Coping With Zuigerphobia or the Fear of Vacuum Cleaners

Vacuum cleaner in an empty room
Iris Friedrich / Getty Images

Zuigerphobia, or the fear of vacuum cleaners, is a specific phobia. This is one of three kinds of phobia:

  1. Specific phobia is a fear of a particular object, in this case, vacuum cleaners
  2. Social phobia, also known as social anxiety disorder
  3. Agoraphobia, the fear of being unable to escape to a safe place if you have a phobic reaction

Who Has Zuigerphobia?

Young children and pets are most likely to have Zuigerphobia. However, it can also occur in older teens and adults. You've probably seen a dog or cat "freak out" when someone turns the vacuum on. Some pets even start to react as you walk towards the closet to get the vacuum. These phobic reactions are similar in humans.

Zuigerphobia is generally associated with the loud sounds that a vacuum cleaner makes, but some people are afraid of the appliance itself.

Fear of Loud Noises

Zuigerphobia is often linked to ligyrophobia, sometimes known as phonophobia, which is the fear of loud noises.

Loud noises cause a startle response in virtually everyone, including infants, but over time, we generally learn to manage that response.

Small children and pets, however, do not have the coping skills needed to successfully manage their startle reactions. They can only react instinctively to the startling noise and immediate danger they perceive. Thankfully, young kids typically outgrow their fears as their brain's cognitive ability increases.

Is it a Fear, a Phobia, or Another Health Condition?

Does my child have a phobia or is it just a fear? You can attempt to answer this important question yourself by consulting the American Psychiatric Association's criteria for a specific phobia diagnosis in children and checking her symptoms against it.

However, symptoms that present as a specific phobia of vacuum cleaners are also symptoms of other mental and physical issues. Therefore, it's important to seek the help of a medical professional to make an accurate diagnosis.

Physical and mental health conditions with symptoms similar to zuigerphobia include:

  • Hyperacusis is an abnormally low intolerance for environmental sounds. It's a rare condition, but a symptom of autism and cerebral palsy.
  • Phonophobia and misophonia are the fear and dislike of sound, often specific sounds with a negative emotional association.
  • Recruitment is perceiving a sound to be louder than it actually is and is a symptom of sensorineural hearing loss.

Managing Zuigerphobia in Children

Once a medical professional determines your child has zuigerphobia, he may refer you for treatment or devise a personalized plan to suit your child's needs.

One of the most successful treatments for specific phobia in children is desensitization, a method based on the principles of cognitive behavior therapy. This method does not require talk therapy to discover what caused the zuigerphobia and, in some cases, only takes one to three visits to see results.

During the desensitization process, you incrementally expose your child to the vacuum. For example:

  • Let her play with it while it is unplugged.
  • Make up stories that turn it into a fun character.
  • Warn your child, in a non-forboding manner, just before you plan to vacuum and allow her to make the choice of staying in the room or retreating to another location.

Vacuum Cleaner Fears in Adults

A fear of vacuum cleaners is relatively rare in older children and adults. If you or an older child suffers from this fear, seek advice from a trained mental-health professional. Like any phobia, the fear of vacuum cleaners is relatively easy to treat, but an untreated fear may gradually get worse.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th Ed.).

  • Noise Sensitivity (2011)