Our Fear Of Germs Is Perfectly Rational, But We've Gone Too Far

Go ahead. Touch that subway pole.
Peter Dazeley via Getty Images

We're usually in public -- holding onto the subway pole, pushing ATM buttons, grabbing the door handle to work -- when our fear of germs rears its head. Maybe you still touch the probably-grimy object, but you can't help thinking that germs are everywhere.

On the other hand, maybe your fear of germs is so strong that it affects your day-to-day life. Perhaps you avoid going to public restrooms, even though you really need relief, or steer clear of certain social situations. You may even wash your hands so much that they sometimes crack and bleed.

This is called mysophobia -- a pathological fear of germs, dirt and contamination.