Ablutophobia Causes and Treatments

Baby in a bath tub
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Ablutophobia, or fear of bathing, is a relatively uncommon but serious phobia that appears to be more prevalent in women and children.

Yes, many children demonstratively dislike baths, but a phobia is different. If your healthcare provider is following the new American Psychiatric Association guidelines, she is unlikely to give an ablutophobia diagnosis unless the extreme overestimation of danger persists for more than six months.

Ablutophobia, like all phobias, is an anxiety disorder. It's clinically known as a specific phobia, which is an excessive or unreasonable fear of an object or situation. It can manifest in many ways, from a fear of showering to a complete phobia of all washing.

Causes of Ablutophobia

Like all specific phobias, a traumatic past event is the commonly the trigger for ablutophobia, although you may or may not consciously remember it. How did you get ablutophobia?

  • A traumatic past event may have happened to you, a relative or even someone in a movie or television show. For example, some horror film fans claim to develop a fear of showering after seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s "Psycho." 
  • This anxiety disorder can also develop from other people’s fears. If a parent or close relative had the same fear, you might have internalized that person’s reactions in childhood.
  • Many kids try to avoid bath time, whether due to fear or simple preference. It is possible that your childhood aversion may have carried over into your adult life.

Complications of Ablutophobia

Cleanliness and hygiene are some of the top priorities of the modern world and failing to take a daily shower can cause you to look or smell “unclean,” which is generally considered unacceptable. Not washing regularly can have negative consequences, such as:

  • Problems at work or school and in your personal relationships
  • Isolation, possibly leading to social phobia or even agoraphobia
  • A higher risk of developing body image disorders

In addition, personal hygiene is a first step toward avoiding illness. Allowing dirt and bacteria to remain on your skin and hair for long periods could elevate your risk of both common and rare diseases. This is particularly true if your phobia causes you to avoid hand washing after using the restroom or when preparing food.

Treatments for Ablutophobia

Like most specific phobias, cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques are frequently part of a treatment plan for ablutophobia. Your therapist will probably encourage you to examine your fear and replace your negative self-talk with more appropriate messages. She might give you homework assignments that involve taking baby steps such as turning on the shower and sitting in the bathroom with it running.

The goal of therapy is for you to practice relaxing and using your newly learned self-talk to soothe your fears while slowly confronting the object of your phobia. If you are extremely anxious, your physician may prescribe medications or suggest hypnosis to help you get the fear under control.

Ablutophobia is highly treatable by trained professionals but nearly impossible to overcome on your own. 

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bajwa M, Chaudhry KA, Saeed R. Prevalence and factors associated with phobias among women. Journal of Psychiatry. 2014;15(2):140-145.

  2. Garcia R. Neurobiology of fear and specific phobias. Learn Mem. 2017;24(9):462-471. doi:10.1101/lm.044115.116

  3. Baek SB. Psychopathology of social isolationJ Exerc Rehabil. 2014;10(3):143-147. doi:10.12965/jer.140132

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Body, Facial, & Dental Hygiene. Updated July 26, 2016.

  5. Cleveland Clinic. Anxiety Disorders: Management and Treatment. Updated December 15, 2017.

Additional Reading
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Ed). Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.

By Lisa Fritscher
Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics.