The fear of bathing is known as Ablutophobia. This disorder can trigger a severe and persistent fear of normal, everyday tasks like washing one’s hair and cleaning the body.
Reasons For Fear Bathing
Those who fear bathing may suffer great side effects from their phobia. Society does not take kindly to the odors and dirt that result from a lack of personal hygiene. Employment and relationships tend to suffer when someone has an aversion to cleaning themselves in a normal manner.
This phobia can be triggered in different ways. For example, a traumatic experience related to washing or bathing can cause the disorder to develop. Falling or slipping in the bath or shower can be one reason why this happens. Sometimes, a person who is elderly will be more prone to such accidents, and they may need assistance, such as grab bars or an attendant, in order to safely care for themselves.
Common in Women and Children
Ablutophobia is very common in women and children. Most children exhibit a perceived fear of bathing, although it is most likely due to an extreme dislike for bathing. This problem does not usually become considered a phobia unless it continues for more than six months or carries on into adolescence and adulthood. Left untreated, this condition can worsen and lead to other types of phobias and anxieties. It can also cause physical illness due to being unclean and affect a person’s social life because of society’s strict expectations of cleanliness.
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Mental Illness Can Trigger This Phobia
Other triggers for Ablutophobia can include mental illnesses such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. Depression can also result in a slackening interest in personal hygiene and bathing. Billionaire mogul and filmmaker Howard Hughes was a prime example of a famous person who displayed the characteristics of someone with the fear of bathing.
His escalating mental illness manifested itself in a series of ways, including a marked decrease in personal cleanliness and grooming. As he became more unhinged, he neglected his body, failing to cut his toenails or wash his body and hair. This phobia can often be a mask for serious issues that require dedicated assistance from psychiatrists and therapists.
Sometime, the homeless people we see on street corners, with bedraggled beards and dirty clothes, suffer from the same problems the wealthy Howard Hughes did. Unfortunately, a disorder such as this create more problems. At its worst, the phobia will disenfranchise someone from society, creating a distance between them and the world around them. It’s hard to say sometimes whether the fear of bathing comes first, or is the result of circumstance.
This phobia is often thought to stem from the desire to protect oneself. This defense mechanism is related to a feeling that washing off the body’s natural oils and secretions is harmful and will allow other germs and substances to enter the body. This misguided attitude towards hygiene may benefit from education and an increased awareness about good and bad bacteria etc.
Symptoms Of Ablutophobia
Aside from the expected issues of body odor and other factors, the syndrome can cause a range of other physical and mental ailments. Panic attack symptoms are very common with most phobias, and this one is no exception.
People with Ablutophobia may feel anxious and even terrified when faced with the prospect of bathing and washing their bodies. They will become avoidant and disturbed when they are around triggers.
They may also suffer from heart palpitations, nausea, headaches and a feeling of doom or terror. Panic attacks can be paralyzing and may require medical intervention.
Treatment Of Ablutophobia
Psychotherapy is an essential component of treatment for Ablutophobia. It’s important to find a capable therapist who is sensitive and trained in the correct diagnosis and treatment of severe phobias.
Treating ablutophobia is often handled by cognitive-behavioral therapy in which the patient and therapist meet regularly and in gradual steps, they confront the fear and learn to control their reactions to it. Other treatments include discussing the fear and why it is irrational and learning what has triggered the fear and ways in which to deal with the fear in the future. This method is usually very effective and allows most patients to overcome their anxieties and become symptom-free for many years and often the remainder of their lives.
There can be relief of this phobia with concerted efforts to seek treatment over the long term. A normal life and proper hygiene are goals that can be attained with therapy and, if necessary, a course of anti-anxiety medication.