What is Ablutophobia?

The fear of bathing, washing or cleaning, is called ablutophobia. It is considered a situational specific phobia and is more common in women and children than in men. Likely, ablutophobia is caused by a traumatic experience in which bathing, washing, or cleaning played a major role. Other psychological disorders or conditions may be present and may also require separate treatment.

Also, please take note, many children dislike baths, so ablutophobia is generally not diagnosed in children unless it lasts longer than six months. Ablutophobia may start in childhood but will likely continue into adolescence and adulthood. The phobia manifests in different ways, from a fear of showering to a complete phobia of all washing.

Social alienation and shame may result with ablutophobia if the sufferer continues to avoid bathing. This often leads to a deeper fear of bathing. It may also lead to extreme health issues if left untreated. However, extremely poor hygiene and uncleanliness will not motivate a real ablutophobia sufferer to bathe. Therefore, ablutophobia is a mental and emotional condition with physical and social consequences.

Prior to the discovery of germs and bacteria, people, especially Europeans, had a religious and somewhat superstitious fear of bathing, which was explained by the theory that disease and dirt—and sometimes evil spirits—entered the body through the pores. Ironically, by cleaning the pores, it was thought that people were inviting a slew of health problems. But as industrialization forced people out of the open fields and into close quarters, the necessity for bathing became all too apparent, and it was around this time that humans started to understand the truth about hygiene.

If you know someone who suffers from ablutophobia or any other type of phobia, do not try to help them “face their fears” by exposing them to their phobia, as it will likely cause greater trauma. It can be difficult to relate to someone with an irrational or extreme phobia, and so wanting to help or understand the sufferer is only natural. Treatment, even exposure-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is possible, but should only be carried out by mental health practitioners with experience in helping sufferers overcome their phobias. Fortunately, professional help is not hard to find.

Symptoms of Ablutophobia

  • extreme anxiety, dread
  • shortness of breath
  • rapid breathing
  • heart palpitation
  • excessive sweating
  • nausea
  • dry mouth
  • confusion / inability to articulate clearly
  • lack of focus
  • irritability
  • diarrhea
  • shaking
  • feelings of powerlessness
  • obsession with the subject of the phobia
  • fear or feelings of losing control
  • avoidance behavior
  • headaches

Learn more about phobia symptoms

Causes of Ablutophobia

There is no specific cause for ablutophobia and no two sufferers experience the same history with washing, bathing, or showering. A presence of a genetic predisposition may also be a contributing factor. Ablutophobia is usually traced back to a single or series of traumatic events in the sufferers past where bathing was a major factor. Examples of traumatic experiences could be situations where the sufferer was left unattended in the water, was the subject of neglect or abuse in the bathtub, or experienced a near-drowning. Trauma can take many shape and forms, which is why the cause may not be so obvious.

Seeking treatment from a mental health practitioner is the first step in overcoming this debilitating phobia. A therapist will help the sufferer map out the history of the phobia in order to explore the cause and work through these underlying issues. Medication may be part of the treatment program.

Learn more about the causes of phobias

Treatment for Ablutophobia

  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
  • Cognitive therapy (CT)
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Self-help
  • Group therapy
  • Talk therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Medication
  • Meditation

Learn more about phobia treatments


Book Shelf

The list of books below are hand picked by the staff at Massive Phobia. It’s a mixture of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Habit Strategies, Trauma Healing, Mindfulness, Meditation, Buddhist Knowledge and Somatic Study. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.