The Secret Life of a Germaphobe
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As a germaphobe, I often cop a lot of flack from friends and family about my extensive efforts to remain germ-free. Sure, it isn’t always fun living life in a bubble, especially when the fear of contamination reaches epic proportions with the new discovery of a more virulent life-threatening super bug —speaking of, have you heard of MERS Virus. Then, there’s always that dreaded moment when I realize an hour after the shops have closed that I have run out of Lysol and I’m yet to wipe down my benches for the third time that day before my guests arrive.
Yet, for us germaphobes, not only are such episodes commonplace but the thought of directly ingesting some airborne, microbial particles filled with an array of vile contaminants—think MRSA—is alarming enough to keep any germ-conscious lassie firmly set in her ways for the rest of her dying, sheltered days.
Consequently, germaphobes have become quite crafty at concealing their paranoid, germaphobe habits to detract attention from their odd behavior, which can sometimes be misconstrued as offensive. Not accepting food from others’ plates under the guise of being “too full” or refusing to sip from another’s drink under the pretense of “coming down with the flu” barely raises an eyelid, according to business consultant and self-confessed germaphobe Karen Exhorn writing in the Huffington Post. On the other hand, opening public restrooms with tissue paper or making sure both hands are always full so as to avoid the token introductory handshake can be trickier to maneuver.
However, our hidden talents don't end there. Not only have we mastered the art of balancing on public transport without ever having to exchange bodily contact with a single being or post, we also have faster reflexes than a ninja warrior when it comes to flushing the toilet with our foot, perfecting our basketball shot when shooting paper into the trash can, dodging influenza from a sneezing stranger faster than Neo can dodge bullets and have an uncanny sixth sense for identifying improper food handling practices in restaurants to avoid salmonella contamination. Sometimes, it’s best just not to eat out.
In fact, if you even attempt to enter a germaphobe’s apartment with your fecal-infested, subway-ridden shoes, our Swifter mop pads will appear quicker than you can say, “Abracadabra” as we are always on standby to avoid the latest bacteria apocalypse. Perhaps the only obvious giveaway is the bottle of Purell sanitizer always at our disposal or the hint of peeling hands from overusing our bleach products.
But, before you think germaphobes are a rarity or just outright crazy, don’t be fooled. Not only are we featured as the main protagonists in pop culture—think detective Monk or Ben Stiller’s character in Along Came Polly—we also tend to be smart, academic achievers and professionally successful. Cameron Diaz, inventor Nikola Tesla, Howie Mandel, and Jerry Seinfeld were/are all proud, self-confessed germaphobes.
What’s more, germaphobes make ideal dating companions by virtue of the high likelihood that we will be STD-free because our fear of contracting disease far outweighs our desire to have sex. In addition, your house will always be spotless. Germaphobes also tend to be self-proclaimed medical experts without ever having spent a day in medical school. Sounds like a perfect catch to me!
Science has even coined a medical term for us “special group” of people: Mysophobia—the pathological fear of contamination and germs. This phobia has been linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder and illness anxiety disorder, previously known as hypochondria, but with some subtle differences.
“People with OCD are compelled to relieve the distress they experience as a result of the non-completion of the act itself, while people with mysophobia are compelled to complete the act specifically to remove germs,” About.com explains. Likewise, hypochondriacs think they have an illness, whereas mysophobics are fearful of contacting illness.