Mysophobia, commonly known as Germaphobia, is the fear of germs and by extension, the fear of illnesses caused by germs. Germaphobia exists in varying degrees. Some people experience it in such a way that they choose to exclude themselves from social situations and isolate themselves in their homes to avoid contact with other people they might deem unsanitary, and their germs. A disorder often associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, germaphobia is also characterized by excessive hand washing or disinfecting, the refusal to use shared pubic objects such as doorknobs, handles and elevator buttons. It can also include the refusal to touch other people or turning down food offer by others or in restaurants. Some researchers attribute germaphobia Americans’ general perception that world is a dangerous and unpredictable place.
With rise of H1N1 and media reports that the virus is running rampant, some people may feel as though they are starting to develop a touch of germaphobia. While chances are they are most likely just taking extra hygiene precautions as recommended, those who do think they are experiencing symptoms of germaphobia (which are most likely preexisting and not a result of the H1N1 outbreak), should consult a doctor who can go over the treatment options, such as cognitive behavioral therapy to work through fears, or medication involving antidepressant drugs.