Germaphobes struggle to deal with everyday germs

Evelina Gaivoronskaia | Staff Writer

Germs on hands, food, water bottles — most people can ignore the small particles that surround them in their day-to-day life, however, for germaphobes, they can be terrifying. 

Germophobia is anxiety that is induced by being in contact with germs. In many cases, it is seen as not wanting to share food or drinks, excessive hand washing, and avoiding physical contact.

Sophomore Lauren Kobalka has always tried to avoid germs, but her germophobia got worse during her freshman year when she was sick with infectious mononucleosis and histoplasmosis. Kobalka said that her sickness lasted nine months, causing her to err on the side of caution when it comes to germs. 

“I don’t share drinks or food with people because I think it is gross,” Kobalka said. “I also think it’s gross when someone doesn’t wash their hands when they go to the bathroom. If someone touches their face or is sweaty, I won’t high-five them or shake their hand because I don’t know if they are clean.”

Germophobia is always part of Kobalka’s life. She is part of the Mason Swim Team, who sometimes share food and water. Kobalka said that she makes anyone who wants to use her bottle waterfall.

“I swim, and there are a lot of times we had to share food or water,” Kobalka said. “I make people waterfall. One time my friend didn’t waterfall, so I squeezed the water into her face and it went everywhere. We both laughed about it and now she always waterfalls.”

Sophomore Morgan Archiable is part of the Mason Color Guard, which can make dealing with her germophobia more difficult. She said that sharing water bottles with her teammates can be a struggle for her.  

“I won’t share water bottles and I won’t share food,” Archiable said. “I can’t eat anything without using hand sanitizer or washing my hands. If I see somebody drinking from my water bottle I immediately think I cannot drink from it anymore. I just can’t bring myself to do it.”

Archiable has always been germaphobic, but she said she hasn’t looked into any sort of treatment. Although she has gotten more sensitive to people eating her food over the past few years, Archiable said that germophobia is just something she will have and she doesn’t mind it. 

“I think I always had germophobia, it just has gotten worse over the past few years,” Archiable said. “Especially with eating, I think about all the places that my hands have been. Then I think of eating all of that, and I just can’t bring myself to do it. I’ve never really tried any ways of dealing with it or trying to fix it.”

Sophomore Alaina Smith said that she is also germaphobic. She said her germophobia shows itself through her being uncomfortable with sharing foods and also washing her hand excessively throughout the day.  

“I think that it is disgusting when people burp really loud,” Smith said. “When they burp I feel like the spit and the germs in their mouth are getting all over me. It really bothers me, especially when I am around food.”

Smith said that her friends know about her germophobia, although she said that she had to remind some of them about now burping around her. But besides the occasional burp, Smith said that her friends are very respectful towards her wishes. 

“I’ve never really tried anything to stop it,” Smith said. “It’s not really a big deal to me, I don’t really feel like I need to do therapy. Sometimes I feel like sometimes people are really sensitive about germophobia. I honestly don’t think it is that serious. Just don’t be rude about it.”