Ablutophobia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

The Ablutophobia is a type of specific phobia characterized by fear related situations washing or bathing.

Thus, people who suffer from this disorder experience high feelings of anxiety and discomfort when they go to bathe or perform any action related to self-cleaning.

It may seem strange that someone is afraid of such a situation and that they get nervous when they have to wash.

However, ablutophobiais well documented disorder that although it affects a minority of the population, it can appear in any person.

In addition, as expected, this phobia can lead to a series of negative consequences both in the self-care of the person and in their social environment.


Do you want to know what exactly this peculiar type of phobia is and what should be done to treat it and overcome it?



Below we will review all the information available today on ablutofobia and the interventions that have proven effective in their treatment.

Characteristics of ablutophobia

Ablutophobia is a specific phobia and, therefore, is defined according to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) as a disorder characterized by the presence of clinically significant anxiety in response to exposure to specific situations or objects.

In this case, the specific situation feared by the person with ablutofobia is the act of washing, showering or bathing.

In this way, when we speak of ablutofobia we are talking about the experimentation of an excessive and irrational fear about the act of washing oneself.

The individual who suffers from this disorder will fear above all self-washing situations, so when exposed to these situations you will experience terribly high feelings of anxiety.

The anxiety and discomfort that produces the dreaded situation, will make the person choose to always avoid the acts of bathing and, when you are before them, try to escape as soon as possible.

As we see, ablutofobia refers to a special type of fear, a phobic fear regarding the act of washing, so that who suffers this alteration can present enormous difficulties to acquire a state of optimal hygiene.

Who can suffer Ablutophobia?

At first glance, it may seem strange that a person is afraid to shower or wash and experience elevated feelings of anxiety when they do it.

In fact, we are much more accustomed to associating phobias with less everyday elements such as heights, injections, closed spaces or spiders.

However, Ablutophobia is a disorder with the same characteristics as other types of phobias.

Fortunately, the prevalence of this mental disorder is very low in our society, which is why very few people suffer from ablutofobia.

Its incidence is much more frequent among women and especially among children, although potentially anyone of any age can develop it.

In the case of children, it is quite common that they present a certain rejection of washing and are reluctant to bathe.

However, the simple dislike, discontent or even fear that most children experience in these situations does not explain the presence of ablutofobia.

To be able to speak of ablutofobia a series of answers and certain behaviors are required regarding the situation of bathing.

How can Ablutophobia be detected?

As we have said, most children are suspicious in the moments before the bath.

Likewise, during this, it is usual for children to cry, complain or want to get out of the water.

In some cases, this dislike of the bathroom may extend to later ages, and older children, teenagers or even adults may continue to show a certain refusal to wash.

However, as has been commented from the beginning, ablutofobia refers to a special type of fear, that is, a phobic fear.

This means that both the fear experienced in washing situations and the symptoms and sensations that continue have certain characteristics.

The main aspects that can help us distinguish a fear or “normal” suspicion to bathe from ablutophobia are:

If the fear experienced in situations of washing does not meet the characteristics to be able to classify it as “phobic”, we can not speak of ablutophobia.

Thus, the fear experienced by a person with ablutofobia regarding the bathroom is characterized by:

1- Type of fear

a) It is disproportionate

The fear is totally disproportionate to the demands of the situation.

In itself, the situation of washing does not imply any kind of danger, so any fear in those situations could meet this requirement.

However, a certain suspicion about the bathroom, especially in young children, may be more or less normal.

Thus, this first characteristic refers to the fact that the fear experienced by the person with ablutofobia is disproportionately intense and high, which is why it does not correspond at all to the demands of the situation to which it is exposed.

b) It is irrational

The person with ablutofobia can not reason or explain the fear he experiences when he has to bathe.

In this way, a person who is suspicious of the bathroom because his eyes sting when soap enters him or can not stand the sensations of cold water, would constitute a type of fear that can be rationalized and that does not belong to ablutofobia.

In contrast, the person who suffers this alteration knows that what he thinks, what he feels and the fear he experiences when he washes is totally irrational and he does not find any reason to explain his appearance.

c) It is uncontrollable

This is another of the most important characteristics of ablutofobia that allows us to differentiate it from other types of fears.

The person suffering from this disorder is totally unable to control their feelings of fear and anxiety when exposed to washing or bathing situations.

