Ablutophobia: The Fear of Washing or Bathing

  • Time to read: 6 min.

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Do you dread taking a shower or stepping into a bathtub? Does the thought of washing your hands make you break out in a cold sweat? If so, you may be suffering from ablutophobia, which is the fear of washing or bathing.

Ablutophobia is an anxiety disorder that can have a profound effect on your quality of life. Not only can it make everyday activities like showering and brushing your teeth difficult, but it can also lead to social isolation and depression.

If you’re struggling with ablutophobia, know that you’re not alone. In this blog post, we’ll explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for this phobia. 

What Causes Ablutophobia? 

Ablutophobia can be triggered by a traumatic event, such as nearly drowning in a bathtub as a child. It can also be the result of witnessing someone else experiencing a traumatic event, such as seeing someone get attacked by a shark on TV. 

In some cases, ablutophobia may be caused by an underlying medical condition. For example, people with eczema may develop a fear of bathing because they associate it with the pain and itchiness that comes with their condition. 

Ablutophobia may also be the product of learned behavior. If you grew up in a household where bathing was discouraged or associated with punishment, you may have developed ablutophobia as a result.

What Are the Symptoms of Ablutophobia? 

What Are the Symptoms of Ablutophobia? 

The symptoms of ablutophobia can vary from person to person. Some people may only experience mild discomfort when they’re exposed to water, while others may have full-blown panic attacks. 

Common symptoms of ablutophobia include: 

  • Sweating 
  • Nausea 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Rapid heart rate 
  • Dizziness 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Confusion
  • Trembling
  • Muscle tension
  • Chest pain
  • Terror 
  • Hot flashes 
  • Chills

In extreme cases, people with ablutophobia may feel like they’re going to pass out or die when they’re exposed to water. This feeling is called vasovagal syncope, and it occurs when the autonomic nervous system is overloaded and can’t keep up with the demands placed on it.

While vasovagal syncope is not deadly, it can be very frightening and should be taken seriously. If you experience vasovagal syncope, be sure to see a doctor as soon as possible so they can rule out any underlying medical conditions.

Treatment for Ablutophobia

Treatment for Ablutophobia

There are several treatment options available for ablutophobia, and the best one for you will depend on the severity of your symptoms and the underlying cause of your phobia.

Some common treatment options include.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

This type of therapy focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with your phobia. During cognitive-behavioral therapy, you’ll work with a mental health professional to gradually expose yourself to water in a safe and controlled setting. The goal is to help you develop healthy coping mechanisms so that you can eventually overcome your fear.

Exposure Therapy

Like cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy involves gradually exposing yourself to water in a safe and controlled setting. However, exposure therapy takes things one step further by incorporating relaxation techniques into the equation.

With exposure therapy, you’ll work with a mental health professional to slowly confront your fear while simultaneously learning how to relax your body and mind in response to anxiety-causing stimuli.


In some cases, medication may be necessary to help manage severe symptoms of ablutophobia like panic attacks or vasovagal syncope. Commonly prescribed medications include beta-blockers, which can help reduce racing heart rate and trembling, and antidepressants, which can help ease anxiety and improve sleep.

If you’re interested in trying medication to treat your ablutophobia, be sure to talk to your doctor about all of the potential risks and benefits first.

What’s It Like Living with Ablutophobia?

What's It Like Living with Ablutophobia?

Ablutophobia can have a major impact on your quality of life. The fear of bathing can make everyday activities, like taking a shower or going swimming, extremely difficult. In some cases, ablutophobia may even make it impossible to bathe, which can lead to serious health problems.

Let’s look at Carl’s experience:

“I remember the first time I realized I had ablutophobia. I was in the shower and suddenly, for no reason, I started feeling really anxious. My heart started racing and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I tried to talk myself down, but it was like my brain was on autopilot. The next thing I knew, I was on the floor of the shower, shaking and crying.

“Since then, I’ve been terrified of taking showers. I’ve gone weeks without bathing because I just can’t bring myself to do it. My friends and family have been really understanding, but it’s still hard. I worry that people are judging me or that they can smell my fear.

“Ablutophobia has definitely taken a toll on my quality of life. I’m always tired because I can’t sleep, and I’ve lost a lot of weight because I’m not eating as much. I know I need to get help, but it’s just so hard to take that first step.”

Phobias Similar to Ablutophobia

While ablutophobia is technically its own specific phobia, there are a few others that share similar characteristics. These phobias include:

Not all phobias are created equal, and some are more common than others. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 10% of Americans suffer from at least one specific phobia.

If you think you may have a phobia, be sure to see a mental health professional as soon as possible. With proper diagnosis and treatment, it’s possible to overcome even the most debilitating of phobias.


Ablutophobia—the fear of washing or bathing—is an anxiety disorder that can have a profound effect on quality of life. If you suffer from ablutophobia, know that there are treatments available that can help improve symptomsShowering once a week is generally OK, but it depends on your personal hygiene habits.

If you tend to sweat a lot or get dirty frequently, you may need to shower more often. If you have a medical condition that requires you to avoid bathing, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions. With the help of a mental health professional, such as cognitive-behavioral therapist, you CAN learn how to manage it and live a happy and healthy life.

FAQ – Ablutophobia: Fear of Washing or Bathing

Is ablutophobia a disorder?

Ablutophobia is considered an anxiety disorder that can cause significant distress. If you think you may suffer from ablutophobia, it’s important to see a mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.

What happens to skin if you don’t bathe?

If you don’t bathe regularly, your skin can become dry, cracked, and unhealthy. In extreme cases, a lack of hygiene can lead to skin infections.

Why does my daughter not want to shower?

There could be a number of reasons why your daughter doesn’t want to shower. It’s possible she’s suffering from ablutophobia or another anxiety disorder. It’s also possible she’s experiencing body dysmorphia or she’s uncomfortable with her changing body (during puberty, for example). If you’re concerned about your daughter’s lack of hygiene, it’s best to talk to her about it and see a mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis.

What happens if you don’t shower for 3 months?

If you don’t shower for 3 months, you risk developing skin infections, body odor, and other health problems. It’s important to maintain good hygiene habits to avoid these potential problems.

What do you call someone who doesn’t shower?

There’s no specific term for someone who doesn’t shower, but they would generally be considered unhygienic. If someone is avoiding showering due to a fear of washing or bathing, they would be considered to have ablutophobia.