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Mysophobia: what is the psychological disorder that Cameron Diaz and Donald Trump suffer from

We all love to frequent well-kept, clean places from a hygienic point of viewbut we are also aware that often these conditions could be precariousso in that case, you can choose to change place, not to use it or to adapttaking care not to lean on dirty surfaces (for example, in bathrooms in public places).

And if the fear of dirt, However, did it invalidate some simple operations, such as withdrawing from an ATM or leaning on the bar counter? In that case, talk about mysophobia or germophobiaor one pathological fear of germswhich leads those who suffer from it to have the phobia of being contaminated, and therefore of being in danger of death.

This obsessive-compulsive disorder it is quite recurrent, after the pandemic even more so: among the stars it has been established that he suffers from it Donald Trumpwho in an interview with Newsweekreported her “need to drink from a straw to avoid contamination” and to “wash her hands as many times as possible”, but also the actress Cameron Diaz is known to be mysophobic: on several occasions he revealed that “he washes his hands many times every day and opens doors with his elbows”, explaining that “I'm not afraid of germs. I'm simply aware of it. I don't like other people's fluids unless I know them really well!”

On the big screen, mysophobia has been portrayed very well with the story of the billionaire Howard Hughesthe aviator played by Leonardo Dicaprio in the movie The aviator. Obsessed with dirt and germs, Hughes was terrified of being infected: apart from constantly washing his hands, he had an aseptic area in his house and always walked around with a piece of black soap in his pocketthe same one that his mother used to wash him as a child, while instructing him on how to be careful not to catch typhoid and cholera, viruses that raged in the United States in the 1910s.

Being a mental pathological condition, we wanted to delve deeper into the topic with Dr Matteo Merigo, psychotherapist, expert in EMDR and hypnosis, to understand where mysophobia can originate and what the symptoms are. Here's what we learned.

Mysophobia: what exactly does it consist of?
«Mysophobia is a psychological condition characterized by fear or excessive aversion to dirt, germs or contamination. People who suffer from it try intense anxiety or even panic in situations where perceive the presence of bacteria, viruses or other substances considered “dirty”. This perception can even overcome the barrier of reality and they often live with the idea that any object or contact with people is harmful due to the fear of contamination, leading them to have compulsions related to cleanliness and personal hygienesuch as washing your hands frequently or avoiding contact.”

Where does such a phobia come from?
«Mysophobia can originate from a number of factors, including traumatic experiences linked to contamination, learning conditioned by negative experiences, genetic predisposition towards anxiety, specific personality traits and misinformation about the spread of diseases. In essence, there is no single element that triggers mysophobia, but a set of factors that lead the person to perceive the world and human relationships as contagious to themselves.”

What exactly goes on in the head of someone who is mysophobic?
«Anxiety and intense fear they are the master elements of mysophobia, but they are governed by one lack of perception of reality. In essence, the person perceives the danger linked to contamination, overestimates the risk of getting sick or suffer negative consequences due to germs or dirt. Furthermore, this distorted perception can be accompanied by intrusive and obsessive thoughts about cleanliness and hygiene, along with a strong feeling of discomfort or anxiety in situations that are considered contaminating. The mind of someone who is mysophobic is dominated by recurring thoughts on how to avoid contamination and the catastrophic consequences associated with it, which can significantly interfere with daily activities and social relationships.”

What are the symptoms that make you understand you have this phobia?
«Symptoms may vary from person to person, also based on the intensity with which the phobia is experienced. In general, as we said before, anxiety and fear are persistently present, leading the person to avoid places, people or contact with objects whose aseptic nature he is not sure of. In addition to this, the compulsion to wash your hands or touch objects with gloves and handkerchiefs is typical to avoid direct contact. In the most intense and psychiatric forms, even even the word can trigger fear of contagion. If the patient hears a person pronounce a word that is mentally haunting to him, he will put his compulsive behavior into practice by asking him to say another immediately afterwards, in order to disinfect himself from what he has perceived. In essence, the level of fear of contagion is so high that even verbalizing a concept is experienced exactly like touching something infected.”

What disabling behaviors affect the mysophobic?
“Surely avoidance and social isolation they are the first disabling behaviors. The terror of coming into contact with things and people leads the person to isolate himself more and more. Obviously, as mentioned before, the degrees can vary and some behaviors are more disabling than others.”

Are there any remedies, therapies or treatments to cure this phobia?
«There are several ways to treat mysophobia. There cognitive-behavioral therapy is often effective in changing distorted thoughts about contamination and adopting more functional behaviors, as well as EMDR therapy if the trauma or the hypnotic psychotherapy to delve into the person's unconscious. Obviously, in the most serious and disabling cases, they can be prescribed antidepressant or anxiolytic drugs to reduce symptoms of anxiety.”

Source: Vanity Fair

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