Mysophobia – Fear of Germs

"Wash Your Hands Often" - NARA - 514291

“Wash Your Hands Often” – NARA – 514291 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever known someone who had an extreme fear of germs?  Possibly, you know one who washes his hands compulsively, hates to be in public places where numerous people share objects (for example, libraries), dislikes eating food he didn’t cook, or refuses to shake hands with others.  Such a person is said to have mysophobia, a fear of germs.

Compulsive Hand Washing

I can relate to mysophobia because I consider myself to be mysophobic to an intermediate degree.  I am a compulsive hand washer.  Every little thing I do that may moisten or soil my hands in the littlest ways, I have to wash them immediately afterwards.  In fact, up until now, I loved antibacterial soaps until I heard they aren’t all they are cracked up to be.  Since I wash my hands several times a day, they feel overly dry, too warm, and a little coarse.  Maybe I should use hand moisteners instead.

It is mostly when I eat or handle food that I must wash my hands.  Every time I go out to a restaurant, I have to wash my hands before and after I eat.  Not only to destroy the potential of spreading salmonella bacteria, but to rid myself of the annoyance from soiled or greasy hands.  It makes me feel so unclean and like…gross.

What bothers me is when people eat then handle everyday objects without washing their hands.  Even though their hands might be perfectly dry, they’re spreading food bacteria onto things steering wheels, remote controls, door knobs, furniture, cell phones, computer equipment, and every other thing they fidget with.  I try to avoid doing this whenever possible.

Then there’s the real biter: not washing your hands after going to the bathroom.  I’m sure you’ve all seen people taking dumps in public restrooms and walking out like nothing happened.  C’mon people, what the hell is the matter with you?  How hard could it be to turn on a faucet and scrub your hands with soap and dry them off afterwards?  It only takes a minute or two!  To each his own!

Just think, the meal you order next time you eat out could have been cooked by someone who’s done this?  So much for the: “Attention all employees!  Wash your hands.  Dirty hands spread diseases.” signs.  They might as well be wall hangings as far as I’m concerned.

I guess that’s why they say, what you don’t know can’t hurt you.

Finally, what is really bothersome is having stinky hands, but no access to a sink.  I would go absolutely bonkers if I walked around or even lied in bed with sweaty or smelly hands.  It would totally distract me.  I wouldn’t even touch my remotes.  I could never get involved in any activity or even watch TV knowing that my hands were extremely unsanitary.  I wouldn’t even want to talk to others all the while.

And most of all…when I’m in public I always would like to wash my hands.  I hate sinks that don’t work, especially the motion detector type faucets that refuse to restart, making you try another one.  Restrooms without soap are just as bad.  Worse is when people who use the public restrooms trash them.  I just have a fetish about washing my hands and if I can’t find a sink, I’ll get upset.

Going to Other Peoples’ Houses

I often dread going to into other peoples’ homes if I don’t know whether they’re clean or not.  With people I know, that’s fine, but those houses I’ve never been to before, I must approach with caution.  I don’t mind clutter such as scattered books or papers so much but what I hate is odors and dirt stains, especially from pets.

Also, I dislike sitting on other peoples’ upholstered couches and chairs, especially if they’re smelly or soiled.  Leather furniture is best since it is nonabsorbent.

Having dinner at someone else’s house turns me off, unless I know them.  I hate to eat something not knowing if it’s cold or if it was cooked under unsanitary conditions.  When I am invited out, I’ll just try to ignore my fear and eat there anyway, but still, I’d rather hit a restaurant instead.  If I must eat over, I’ll come out and ask to use the microwave and usually people don’t think I’m a pain in the neck for doing so.

The worst I’ve seen is when someone leaves plates of food on coffee tables for hours or perhaps overnight.  I’ll turn my nose up to dirty countertops and tables.  Dirty microwaves are spooky too.  Piles of dirty dishes in sinks, especially if they’re partly submerged in murky water, makes me want to lose it.  If I see pieces of food and wrappers or food containers with light remains of sauce in them lying around, I’m like out of there!  I don’t care if I have to be rude.  I WON’T TOLERATE IT!  I hate lingering food odors.

