Ablutophobia is a phobia which centers around cleaning, washing, or bathing. It is most prevalent in women and children, although anyone can develop this phobia. As one might imagine, the fear of washing or bathing can have some serious social consequences, making circumstances for someone with this phobia extremely difficult. Fortunately, true ablutophobia is quite rare, and there are a number of treatment approaches which can be used to address it. Ablutophobia help is rarely far away for people who are serious about combating their phobia.
Like other phobias, ablutophobia originates in the subconscious mind as a response to trauma. Someone who almost drowned in the tub, for example, might develop ablutophobia. This phobia can also arise in response to hearing about or seeing someone else's trauma, as for instance in the case of a young child who reads a book with a frightening bathing scene. Over time, the phobia tends to become more severe, as the patient works up more and more stress and tension about bathing, washing, or cleaning.
People with ablutophobia can experience a variety of symptoms when they are in situations where bathing or cleaning arise. They may feel nauseous, sweaty, fearful, shaky, or dizzy. Some experience panic attacks, which can include shortness of breath, high blood pressure, and a rapid heart rate. 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.
Many children experience mild ablutophobia, which usually dissipates as they learn that nothing too terrible happens in the tub. However, if parents force their children into the tub or they are rough with them at bath time, the children can start to link bathing with unhappiness, and develop a more severe form of ablutophobia. Making children comfortable in the bath by checking the temperature, acting relaxed, and not forcing the issue can help to prevent the emergence of ablutophobia in a child.
People with full-blown ablutophobia can get help from a psychological professional. 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. Some patients benefit from psychiatric drugs which help blunt their response until they manage to overcome their fear of bathing.