Rupophobia (or misophobia): fear of dirt and its causes

Humans can be afraid of all kinds of stimuli, from harmless animals related to others that posed a threat to our ancestors, to modern means of transportation and even water or feces. We speak of phobia when the fear of any entity or situation is very intense and chronic.

Fear of dirt, called “rupophobia” or “misophobia”, Is one of the many identified phobias. While not one of the most common, it is interesting to analyze rupophobia for its clinical features, such as its relationship to obsessive-compulsive disorder and the high degree of involvement it can bring.

    Rupophobia or misophobia: fear of dirt

    At the diagnostic level, rupophobia belongs to the category “Specific phobia” described in the DSM and CIE manuals. Phobias are intense, irrational fears that cause significant discomfort and / or interfere with the normal functioning of those who suffer from them, in many cases by actively avoiding what is feared.

    Specific phobias are considered anxiety disorders, such as social phobia (or social anxiety disorder) and agoraphobia. People with these problems are very afraid of the presence or anticipation of the phobic stimulus; in agoraphobia and specific phobias, it is common for anxiety attacks to occur.

    In the case of rupophobia, the phobic stimulus is dirt understood in the broad sense: While some people are afraid of certain types of “dirt”, such as germs (in this case, we would speak of germophobia or bacillophobia), others fear the possibility of coming into contact with anything they perceive to be. potentially polluting.

    Relationship with obsessive-compulsive disorder

    Obsessive-compulsive disorder, often abbreviated as “OCD”It is characterized by the presence of obsessions and / or compulsions. Obsessions are intrusive thoughts or images that cause emotional stress, while compulsions are behavioral or cognitive rituals used to reduce this anxiety.

    One of the most common types of obsessive-compulsive disorder is related to dirt: obsessive ideas have to do with the possibility of infecting or infecting others, while compulsive rituals are associated with cleaning. A typical example of a cleaning ritual is washing your hands a number of times in a row.

    In cases where they coincide symptoms of OCD and specific dirt phobia it usually requires the diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder, rupophobia usually being a secondary symptom. However, if irrational fear is more important than obsessions or compulsions, a primary diagnosis of specific phobia would be warranted.

      usual symptoms

      Rupophobic people experience intense feelings of anxiety and fear when they come into contact with the phobic stimulus. These cause them to want to “escape” the dirt, mainly by moving away from it or removing it from their body, as well as by trying to avoid it; for this reason, they can manage to isolate themselves in a practically impure house.

      Sometimes the anxiety becomes so intense that the episodes known as anxiety attacks or panic attacks. According to the DSM-IV, the symptoms of these seizures, which include both physiological and cognitive manifestations, are as follows:

      • Palpitations and increased heart rate
      • sweat
      • tremors
      • Difficulty breathing and feeling of suffocation
      • Feeling of suffocation
      • Chest discomfort, for example chest tightness
      • Nausea and abdominal discomfort
      • Lack of balance, dizziness and fainting
      • Unrealization and depersonalization
      • Fear of losing control or losing common sense
      • To die
      • Numbness or tingling (paresthesia)
      • Chills and hot flashes

      Rupophobia can cause significant difficulties since, unlike other phobic stimuli such as airplanes and big cats, dirt is ubiquitous in everyday life. Therefore, in severe cases of misophobia, anxiety can be virtually constant, also depending on the extent of the personal concept of dirt.

      Causes of fear of dirt

      Research on anxiety disorders suggests that the degree of physiological responsiveness has an important hereditary component; this would explain the greater biological predisposition that some people have to develop this type of alteration. However, the way in which this anxiety manifests itself varies depending on the specific case.

      Most irrational fears are acquired when consequence of one or more traumatic experiences. In the case of rupophobia, this may be less common than in other specific phobias, although it is technically possible that contact with dirt could cause problematic health disorders.

      Learning and modeling victims can be very influential in Dirt Fear. like that, people whose parents were very concerned about cleanliness they are more likely to develop this type of phobia than other anxiety disorders. Likewise, cleansing OCD usually occurs in people who have been educated in this way.

      If we view rupophobia from an evolutionary perspective, the most logical hypothesis is that the predisposition to feel fear of pollution, and therefore the rejection of potentially polluting objects, would have been adaptive in preventing infections and infections. Something similar happens with fear of injury or of animals like rats and worms.

      Whatever the source of the fear of dirt, it is important to keep in mind that avoid contact with the phobic stimulus this is usually the main factor in maintaining any type of fear. This avoidance is usually supported by unrealistic expectations which should be refuted by non-anxious approaches to the stimulus.

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