Public Places

Of course there are numerous public places as shopping malls, libraries, airports, schools, and facilities that provide various types of equipment for use by the general public.  Job seeking agencies enable unemployed individuals to come in and use their computers while libraries offer books, CDs, DVDs, and computers for those who want to spend an hour online.

Most of the time, this equipment is a bit tattered and maybe abused.  Using public electronics is a big turn off, especially since you can never tell who has handled it and how dirty their hands were.  This is especially true of ATMs and pay phones.  All you can do is pray that the computer’s keyboards and mice are fairly clean and maybe you can bring some sanitary wipe cloths or rubbing alcohol just in case.

Hotels often receive a bad rap.  Along with TV remotes, the bed spreads are really unsanitary.  You never know was doing what on your comforter before you came; maybe a mother was changing her baby’s diapers.  Obviously, they’re not washed as often as the bed sheets.

Shaking hands with people you meet can seem creepy.  Likewise, you never know how clean their hands are and what they handled since they last washed them.  Still, I feel it is rude to refuse to shake hands, though I sometimes think of it as an unsanitary gesture.

Still, there’s another thing that’s extremely unsanitary: money.   As for dollar bills and coins, you don’t know how old they are and how many hundreds or thousands of hands handled them.  Some coins are found in dirty places like on floors or the ground.  However, when it comes to cash, we’re so happy to have it that we never stop to think about how unclean it really is.

Keeping My House Sanitary

I spend a great part of my time keeping my house sanitary.  When I watch TV in our den, I want to make sure that the chair I am sitting on doesn’t have any fowl odor.  Therefore, I keep a bottle of Lysol to freshen it up.  I just can’t pay attention to what I’m watching if I don’t even do anything about the slight odor.  I’m just can’t sit still until the room smells fresh.

Some days, I’ll wipe the remotes off with a soft dry cloth and rubbing alcohol.  I never eat in there.  I heard that the dirtiest things you can touch are remote controls.  Believe it or not, they’re more unsanitary than a flushed toilet.

My computer system is also my private domain.  I never eat while sitting at my computer because I would hate to put my moist, greasy fingers on the keyboard and mouse.  I keep them clean too.  Even the sight of fingerprints on smooth surfaces makes me think of germs.  Speaking of fingerprints, iPads and tablets have a nasty way of showing fingerprints.

Finally are my counter tops and tables.  If I see a food stain, crumbs, or a spot of food, I have to clean it off immediately.  Like some people are driven crazy by a slightly crooked picture on the wall, I can’t tolerate crumbs or spots.  I use a clean dish rag every day.

I mop the floor in my kitchen at least twice a week because I can’t stand to have my feet stick to the floor.  Once I find even the smallest stains, I have to wash the floor promptly.  Never would I let a dirty floor sit overnight.

Please Comment

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Technophobia – Fear of Technology

Automated teller machine (ATM) produced by NCR

Automated teller machine (ATM) produced by NCR (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many of us, especially senior citizens, fear technology.  Indeed, there is an official name for the fear of technology: technophobia.  Technophobia applies to those who are extremely afraid, so afraid that they’ll avoid things like computers, mobile devices, ATM machines, and even medical treatments that involve high tech devices.

My Fear of Technology

Deep down inside, I am fighting technophobia every day and have been doing this all my life.  It isn’t easy, but the cost of avoiding technology is much greater than not.  Where did I get this fear?  It may have started as I had trouble operating electronic devices as a kid.  Because of my extreme nearsightedness, I had to look at every gadget extremely close, such as handheld calculators or stereo equipment.

I would try operating these things only to flop again and again in frustration because the thing I wanted it to do wouldn’t work.  I would even get teased by my foster siblings because I had difficulty making things work.  I had to look hard to find the decimal key on the calculator.  We had a single dial microwave and trying to read that dial required glasses.

I grew up in the 1970s where things were quite simplistic as compared to now.  If you wanted to call somebody, you would have to call from a landline phone.  Once you called someone and they weren’t home, the phone would ring indefinitely until you hung up.  You couldn’t leave a message and they would never know you called.  If you needed to deposit or withdraw money, you would have to drive to the bank, and oh, don’t forget your bank book!  If you did, that meant driving back home to get it.

