Ablutophobia: Fear of Bathing, Washing, Or Cleaning

What Is Ablutophobia?

As strange as it may seem, there are actually people in the world that are afraid of bathing, washing or cleaning. This is called as Ablutophobia.


Ablutophobia (from Greek: ebliUt, ablute, meaning “to wash”) or the persistent, abnormal and unwarranted fear of bathing, washing, or cleaning, is a relative uncommon but serious phobia. This phobia is a situational specific phobia. It appears to be more common in women and children than in men and especially with those people who are very emotional. It is important to note that many children dislike baths, so ablutophobia is generally not diagnosed in children unless it persists for more than six months. The phobia can manifest in many ways, from a fear of showering to a complete phobia of all washing.

Symptoms of Ablutophobia
People with ablutophobia can experience a variety of symptoms when they are in situations where bathing or cleaning arise. Symptoms of ablutophobia are basically the same as for most specific phobias, which is dizziness, breathlessness, excessive sweating, heart palpitations, nausea, dry mouth, feeling sick, shaking, becoming mad or losing control. Some experience panic attacks, which can include shortness of breath, high blood pressure, and a rapid heart rate.

Other symptoms are: inability to speak or think clearly, fear of dying, feeling indifference from reality or a full blown anxiety attack, if they think about bathing, washing and cleaning.

Feelings of shame are also not uncommon, since many cultures place a heavy value on cleanliness, and refusing to bathe can make someone the target of mockery or teasing, which can increase the severity of the phobia.

Causes of Ablutophobia
Like all phobias, ablutophobia is often linked to a traumatic past event. The event may have happened to you, a relative or even someone in a movie or television show. For example, numerous horror film fans claim to have developed a fear of showering after seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. You may or may not consciously remember the triggering event.

Ablutophobia can also develop from other people’s fears. If a parent or close relative had the same fear, you might have internalized that person’s reactions in childhood.

Another possibility is that the phobia developed from a childhood bad habit. Many kids try to avoid bath time, whether due to fear or simple preference. It is possible that your childhood preferences have carried over to your adult life.

Treatment For Ablutophobia
People with full-blown ablutophobia can get help from a psychological professional. Like most specific phobias, ablutophobia is often treated through cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques.

Ablutophobia treatments can involve things like desensitization, in which the patient cleans or bathes under the supervision of a therapist who helps the patient cope with the intense association emotions, and the use of hypnosis and talk therapy.

You will probably be encouraged to examine your fear and replace your negative self-talk with more appropriate messages. You might be given homework assignments that involve taking baby steps such as turning on the shower and sitting in the bathroom with it running.

The goal is for you to practice relaxing and using your newly learned self-talk to soothe your fears while slowly confronting the object of your phobia. If you are extremely anxious, medications or hypnosis might also be used to help you get the fear under control.

Some patients also benefit from psychiatric drugs which help blunt their response until they manage to overcome their fear of bathing.

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