So, if you are afraid to wash yourself but you are able to control your fears in those situations and continue with the bath with more or less normal, very surely do not suffer ablutophobia.

d) Persists over time

As we have said, it is more or less normal for children to show displeasure at washing situations.

However, this distrust tends to disappear and, although it may be more pronounced in some periods, it does not usually persist over time.

The opposite happens with ablutophobia, since the person who suffers will experience fear of washing permanently.

e) It is maladaptive

Finally, the last characteristic of phobic fear refers to its null functionality to adapt.

In many cases fears help us to better adapt to certain situations and respond in the best possible way at specific times.

However, this is not the case of ablutophobia, since the irrational fear of the act of washing prevents us from adequately adapting to a highly important action for people, hygiene.

2- Experienced anxiety

So far we have seen how fear is experienced by a person with ablutofobia when exposed to their feared situation.

However, the aspect that best allows us to detect the presence or absence of this disorder lies in the sensations that the person experiences when exposed to bathing or washing situations.

As we have seen, the person with ablutophobia responds with high feelings of anxiety in those moments.

The main symptoms that define the disorder are:

a) Physical sensations

Every anxiety response involves the appearance of a series of very annoying physical symptoms.

In the case of ablutophobia, these are characterized by an increase in the activity of the central nervous system.

In this way, when the person suffering from this disorder is exposed to situations of showering or bathing experience a series of symptoms such as increased heart rate, increased breathing, heart palpitations, excessive sweating or muscle tension.

You may also experience nausea, dizziness, and feelings of weakness or instability.

The physical symptoms of ablutophobia can vary in each case, so that each individual can experience a different group of sensations that we have commented.

b) Thoughts

On the other hand, the physical sensations are accompanied by a series of thoughts that appear completely automatically.

Thus, when the person with ablutophobia is exposed to his feared situation, his mind is completely governed by thoughts of anxiety.

These can acquire multiple modalities but all of them are characterized by highlighting the dangerousness of the situation, the negative things that can happen to them and the lack of capacity to face the act of washing.

3- Behavior

Finally, to be able to speak of ablutofobia it is necessary that all the symptoms that we have commented so far affect the behavior of the person.

This fact is explained by its intensity, that is, the feelings of anxiety produced by the washing situation are so high that the person can not ignore them or get them to change their behavior.

The main characteristic that defines the behavior of ablutofobia is avoidance.

In this way, the subject will try to avoid whenever possible the situations of washing, with the aim of also avoiding fear and more than annoying sensations of anxiety.

This fact can have a very negative effect on the person’s life, since the person can have many difficulties in presenting good hygiene and carrying out the necessary washing processes.

On the other hand, when the person with ablutofobia does not manage to avoid his feared situation, he will try to escape from it as soon as possible and, in the best of cases, will manage to remain with high feelings of discomfort.


The pathogenesis of ablutophobia is not completely defined and it is impossible to find a single cause that can originate it.

In fact, like other phobias, it is agreed that there is no single cause for ablutofobia and that different factors can contribute to its development.

In the first place, the acquisition of this phobia is defended through direct conditioning.

In this way, experiencing traumatic situations (or lived as traumatic) during bathing in childhood can be an important factor that causes ablutofobia.

On the other hand, the conditioning of fear can also originate in more indirect ways such as vicarious learning or the acquisition of information.

In this way, visualizing traumatic (or perceived as traumatic) images of other people while washing, or listening to stories or stories about negative events during the bath can also influence the acquisition of the phobia.

Finally, the presence of a certain genetic component in the development of this disorder is also postulated, although the data that are currently available are unclear and the heritability of ablutophobia is not well defined.


Unlike other types of phobias (such as phobia of spiders) that can have a slight or even null effect on people’s lives, it is very important to treat ablutophobia.

In fact, this disorder can significantly affect all areas of the person suffering from it due to the direct effects it causes in the hygiene and washing processes.

Likewise, the best news of ablutophobia is that, like most phobias, it can be treated very effectively.

In this sense, the treatment of first choice that should be made by anyone suffering from ablutophobia is psychotherapy.

Specifically, the cognitive behavioral treatment has been very effective when intervening this type of alterations and provides very good results.

This treatment is based mainly on exposing the individual gradually to their feared elements, that is, bathing or washing situations.

Also Read: How Can Anxiety be Treated Naturally?

In this way, through exposure the person is able to overcome their fears and “realize” that this situation is not really dangerous.

Relaxation training and cognitive techniques are other interventions that are usually added in this type of treatment.