Then came the birth of the ATM.  In the late 1970s it was just an idea as I heard that you’ll be able to make bank transactions without actually going to the bank.  How could that be?  Sounds absurd!  In the mid 1980s I too began using it and enjoyed the convenience.  I also learned that you could make deposits by inserting an envelope of cash or checks into the machine and at first I’m like: “There’s no way in hell I’m going to do that!”  Eventually I did and likewise, enjoyed the convenience.  Nowadays, there are ATMs that allow you to slide a naked check into the machine, whose image will be photographed before it goes into your account.  Yikes!  I’d rather go to the bank.

Now look at us today.  Most of us have home computers and are communicating over the Internet.  Yes, this idea was neat from the start.  Just think about all the trees we’ve saved by having it.  Now there are a countless number of portable devices, many with touch screens where one can roll through numerous pages of icons in seconds.  Even though I watch the CNet channel, I still am trying to understand what makes each device different from another of its kind.  I’ve seen commercials where two Smartphones (I think that’s what they were) were slammed together as a means of one person making a payment to another.  I still fear the day that I’ll be doing that.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the convenience of cyberspace.  It took me awhile to convert from conventional LPs to MP3s.  “What?  MP3 files!  What the hell are those?”  In the 1980s I became accustomed to my personal cassette stereo and the CD walkman.  It wasn’t until 2007when I got my first MP3 player and loved it as well.  Now I wonder why I ever went through the trouble of wearing my CD player around my neck and toting a case of CDs around.

Then my brother got me an AT&T phone for Christmas in 2010.  I’m like, “What’s wrong with the phone I have?”  My old phone had a keypad and crystal screen-nothing more.  This new one had a larger screen full of icons and a slide out keypad.  And now there is the texting feature.  Yikes!  It’s all I can do to type on a desktop keyboard.  We had trouble with it at first and took it into Radio Shack where he bought it.  While talking to a rep, I felt like flinging the new phone across the store, out of pure frustration.

My Best Friend’s has Technophobia

We’ll call him “David” to protect the cyber-paranoid innocent man.  Dave doesn’t own a computer and never intends to buy one, even if he earned big bucks.  I coaxed him to learn to use a computer and he would do so for awhile and quit.  Since he lives six states away from me, I tell him how great it would be if he had an email address and we email each other rather than send paper letters via snail mail.  That was ten years ago and he still refuses to do that.  He will not even use a library PC.

I pity him.  David just refuses to do things online.  He won’t even set up an email account because he’s afraid that people are after his personal information.  It was all he could do to get his cell phone and that frustrated him so much, he slapped it against a table.  He’s missing out on a lot of good stuff.  Why?  Because he is technophobic!

About Technophobia

Some people fear technology to extreme levels.  Their fear is so immense that it greatly hinders their everyday lives.  Techno phobics may refuse to use an ATM machine, thinking it will not disperse the right amount of cash or it might cause their deposit to become lost in cyberspace.  Like David, some refuse to use computers thinking they may become victims of identity theft.  Others simply fear that running high-tech devices is extremely complicated and they don’t have the ability to figure them out.

However, senior citizens are known to have technophobia since they are accustomed to the lifestyle they had as children or young adults.  To them it’s like “Why do I need these gadgets?  I’ve always lived without them and I would prefer to do things the way I always have.”  In fact, many of them are intimidated by modern technology.  They may perceive new electronics as large unnecessary expenses or things that are too complicated or confusing for them to learn to use.  Some simply resist technology and attempt to go on living as they learned to live.

Those with an extreme level of technophobia may experience the following symptoms:

  • Panic or anxiety
  • Shaking
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Uncontrollable sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Adverse emotional reactions

What causes technophobia?  To date, there is no clinical data that directly links to technophobia.   A logical explanation may be that it was caused by one or more events that happened in the person’s past that brought on their feelings.  Bad experiences or failure to adapt often attributes to technophobia.

Therapists usually resort to cognitive behavioral therapy in treating their patients.  This form of treatment helps a patient:

  • Get rid of destructive thought patterns
  • Identify distorted thoughts and beliefs
  • Transform negative beliefs into positive ones
  • Build a better self-image

Each patient meets with the therapist who helps them gradually face their fear while learning to control their behavior and unfavorable reactions.  Peer groups have been proven effective in helping the affected person overcome their fear.  Anyone who is willing to assist an individual with technophobia and teach them how to operate electronics or appliances can help one with technophobia.

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