Fear of Dirt

There are some who brave unsanitary conditions to visit other countries to help in the midst of poverty and squalor. Others may be willing to send money to help, but their fear of dirt or debris makes it almost impossible to help personally. Those who suffer from this fear are said to have Rupophobia.

The ground is full of microorganisms that can include parasites and disease-bearing bacteria. A landfill is loaded with debris that is also subject to consumption by organisms we may be uncomfortable around. Other hands have touched the trash we see and the dirt is filled with – well, dirt.

What Causes Rupophobia?

As children we were often told to “get inside and wash”. Playing in dirt was fun and somewhat liberating, but there was always concern about being dirty. This motherly instinct may have lead many children to come to an understanding that dirt was to be avoided. Debris (trash) is something that is removed from our homes while the decomposition of food can leave us a bit queasy.

Americans especially have become extremely preoccupied with germs. We use anti-bacterial wipes, gels and sprays to avoid prolonged contact with germs. We are careful about what our children play with – and where. We are not often pleased to consider the possibility of a mud pie or that our children found a mud puddle entertaining. We even consider cleanliness above most other virtues.

An obsession with cleanliness can lead to a laundry list of potential fears in our offspring (perhaps in ourselves, too). This can be a fear of germs, bacteria, filth, dirt, debris, insects and animals.

Symptoms of Rupophobia

Those who have this fear may not eat in a restaurant whose trash cans are full. They may not chose to garden, and camping and hunting will not be something they would consider doing. They may not feel comfortable at a sporting event, and even sweating may be considered a problem.

Other symptoms include…

  • Nausea
  • Air hunger
  • Trembling
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety
  • Crying

One of the primary signs of Rupophobia is avoidance. An individual will go out of their way to avoid contact with dirt and trash. They may deny there is a problem, but they can’t seem to embrace a world that includes dirt and debris.

How to Overcome Rupophobia

One of the keys to managing fear is understanding the object of your fear. In this case dirt does contain microorganisms, but most of those are helpful in sustaining life. Debris can contain mold and bacteria that are offensive to humans, but there are also safe ways to handle the debris in order to dispose of it.

Some might even argue that contact with dirt can build your immune system by making you less susceptible to the germs you may encounter.

Therapy is a tool that can be used effectively to manage your fear and help you gain some understanding of the issues surrounding your phobia. This may ultimately mean learning more about yourself in an effort to understand why you respond the way you do to certain fear stimuli.

The fear of dirt is also referred to as:

  • Dirt fear
  • Debris fear
  • Rupophobia
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