Amathophobia is the fear of dust. This psychological term gets its name from the Greek word amathos, which loosely means sand. Phobia comes from phobos, which means fear. Amathophobia is classified by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as a specific phobia.
Although it is a lesser known phobia, amathophobia is a serious one for those who suffer from it. People with amathophobia may go to extreme lengths to avoid interaction with dust, including the complete avoidance of dusting or cleaning. The effects of the phobia include a feeling of terror or extreme anxiety when near dust, trembling, shortness of breath, and general anxiety.
Although it is unknown how many suffer from amathophobia, it has been estimated that nearly 20 million adults annually suffer from some type of specific phobia. Approximately 20 percent of those are eventually able to overcome their phobia. Phobias are generally developed during childhood, and the average age of development is seven.
Traumatic events or encounters are typically the cause for specific phobias. In the case of amathophobia, it's possible the person associates dust with a negative event. It also may be that a negative event was purportedly caused by dust, which could trigger the anxiety. There are also other psychological and genetic dispositions that could lead one to be more inclined to suffer from a specific phobia.
Those suffering the persistent fear of dust may do so because of a related phobia, such as a fear of germs. Their fear of dust may also stem from the alarming composition of dust, which includes dead skin cells, pet dander, and dust mites. Behavioral therapy tends to be the most effective treatment for amathophobia and other specific phobias. A psychiatrist or counselor may work with the person in therapy sessions to help him or her face and ultimately overcome the phobia. Medication, such as anti-anxiety medicine, may also be used to curb the effects of the disorder and to keep the person calm, although this may merely help cope with symptoms rather than overcome the phobia.