Arachnophobia is one of the most wide-spread phobias and it’s also one of the most natural phobias. But sometimes the natural hazard prevention mechanism in our brain works in extreme way. “In this world, there is always the danger for those who are afraid of it.” George Bernard Shaw
According to the list of phobias represented by the American Psychological Association, the fear of spiders takes place among top ten phobias that have the most severe manifestations. Arachnophobia (ἀράχνη – spider, φόβος – fear) refers to particular cases of zoophobia. According to surveys conducted in the United States, 50% of women and 10% men experience the fear of spiders. According to statistics, the fear of arachnids is more prevalent than the fear of snakes and fear of dogs.
Arachnophobia is inexplicable and unreasonable fear of spiders and insects of the arachnid family (for example, opiliones and scorpions).
As a rule, people who suffer from arachnophobia experience anxiety when not only looking at spiders but also when looking at dead insects, spider’s web, pictures and photos of spiders. People with arachnophobia avoid watching films about spiders. They suffer from panic attacks when hearing the conversations about them.
What causes arachnophobia?
The research conducted by Dr. R.G. Menzies and M.K. Jones, deny pre-existing psychiatric postulate that a person is aware what causes his fears. They found that individuals with arachnophobia do not understand the reason for their fears not only when looking at the object of fear but also when there are no spiders.
Fear of spiders occurs during childhood. A study conducted in 1996 in the Netherlands had shown that 46% of children (5 -10 years old) admitted that they were always afraid of spiders, and 41% reported that the reason for the fear was the meeting with these insects. Parents confirmed. These facts doubt the non-associative nature of arachnophobia and allow us to study the version of the occurrence of fear from other angles.
Genetic predisposition is inherited from our ancestors survival instinct which can be transformed into a tendency to pathological anxiety.
Hereditary factor and innate feature of the nervous system
Individuals with a weak nervous system are more prone to the development of anxiety and phobic disorders. Data published by the American Psychiatric Association confirms that if even one parent has the obsessive manifestation of fear, then the future offspring has a risk to “obtain” a particular phobia.
Wrong nurture in childhood
Almost in all situations, children are guided by the behavior and response of their loved ones – parents. If someone suffers from arachnophobia, considers that spiders are dangerous and tries avoiding them, the child will react in a similar way. According to the observations, children with parents who fear the arachnids experience increased heart rate and blood pressure. Such feelings, later on, may cause anxiety and phobic disorders.
Some scientists suggest that suddenness plays a significant role in the occurrence of anxiety-phobic disorders when a person unexpectedly meets a spider. Quite often, this insect may appear right before your eyes and rapidly descend on the web. This unexpected meeting leads to a state of shock. The reason for anxiety is the rapid movement of the insect and its behavior that can not be predicted.
Special behavioral model
Since arachnophobia is most common in certain regions, some scientists suggest that the disorder is a special behavioral model that occurs in residents of areas with a high population of spiders.
How to recognize that I have arachnophobia
Fear of spiders is a phobia, which often hides under the guise of disgust, disdain, and hatred. Symptoms can develop over many years and decades. The problem is that a panic attack can begin suddenly at any time. A simple image of a spider may cause it. This panic is a danger to human life and health. When a person loses control over his mental reactions, disorders of the autonomic nervous system may occur. There are cases of stroke and myocardial infarction because of a panic attack. These factors are spiders, mites, cockroaches and other insects, with which a person suffering from a phobia faces more often.
Symptoms of arachnophobia:
- the feeling of fear, which the person is unable to suppress;
- retardation of action appears or vice versa, the desire to escape in any direction;
- pale skin;
- increased heart rate;
- the feeling of unreality;
- the desire to kill the insect;
- panic attack, sweating, limb tremors.
As a rule, medications for arachnophobia are rarely used. Generally, therapy is aimed at relief of panic attacks. However, sometimes meds are used such as tranquilizers (Phenazepam), nootropics, antidepressants (Imipramine).
Methods of confrontational therapy are rather effective in treatment. The essence of this technique: the direct “dialogue” with the object of fear. The first stage includes eye contact, then touching the insects.
A virtual “battle” with the spiders is another effective method. Psychologists use special computer technology where the person with arachnophobia “deals” with the spiders. American researchers use computer games that involve the destruction of insects. (So, if you want to overcome your fear – play «Minecraft» !!!).
Here are exercises that help you to get rid of fear.
Exercise №1: Make your fear “alien”
Psychologists try to offer several ways to insulate oneself (dissociation) from occurring situations or perceived events. All these methods are based on the effect of isolating oneself from the object of fear, reducing the importance of disturbing objects. There is no doubt that an enormous spider, located in an abandoned country hut, is not as terrible as this insect is hanging from the ceiling of your kitchen over your head. A feature of our imagination is known: to bring a frightening object closer and make it much larger. The same, using our imagination, can be done in the opposite way: remove “a huge spider” as far as possible and make it small.
Basic ways of dissociating when arachnophobia following:
Step 1. Alter the scale of events
The first method of dissociation involves a change of the scale of events. First, imagine how an insect will look like from the next room and “turn” into a spider. Then imagine how it looks if you look at it through the window from the street. And how do you see this spider looking at it through a telescope from the surface of the moon? Surely, it will be a barely noticeable, small insect. Thus, you gradually make the huge object insignificant.
Step 2. Change the time of events
The second method of dissociation is based on the change in time. As soon as you begin to experience a panic attack while thinking about a spider, try to feel what sensations you will experience a day after a panic attack. You do know that it will not be so scary! Now imagine what you will feel in a month. It is unlikely that you will remember how your heart wanted to break out of your chest. And after a year? Definitely, with all your desire, you will not be able to recreate the old symptoms of arachnophobia.
Step 3. Change “submodality”
The third method is based on the change in the characteristics of human perception of the surrounding world. Imagine a situation in black-and-white colors that scares you. Fix this image and gradually change the size and brightness of characters involved. Imagine a huge spider sitting on a bright multi-colored carpet. Imagine that a spider becomes smaller and its color gets faded. As a result, in your imagination, it becomes one of million fibers of your bright carpet.
Exercise №2: Kill your “spider”
It is a simple exercise that helps to deal with arachnophobia and gives a great result. If you have courage – do it on your own, if you are worried for your well-being – together with a psychologist.
Step 1. Make a polymer clay spider. The size and the color of an insect should be the same as in your imagination.
Step 2. Within five minutes, closely study your “monster”, remember all the negative thoughts, emotions, sensations that you experience during a panic attack.
Step 3. Transfer your feelings to the figure. Unite the object of fear and your feelings.
Step 4. Realize that you were afraid of a small insect and do as a hunter. Say, “Here you are” and boldly kill useless prey.
Information to think about: Representatives of some uncivilized folks are not familiar with arachnophobia because the spiders for them is an everyday food, special “delicacy”.