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What Is a Fear of Saliva?

By Synthia L. Rose
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Fear of saliva is a contamination obsession experienced by people with obsession-compulsive disorder (OCD), a disorder where people are plagued with dominant, unceasing thoughts about miscellaneous and often benign targets of their hyper-focus. Such people may fear not just their own saliva but the saliva from other people and pets. Usually having more than simply the isolated fear of saliva, contamination-obsessed people frequently have phobias of all bodily fluids and waste products, including feces, blood, urine, and other excretions. Saliva phobia includes the fear of substances that have saliva residue, such as discarded chewing gum or chewed pencils.

A person with OCD may spend an overwhelming amount of time reflecting on saliva, analyzing its look and feel as well as checking for excess saliva in the mouth and on objects. People with a fear of saliva may also devote excess attention to planning rituals and strategies to manage and rid the mouth and environment of saliva. Such routines may include scheduled spitting or elaborate oral rinses as well as perpetual cleansing or discarding of items that have touched saliva, including eating utensils. Those suffering from anxiety about saliva often avoid licking stamps and handling things that have been inside the mouths of others, including pencils or thermometers; they also avoid being near others’ utensils, mouthpieces or pillowcases. For many with saliva phobia, this obsessive behavior is uncontrollable without mediation and psychological counseling.

Psychological studies suggest people with OCD may develop a fear of saliva due to concerns over bacteria in the milky substance secreted by salivary glands. Contamination obsessions often arise from a heightened desire to avoid germs and diseases. Many sufferers of this fear often believe that they can become severely ill from saliva, while others do not speculate on the consequences of being exposed to saliva but simply on the saliva’s presence and physical qualities. Far beyond a simple annoyance, anxiety about saliva for people with obsessive-compulsive disorder may lead to panic attacks, emotional trauma, a reduced ability to interact with others and a complete disruption of daily living.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common treatment for the fear of saliva. It includes reducing the frequency of rituals and learning ways to manage stress related to avoiding those rituals. During treatment, therapists practicing CBT often have patients face their fear of saliva by recording audio or written notes of their persistent contemplations on saliva. Prescription medications may also be used to mitigate anxiety.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1005177 — On Jul 05, 2021

Fear of saliva/spit Is called "queunliskanphobia."

By anon350056 — On Oct 01, 2013

I have a slight fear of saliva. It feels more like an extreme disgust than a fear. The sound, sight, or thought of saliva makes me gag. My siblings used to rub spit on my face and watch me frantically rub my face in the carpet to get it off.

This article says that it is a fear of contamination or germs. I don't know if that is why I dislike saliva. I just know that the texture and the sound really disgust me, like the way people respond to nails on a chalkboard.

Some people in the comments have asked how it affects one's life. Well, I dislike mint and gum. I'm not afraid to chew gum, but I don't enjoy it. When I brush my teeth, I find it very difficult to brush my tongue without getting queasy. Instead of spitting at the end, I fill my mouth with water and then spit. I find it comforting to dilute the spit with water. If someone else uses my toothbrush, I will consider throwing it away, and then maybe use Listerine on it instead. It took me a while to get comfortable with kissing, but I am comfortable with it now. I don't like eating foods that you bite into, like apples. The idea of biting something that already has spit on it makes me uncomfortable. However, I am fine with drinking from a water bottle.

By burcinc — On Mar 03, 2013

I know someone who is afraid of his saliva and sweat. He constantly spits into a tissue and wipes his body. He avoids drinking water because he thinks that it increases his saliva. He showers several times a day and also changes his clothes each time because he thinks there is sweat on it.

By SarahGen — On Mar 02, 2013

@ankara-- Yes, queunliskanphobia (saliva phobia) can be very debilitating for social and personal life. It's a problem because it makes the person very conscious about themselves, their mouth and their saliva. They try to avoid swallowing or might have the feeling that they will choke on their saliva. It also leads to other phobias associated with this condition.

People who have this phobia are also scared of intimacy, especially kissing since it involves saliva. Babies can be scary for them because babies drool a lot. Fear of saliva can also lead to fear of contamination where people try to avoid touching any object thinking that they will get germs from it.

No phobia is easy but in my opinion, this is one of the most difficult ones out there. I don't think it's very common but if someone has it, they need to be treated for it right away, before it literally takes over their life.

By bluedolphin — On Mar 02, 2013

This sounds like a very difficult disorder to live with. Are people who fear saliva able to have healthy sexual relationships? Are they able to care for children?

I think it must be impossible. My daughter is teething right now and puts everything in her mouth. There's saliva on all her toys!

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