of us those minor disorders, if we even acknowledge them as disorders, don’t interfere with our day-to-day living, relationships and functioning. Obviously, yours is. And it’s doubtful that it will get better or go away on its own. (In fact, I believe that untreated, or in other words “enabled” neuroses generally intensify and get worse over time as the attitudes and behaviors become more ingrained and are no longer perceived by the performer as “strange” or “abnormal”.)

So I would definitely follow up on what @janbb said, and look for a counselor or therapist who can help you work through this issue. I’m hoping that if you start now, while you’re still young, it won’t be so difficult to change your perceptions, attitudes and actions.

Good luck to you.

gorillapaws's avatar

This also sounds very much like a compulsive disorder. As I recall from my studies, they’re closely related to anexiety disorders and are often treated with the same families of medicnes. You should take this problem seriously, as it can be a debilitating issue, preventing normal life activities. You should schedule an appointment with a certified mental health professional (especially one that specializes in compulsion/anexiety disorders) as soon as possible.

Buttonstc's avatar

Definitely look for a competent therapist.

If you don’t do it now this behavior will only increase and eventually you will find yourself living a very limited and anxiety filled life.

It doesn’t have to be that way. But you definitely can get help to deal with this. Start now.

jca's avatar

The good thing is that you seem to realize that this behavior is not logical. I agree with others, find a therapist.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Congratualtions for recognizing that this is a problem. And something you will solve. You’ve taken the first step.
You are not the first person on the planet to feel this way.
Your bathroom example reminds me of something I saw in Japan. (A surprising number of Japanese see this issue the same way.) I was looking at a high end toilet and noticed the vent was drawing air from the gap between the seat and ceramic bowl rim. I asked why and was told there were 2 reasons. 1) The vent is smaller and, by drawing air at the source, saves energy by venting a smaller amount of heated air outdoors. 2) The “dirt molecules” don’t have to pass over and around your body to reach the vent in the ceiling. I agreed with the first but chuckled to myself when I heard the second reason. I thought I had misunderstood since Japanese is not my native language. However, since then, I’ve grown to actually like the idea. Of course,not enough to do anything about it. But given the choice you can guess which one I’d use.

Here are a couple of thoughts for you. You know that bacteria are everywhere and have been on the planet for billions of years. They are in the air, in the soil, in the water, even inside you! You are the result of millions of years of evolution by creatures living among and in the bacterial soup. Their bodies survived by building immunity every time they were exposed to these bacteria. Sure, you can wear rubber gloves and a mask all day to avoid them. But you can turn this around.
Imagine that everything you touch strengthens your immunity. Everything you touch makes you stronger.
You’ll get it. Good luck.

jca's avatar

This to add to what @LuckyGuy just wrote: I have friends and relatives who, when they had a baby, they’d say “don’t touch the baby until you wash your hands.” When my daughter was born 8 years ago, I’d not fret over whether or not people washed their hands before they touched her. Go ahead, touch her all you want! To me, her being exposed to the germs of others was how her body became immune.

She rarely got sick. To this day, she almost never gets sick.

janbb's avatar

I have to reinforce that the degree of the problem as you express it I don’t think can be addressed by logical solutions alone; I think you need to seek therapeutic intervention.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I was in Louisiana recently and was fascinated by the Spanish Moss hanging from many trees. I learned that it is not parasitic. It grows by extracting water and nutrients from the air.
I brought some home and have it hanging from an unused towel rack in my bathroom. Every shower I take and every move I make helps it grow. It is doing very well. ;-)
You will too.

si3tech's avatar

@LuckyGuy Very interesting! Like tillandsia. @thisisausername A therapist seems like would best be able to help you. Thanks for your question and welcome to fluther!

LuckyGuy's avatar

@si3tech The image of an air-plant collecting bacteria, extra humidity,and odors while purifying the air and making oxygen is appealing to me.
Hopefully @thisisausername will have the same feeling.
Frankly, I don’t know why more people don’t keep them in their bathrooms.

JLeslie's avatar

You sound OCD to me too. I’m slightly germaphobic, in that I don’t want to get sick. If I know someone is sick I prefer they don’t shake my hand, and in the kitchen I’m probably more careful than most to not risk cross contamination. You’re saying you just worry about dirt, and basically almost everything you touch. That sounds extreme even to me. I can’t imagine worrying about a little dirt or everything I touch. That sounds exhausting.

There are drugs that help people with that sort of OCD, or maybe you could just try some therapy.

Are you afraid of illness? Or, just the idea of being “dirty?” I’m not really clear what is going through your mind. The chance of getting sick from dirt is almost nonexistent. Babies crawl on the floor, eat things off the ground, and almost never get sick, and their immune system isn’t as strong as yours. That’s different than risking eating raw chicken or playing cards with someone who has the flu.

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