Terrified of Germs

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They're all over me,
They're inside of me,
Can't get 'em offa me,
I'm covered with ... microscopic bacteria.
What do they want from me?
What'll they do to me?
There's no escape for me,

I'm crawling with ... microscopic bacteria.

Known to psychologists as "mysophobia" and to others as "germophobia" this trope describes characters who have a crippling fear of germs. This is one of the common symptoms of Super OCD.

This goes well beyond simple fear. Realistic examples might refuse to touch anything that hasn't been extensively washed while more over the top versions can go so far as to fear the germs are sentient and conspiring to make them sick (though research has shown they can work together, and may even be capable of messing with your head).

It's not an uncommon plot to have a character develop this problem for a short time in order to deliver An Aesop about taking risks being a necessary part of life.

Compare Neat Freak, Hypochondria.

Examples of Terrified of Germs include:


Film[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Bob from What About Bob? is afraid of germs, among many other things. He stays in his apartment as much as possible, and uses tissues to avoid actually touching things. He gets better over the course of the film.
  • Ed Begley, Jr. as the antagonist Ebner Frost in Santa with Muscles.
  • A minor character in the film of K-PAX was committed because of crippling mysophobia. The main character cured it by engineering a near-death experience, which caused the resident psychologist no small amount of confusion.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Priest-Kings of Gor are so scared of germs that they made themselves immune to all sickness, eradicated every germ that could possibly harm them, moved to another planet, require outsiders to wash in antibacterial bleach several times a day and still won't touch anyone.
  • The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov: The Spacers (former Earth colonists living in Utopian conditions throughout Space) have long eliminated all disease in their worlds, but their immune systems decayed as a result (the common cold can kill them), so they are downright paranoid when dealing with normal Earth people (who live in entirely different conditions)--forcing them to take thorough showers and burning all materials they come in contact with.
    • In its sequel, The Naked Sun, an Earthman visits Solaria, a Spacer world. They build him a house and he learns that they'll destroy it after he leaves the planet.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Adrian Monk, to the extent that he uses wipes every time he shakes hands with someone, and gets highly distressed (Well, more than usual, anyway) if somehow prevented from doing so.
  • Emma Pillsbury from Glee cleans grapes individually.
  • Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory showers multiple times a day and constantly washes his hands.
  • Kari Byron of MythBusters is a germophobe, as revealed in a recent set of experiments regarding passing around cold germs. She was placed in a test group instructed to avoid catching Adam's fake cold by any means possible, and by the end of that round she was the only one who had succeeded.
  • Freddie's mom in iCarly. She's been known to boil flowers in bleach...
  • Boober, on Fraggle Rock constantly obsesses over his fear and dislike of germs, and constantly worries and warns others about disease and death.
    • He even has a song about it!:

"You know they're name is contagious,
Their number's outrageous,
They're wriggling and raging like worms,
And it wiggles and squirms,
I'm talkin' 'bout germs!"


Music[edit | hide]

Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • Spotless McPartland, in Dick Cavalli's Winthrop.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The quarians of the Mass Effect games are an entire race of these - justified because their immune systems are so weak that they must wear specially designed enviro-suits all the time and take vaccines and immuno-boosters to ward off disease. Even in clean environments, they prefer the safety of their suits, and are reluctant to remove them without a good reason. It is a gesture of trust and intimacy amongst quarians to hook one's own suit environment to another's, even though doing so can make both of them very sick.
    • Though after one did so, she claimed the sickness she got was well worth it.
  • Nick during The Passing in Left 4 Dead 2. In the first safe room, he may show his fear of germs by saying he has the right to be afraid since a germ wiped out the planet and turned everyone into zombies. Rochelle teases him about this when he asks for some hand sanitizer.
    • In the same area later on, Nick makes several complaints about going through a sewer, ranging from wanting a piggyback ride to avoid the dirty water to trying to reassure himself that it's only a storm sewer.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Mr. Burns develops this in The Simpsons episode "$pringfield".
  • Zim, in the Invader Zim episode "Germs". He eventually ends up covering himself in meat, as it's more sanitary than anything else he can find.
  • Gus on Disney's Recess developed this phobia in one episode, and eventually attempted to have the whole playground sanitized.
  • Amelia Earhart in Time Squad.
  • Sid on Hey Arnold! also develops this.
  • Chuckie in one episode of Rugrats becomes terrified of germs. His father lectures him about germs with his bath puppets after getting himself dirty multiple times.
  • The appropriately-named henchman "Germs" in the Batman: The Animated Series two-parter Feat of Clay. He opens doors using a handkerchief and is visibly squicked at going to a hospital.
    • Batman exploits this entertainingly when interrogating him, and Clayface leaves him practically catatonic after binding and gagging the little creep with some of his clay body.
  • Buster on a season 11 episode of Arthur.
  • Edd from Ed Edd and Eddy. He put on plastic gloves AND a surgeon's mask when taking care of a sick Sarah. And when he caught her cold anyway, he claimed that bacteria strike the instant one's guard is down. Germs were also his first complaint when forced into a bathroom vent.
    • Jimmy is implied to be this, too. It normally doesn't show, but he has complained of germs every time he came in contact with saliva.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Howie Mandel. This is why he never shakes hands with guests on Deal or No Deal and is apparently the reason he shaves his head.
  • Howard Hughes was famous for this. It eventually became so bad that he would only touch anything with tissues.
  • Marc Summers. That the man hosted freaking |Double Dare for 7 years and |What Would You Do for 2 is a testament to his willpower.
  • Anyone who has ever taken microbiology will tell you that the majority of students in the class become paranoid about germs. Many overcome it a few weeks into the semester, but others don't.