1. Health

Ablutophobia

Fear of Bathing

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Updated June 14, 2014

Girl dressing in bathroom
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Ablutophobia, or fear of bathing, is a relative uncommon but serious phobia. It appears to be more prevalent in women and children. 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.

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.

Complications of Ablutophobia

The modern world is extremely focused on cleanliness and hygiene. Failing to take a daily shower or bath can cause you to look or smell “unclean,” which is unacceptable to much of society. This could cause problems at work or school and in your personal relationships. Over time, you might feel isolated, possibly leading to social phobia or even agoraphobia. You could also be at higher risk for developing body image disorders.

In addition, personal hygiene is considered a first step toward avoiding illness. Allowing dirt and bacteria to remain on your skin and hair for long periods could elevate your risk of both common and rare diseases. This is particularly true if your phobia causes you to avoid hand washing after using the restroom or when preparing food.

Treating Ablutophobia

Like most specific phobias, ablutophobia is often treated through cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques. 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.

Ablutophobia is highly treatable by trained professionals, but nearly impossible to overcome on your own. For tips on choosing the right therapist, see Finding a Therapist.

Source:

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

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