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Shout Out to the Germaphobes: The Professional Coronavirus Avoiders!

I don’t know how adult children of narcissists are feeling about this virus, but I wanted to take a moment to focus on another group of folks whose moment has most definitely come…


You have been preparing for this day for a good part of your life. Frequent hand-washing? Not a problem. Utilizing hand-sanitizer often? You are an expert. Keeping six feet of distance between you and someone else? You wrote the instruction manual. You know how to do all of this, and now you are just welcoming people to your way of life.


Wikipedia describes germaphobia, or mysophobia, as the “pathological fear of contamination and germs”. It is related to “compulsive hand washing and pertains directly to the abnormal fear of dirt and filth. Not to be confused with bacillophobia which specifically refers to the fear of bacteria and microbes”.


Not so pathological now, huh? Because of the Coronavirus, people around the world are beginning to experience their environments as a germaphobe would. Since the onset of the virus, how many times have you cringed when needing to turn a doorknob with your actual hand, as opposed to your sleeve? While before you were able to sit in a Lyft or Uber as though it was no big deal, would it be fair to say that now it feels like you are sitting in a prison of filth?


I’m reminded of the movie As Good as it Gets where Jack Nicholson has to bring his own silverware to the restaurant that he frequents because he cannot bring himself to use the utensils provided. His “prison” is not only in place to keep him “safe” from contamination, but is also a way for him to keep his emotional distance from the world. It’s lonely, but essential to his survival. It’s only when he meets someone that makes him “want to be a better man” that he is able to change. And of course this is the movies, so that happily-ever-after-change seems all too easy.


I’ll let you in on a little secret. I too have been known to struggle with germs from time to time. My anxious symptoms mainly center on germs having to do with the stomach flu, but still it is a fear of germs all the same. In my own personal work, I have come to discover the role that this fear plays in my life—particularly around the idea of control, or lack of. When I think back, I feel sadness around how many times this fear took the forefront, rather than me being able to feel fully present in the moment. Sounds familiar, right?


My hope in writing this blog is to shed a little more understanding as to what those who struggle with mysophobia have and are going through in comparison to what we as a human race are now going through. I am also writing to invite you to turn to the germaphobes. We can help. We have been here before and know what to do. We have learned to manage what you are now beginning to know as your “new normal”. All that is asked in return is a bit more compassion for fellow germaphobes and perhaps a new understanding of what it’s like to live with these challenges, even when there isn’t a pandemic in place.




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Alisa Stamps, MSS, LCSW

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