Fear Of Bathing Or Washing (ablutophobia): Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

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

Ablutophobia is the irrational fear that a person feels of bathing or washing. Therefore, it can have serious unhygienic consequences for the person who suffers from this pathology. In this article we will delve into this mental disorder and learn what its causes, symptoms and consequences are.

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 their negative symptoms, they make an effort to avoid the stimulus that causes it and, therefore, something as everyday as showering or washing can trigger severe and persistent fear in these individuals.

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 of the affected person. Something that, without a doubt, has an effect on your social life, not only in terms of your friends or family, but also with respect to your employment and work life.

Research suggests that it is more common in women and children, although at an early age many children feel a certain fear of bathing. Now, this fear is more likely due to an extreme aversion to bathing, and in fact, this problem is generally not considered a phobia unless it lasts longer than six months or continues into adolescence and adulthood.

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

Causes of this disorder

Irrational fears are usually learned and occur after a traumatic event. For example, although many children have a fear of water, which usually disappears when they realize that nothing terrible happens in the bathtub, others may develop this phobia if parents force them to bathe, because they may associate the bathtub with unhappiness and the aggressiveness of the parents.

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

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

Phobias, therefore, usually 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 vicarious conditioning. For example, when they are children, observing an adult who panics when bathing.

Experts also state that people are predisposed to suffer this type of fear, since this emotion is adaptive and has been very useful for human survival. Therefore, phobias have to do with the primitive part of the brain, what is known as the emotional brain, and that is why they do not usually respond well to logical arguments. In other words, phobias develop through associations that are not cognitive, but primitive.

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Symptoms of fear of bathing

People with ablutophobia may experience a variety of symptoms when they are in situations where the phobic stimulus is presented. They may feel some physical and physiological symptoms such as nausea, sweating, fear, tremors, headache or dizziness. Some experience panic attacks, which can include shortness of breath, high blood pressure, and a rapid heart rate.

Psychological symptoms include anxiety and distress, irrational fear, thoughts of death, lack of concentration. Likewise, people with a phobia of bathing try to avoid this situation at all costs, in order to reduce the discomfort they feel.

Feelings of shame are commonsince in many cultures the lack of cleanliness creates rejection or ridicule.


Although some people suffer from this phobia, it is nothing to be ashamed of. In most cases it has to do with an event from the past and a psychologist can help the patient deal with the problem.

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

In reality, the most used technique includes the previous two and is called systematic desensitization, which consists of gradually exposing the patient to the phobic stimulus, but first they must learn a series of resources that allow them to face the feared situations.

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

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Other possible treatments

Currently, other therapeutic methods that have proven to be effective are also often used, such as hypnosis, cognitive therapy based on Mindfulness and acceptance and commitment therapy, which you can learn more about in our articles.

You can learn more about them in our articles: