Are We Germaphobes Now?

Point of view image of a germaphobe's hand wearing a surgical glove, pressing an elevator button.

A germaphobe is defined as a person who has an irrational or disproportionate fear of germs and contamination, according to Other definitions use descriptors like extreme, obsessive and uncontrollable. 

The traditional habits of a germaphobe have become common practice across the globe since March 2020. Covid-19 has been surreal and was the first of many once-in-a-lifetime events that happened over the last 2 years. So understandably, we’re feeling a little unnerved as a nation (to put it lightly). With several unthinkable possibilities becoming our reality, people have experienced depression, anxiety and paranoia. Leading me to my primary question, are our fears irrational?

Regardless of your stance on Covid, I think we can all agree that our lives have been turned upside down. And to me, it’s understandable that so many people have developed extreme worries, whether they’re germ-related or not. Because as we all know, 2020 spoiled us with potential traumas to choose from.

The Facts

According to a study conducted by Jelinek et al. (2021), 72% of people with OCD experienced worsening symptoms since the pandemic started. Many claimed that seeing the behaviours they were once trying to shake become widespread, allowed them to rationalize these obsessions and finally feel normal. But what happens once the general public relaxes their sanitation routine and these actions are, once again, deemed “irrational”? I fear that these individuals will be forced to start from square one or will be left with worse obsessions than they started with.

Of course, this study exclusively examined individuals with pre-existing diagnoses, however, it’s clear that this pandemic also impacted people with no pre-existing phobias to germs. Remember when everyone was panic buying toilet paper and wet wipes? Yeah, that got weird.

A Shift in Consumer Preference

The pandemic continues to impact society and studies have found there continues to be a conscious effort among individuals to keep their surroundings sanitary. According to Subbaraj (2021), the average amount of cleaning supplies purchases has increased 12% since the beginning of the pandemic. Luckily, supply and demand have somewhat balanced out since then and we are no longer facing mass shortages of essential items.

Consumer preference has shifted since the beginning of the pandemic, and more people are choosing contactless interactions. The consumer experience is transitioning drastically to the online world, as people want the option to shop from the comfort of their homes. Businesses are even implementing more touchless technology into their in-person interactions to meet this rising demand. People have become increasingly more aware of how many surfaces they touch each day, and they want to reduce that as much as possible. It seems that common behaviours among germaphobes have been picked up by the general public. Only time will tell whether these habits will fade away or continue to be common practice in society.

Referencing germaphobe-like preferences, a person is paying for their food. They are using contactless payment on their phone, while the cashier holds the card reader.

Moving Forward

I hope this becomes a wake-up call (for a lack of better words) and encourages the general public to take their hygiene seriously. Is that too much to ask? Covid will be around for the foreseeable future, so implementing up-to-standard sanitation habits is necessary. I don’t think our fears are irrational, but letting those fears take over your life is. Remember, there is a difference between being conscientious and obsessive.

As I wrap up this blog, I want to share my small hygienic obsession that I can’t believe more people don’t do: always put the toilet LID down when you flush, trust me. Google it if you don’t believe me, it’s pretty gross.

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