Fear of bathing or washing (ablutophobia): causes, symptoms and treatment

There are different types of phobias, ablutophobia is one of the most documented, but not very common.

Ablutophobia is the irrational fear that a person experiences when bathing or washing. Therefore, it can have serious unhealthy consequences for the person suffering from this pathology. In this article, we will dig deeper into this mental disorder and learn about its causes, symptoms and consequences.

What is ablutophobia

Ablutophobia is a phobic disorder commonly known as fear of bathing or washing.. Phobias are anxiety disorders that cause great discomfort to the person who suffers from them. In an attempt to reduce his negative symptoms, he makes an effort to avoid the stimulus that causes it and therefore something as mundane as showering or washing can trigger severe and persistent fear in these people.

The negative consequences of this fear go further and can affect people’s lives as it can cause bad odor, dirt and poor personal hygiene in the affected person. Something that certainly has an effect on their social life, not only in terms of friendship or family, but also in terms of profession and professional life.

Research suggests that it is more common in women and children, although at an early age many children experience some fear of swimming. However, this fear is more likely to be due to an extreme aversion to swimming, and in fact this problem is generally not considered a phobia unless it lasts longer than six months or continues into the teenage years and. adulthood.

Like any phobia, if left untreated, it can get worse and lead to other physical illnesses due to poor hygiene.. Rejection by other people can also occur.

Causes of this disorder

Irrational fears often learn and arise after a traumatic event. For example, although many children are afraid of water, which usually goes away when they realize that nothing terrible is happening in the tub, others can develop this phobia if parents are forced to bathe. , because they can associate the bathtub with the unhappiness and the aggressiveness of the bathtub. Parents.

The mechanism by which this fear develops is what is called classical conditioning, which is a type of associative learning in which the person associates a stimulus that was originally neutral with another that elicits a fear response. . This association causes the fear reaction simply with the presence of the previously neutral stimulus.

The following video illustrates how we learn to have irrational fears.

Phobias therefore generally develop in childhood; however, they can appear at any time in a person’s life.

Other possible causes

But the traumatic events experienced by the person are not the only way to develop phobic disorders. It may happen that people learn a phobia by observation, or rather by conditioning by proxy.. For example, when they are children, when they observe an adult who panics while bathing.

Experts also claim that people are predisposed to suffer from this type of fear because this emotion is adaptive and has been very helpful for human survival. Therefore, phobias have to do with the primitive part of the brain, known as the emotional brain, and therefore generally do not respond well to logical arguments. In other words, phobias are developed by associations that are not cognitive, but primitive.

Symptoms of fear of bathing

People with ablutophobia can experience a variety of symptoms when in situations where the phobic stimulus occurs. They may experience certain physical and physiological symptoms such as nausea, sweating, fear, tremors, headaches or dizziness. Some suffer from panic attacks, which can include shortness of breath, high blood pressure, and rapid heartbeat.

Psychological symptoms include anxiety and distress, irrational fear, thoughts of death, lack of concentration. Likewise, people with bath phobia try to avoid this situation in any way, in order to reduce the discomfort they feel.

Feelings of shame are commonLike many cultures, lack of cleanliness creates rejection or ridicule.


Although some people suffer from this phobia, it is not a cause for shame. In most cases, this is a past event and a psychologist can help the patient resolve the issue.

Thus, people with ablutophobia can get help from a professional psychologist and studies show that psychological therapy is very effective. Cognitive behavioral therapy is generally used, which uses different techniques. The most common and useful in these cases are relaxation techniques and exposure techniques.

In fact, the most used technique includes the previous two and is called systematic desensitization, which involves gradually exposing the patient to the phobic stimulus, but first you need to learn a number of resources that allow you to cope with the feared situations.

In severe cases, some patients benefit from anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs. but they should always be used in conjunction with psychotherapy.

Other possible treatments

Today, they also tend to use other therapeutic methods that have been shown to be effective, such as hypnosis, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy that you can learn from. learn more in our articles.

You can read more about them in our articles:

  • Hypnotherapy: what does it consist of and what are its benefits
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: what is it?
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): Principles and Characteristics

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