March 12, 2021

Are we raising little germaphobes?

The pandemic has heightened the fear of germs in children—but that might be OK. Dr. Kate Fitzgerald is quoted.


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According to Kate Fitzgerald, co-director of the Child OCD and Anxiety Disorders Program at the University of Michigan, most kids grow out of these anxieties by the time they’re about 10 years old, when the part of the brain responsible for behavior adaptation and decision making matures. But in some cases, they persist and become diagnosable conditions.

Germaphobia is a layperson’s term used to describe a heightened awareness of germs. On the other hand, symptoms for clinical phobias are “usually triggered by observable external stimuli,” Fitzgerald says. Since we can’t hear, see, or smell germs ourselves, extreme cases of “germaphobia” are usually attributed to other disorders.