There’s nothing quite like that fresh, clean feeling you get right after a shower. But it can all be ruined once you notice the clump of hair you left behind in the shower drain.
Dun, dun, duuuunnnnnnn:
Even if the hair belongs to you, and especially if it doesn’t (those of you who live with roommates, we feel for you), there’s something so gross about seeing it tangled in the drain, just taunting you.
But what exactly is it that makes hair in the drain, or loose hairs lying around in general, seem so disgusting ― or, to some, scary?
There is such a thing as a fear of hair, sometimes referred to as chaetophobia or trichophobia. Those with this phobia generally hate the sight of loose hairs (whether human or animal) and may also be afraid of hair loss.
“There’s no accounting for how human beings can develop irrational fears,” Robert Reiner, executive director and founder of Behavioral Associates in New York, told HuffPost. However, he said, fear crosses the line from disgust to full-on phobia when one’s life “becomes dysfunctional because of it.”
Not all of us have the actual phobia, but its roots may lie in a more common anxiety. A fear of hair might have to do with a broader fear of germs or contamination, and in some cases could be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder, Dr. Bernard Vittone, director of the National Center for the Treatment of Phobias, Anxiety and Depression, explained to HuffPost.
“One version of OCD is people that are afraid of dirt or contamination,” Vittone said, noting that “hair is usually construed as being sort of dirty and contaminated.”
The anxiety, Vittone said, might stem from the thought of becoming ill from loose hair strewn around. Some people don’t even need to be in contact with the hair itself: The thought of contamination alone is enough to make them anxious.
“It’s irrational, which puts it in the realm of a phobia, even though some people might say, well, that’s more of an OCD thing,” Vittone said. “It’s really a gray area.”
However, the fear of contamination from hair, Vittone explained, is generally “limited in scope to whatever that specific situation is, and as soon as the person avoids or removes themselves from that situation, it goes away.”
Since you can’t avoid a hair-clogged drain forever, this might be a fear you just have to face more often than others.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.