Ablutophobia is the irrational fear of bathing. Symptoms of this phobia can be clearly seen in children as they are typically very much opposed to taking baths or getting cleaned.
This is not to say that most children are mentally ill, but rather that they may commonly experience symptoms of ablutophobia. Be that as it may, someone who is actually suffering from this disorder will experience irrational dread at the mere thought of cleaning themselves.
Someone experiencing this condition may find it nearly impossible to clean themselves or to be cleaned by someone else. They may try to go as long as possible before they bathe themselves, thus emitting an odor that many people find offensive.
Doing so may make it difficult for them to keep healthy relationships with new people and they may even become an outcast within their society as a result of their intense fear of bathing.
Ablutophobia is not as common as the fear of flying in planes, the fear of dogs, or the fear of imperfection. Nevertheless, it can still be a very debilitating mental disorder to experience as it can bring forth heightened anxiety and stress at the mere thought of bathing.
Symptoms of Ablutophobia
People who suffer from this condition find it extremely difficult to take a bath or to be cleaned. They may mask their body odor by wearing excessive amounts of deodorant or perfume. They may try to hide the fact that they are extremely terrified of bathing by lying to others when asked. Though this may give them some relief in the short term, it will only make their ablutophobia worse in the long term.
Those suffering from ablutophobia will often avoid bathing to the best of their ability. Though it may give them momentary relief from the painful anxiety that they will experience from bathing, avoiding that which they fear will only reinforce their fear of bathing and will most likely make their ablutophobia worse in the long run.
It is also important to be cognizant of whether or not the symptoms of ablutophobia are specifically the result of another disorder, such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) for instance. If this were to be the case, then someone may obsess about their fear of bathing and may be unable to stop their worry thoughts. Such information will be very pertinent when looking at how to properly treat ablutophobia.
Below, you will see some of the most common symptoms of this disorder:
Intense dread when bathing
Anxious when thinking of bathing
Avoiding taking bathes or cleaning oneself
Excessive use of colognes
May try to avoid sweating
Causes of Ablutophobia
Notable factors that may cause ablutophobia to develop are genetics and one’s environment. People who have a family history of mental illness, especially anxiety disorders or phobias, may have a higher chance of developing this disorder. Such a predisposition for mental illness may only require that a traumatic experience take place for the proper changes to be made psychologically to cause ablutophobia.
Such a traumatic experience that could potentially cause you to develop a fear of bathing may be nearly drowning in a tub or being physically or sexually abused while in the tub. Such experiences may have permanently scarred the victim to the point to where the mere thought of bathing evokes intense waves of anxiety throughout their body.
There is not a lot of information about the causes of ablutophobia. However, like with virtually all mental disorders, genetics and one’s environment are bound to play significant roles in the development of this phobia. Talking to your doctor about your concerns, as well as all of the symptoms you experience may help to shed some light as to why you may have developed a fear of bathing in the first place.
Other potential reasons as to why someone may develop ablutophobia is that they may also suffer from other mental disorders such as OCD, GAD, or other anxiety disorders. The occurrence of another disorder would not only mean that they have the genetics to potentially develop ablutophobia, but also that the symptoms of one disorder may exacerbate the symptoms of the other disorder. For example, someone with generalized anxiety disorder along with ablutophobia may experience intensified dread much more severely than if they only had a fear of bathing. This is due to the additional fear symptoms experienced by the other disorder.
Ablutophobia Treatments (abridged)
There are no treatment methodologies specifically designed to treat ablutophobia. However, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and anti-anxiety medication may be able to help reduce the symptoms associated with this phobia. CBT can be very advantageous by helping you to learn coping skills that can help with the painful symptoms associated with ablutophobia. If you do seek out treatment by a CBT therapist, then it would be in your best interest to find someone who has a lot of experience with treating phobias and other anxiety disorders.
Besides cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy may also be able to help treat the symptoms of ablutophobia. In this context, exposure therapy could be used to help treat someone’s ablutophobia by slowly introducing the patient to bathing, thus helping to desensitize them from their irrational fear. This may include having the patient wash their hands or face during the therapy session. Though they may feel a lot of anxiety when doing so, the goal is for their anxiety to eventually level off and decrease.
Anti-anxiety medication may be able to help reduce the intensity of the symptoms associated with ablutophobia. However, you should first talk to your doctor before you decide to do so. With virtually all phobias, the patient will need to learn how to change their behavior and their response to their fear thoughts. So, medication alone may not be enough to help treat ablutophobia.
If you think you may have ablutophobia, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can be properly treated for your condition. Also, remember to always get professional medical advice before you decide to undergo any type of treatment or take any medication.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Ablutophobia
CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with ablutophobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.
CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with ablutophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with ablutophobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.
Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with ablutophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Ablutophobia
MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from ablutophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with ablutophobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.
Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of ablutophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Meditation for Ablutophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from ablutophobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimeous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.
Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from ablutophobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.
For someone with ablutophobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.
To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of ablutophobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.
Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with ablutophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Exposure Therapy for Ablutophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as ablutophobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with ablutophobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.
The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with ablutophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their ablutophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with ablutophobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.
Exercise for Ablutophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including ablutophobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.
According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of ablutophobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.
There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of ablutophobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with ablutophobia over time.
Yoga for Ablutophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from ablutophobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with ablutophobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.
There are many different types of yoga that someone with ablutophobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with ablutophobia.
If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of ablutophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Reducing Caffeine for Ablutophobia
It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with ablutophobia to experience panic attacks.
So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.
Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with ablutophobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Ablutophobia
DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like ablutophobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.
One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with ablutophobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.
Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with ablutophobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.
Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with ablutophobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your ablutophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Psychiatric Medications for Ablutophobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe ablutophobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.
These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their ablutophobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.
These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as ablutophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of ablutophobia.
These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of ablutophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
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