Arachnophobia (Fear Of Spiders)

If you suffer from an unexplained feeling of fear whenever you see spiders or you are unnecessarily frightened of spiders, then you may suffer from Arachnophobia (fear of spiders). Don’t worry, this is more common than you think and there are a variety of different treatment options available.

Overview

Arachnophobia, otherwise known as the fear of spiders is the most common and oldest phobia in the Western culture. The word arachnophobia is from the Greek word of ‘arachne’ which means spiders. The frightened response to spiders which is shown by a person suffering from arachnophobia may seem like an irrational fear to the person themselves and others surrounding them.

There appears to be different levels of fears. Some people’s fear of spiders may reach the extent that the person will avoid any activity or place where they anticipate a spider may appear. In severe cases of arachnophobia, some people may not even be able to look at a picture of a spider. If someone has seen a spider reappearing at home or a workplace, that person may actually avoid that area altogether.

How Common is Arachnophobia?

Arachnophobia has been ranked as the 3rd worst phobia that individuals suffer from and it’s quite common. Around 3.5% – 6% of the world’s population is likely to have some degree of arachnophobia. In the USA, just over 30% of the population suffer from arachnophobia. Within those who suffer from arachnophobia, women are the higher number. Studies have shown that 2% among those seek expert help for treatment.

Symptoms

There are a variety of different symptoms associated with this condition and there are different severity levels too. The symptoms that may commonly occur with people having arachnophobia include:

  • Constant and unexplained fear of spiders (this could be so extreme that even the thought of seeing a spider could provoke panic in an individual).
  • An irrelevant alertness when it comes to spiders. The individual may become obsessed with checking if there are spiders before entering a room or going anywhere in general.
  • Complete avoidance of locations where spiders could be commonly sighted such as museums, caves, forests or old buildings.
  • Avoidance of any activity where an individual can anticipate to find spiders such as camping or hiking.
  • The avoidance of a previous place where any incident with spiders may have occurred. In severe cases, the person may avoid home.
  • Panic attacks can often be accompanied by physical symptoms of fainting, dizziness and trembling, abdominal pain, sweating, nausea and vomiting, and increased heartbeat.

These symptoms may occur individually or be experienced in combination with one another.

Causes

There are a variety of different viewpoints and theories which aim to explain how arachnophobia is caused. Some of the most common and strong causes for arachnophobia are:

Evolutionary factors

Experts have associated the development of arachnophobia with evolutionary happenings in most people. This is due to the large presence of dangerous and venomous spiders since the beginning of time which has led to the evolution of arachnophobia in individuals. It has been said that our ancestors have used the fear as a method of survival against those spiders which were considered harmful. This evolutionary factor may have been passed down as a trait since those early times.

Cultural factors

A fear of spiders can also be associated with cultural beliefs. In some cultures, its believed that the spider is extremely dangerous and harmful, such as in Africa. This can contribute to the development of arachnophobia in people.

Traumatic Experience

Any traumatic situation that has involved spiders, such as a spider bite, or even a scary movie involving spiders, may also lead to the development of arachnophobia. The phobia can also appear if the person witnesses someone else experiencing or getting harmed by spiders, such as on TV.

Personal Experience

The fear of spiders often originates and occurs during childhood. A study conducted in the 1990s found that 46% of children admitted that they have always been frightened of spiders, and 40% said that the reason they were afraid of spiders was a result of their first interaction with them.

Suddenness

Some scientists have suggested that suddenness may play a large role in the occurrence of anxiety related phobia disorders when a person meets a spider unexpectedly. Quite often, this insect may appear right before your eyes and descend rapidly on the web. It’s this unexpected meeting that can result in a state of shock. The reason for anxiety is the fact that its behavior cannot be predicated, coupled with its rapid movement.

Chemical imbalance

As with all anxiety disorders and phobias, it has been suggested that a fear of spiders could be associated with an imbalance in brain chemicals.

When to Visit a Doctor?

If you have been suffering from the symptoms listed above for longer than a six month period, to the severity that your daily life is disrupted, then it’s best to seek advice from a doctor for help and assistance. However, if you’re fearful about spiders but the fear has not created any kind of disturbance in your daily life, then you do not need to visit a doctor. In this case, you can try some “home” treatments, including applications and websites online that can help teach you simple techniques to reduce your fear of spiders.

How is Arachnophobia Treated?

There are a variety of different treatments available for severe arachnophobia. Some treatments that are effective in controlling arachnophobia in people are:

System Desensitization

This is one of the most effective and common treatment therapies used for controlling any fear in a person, so therefore it works well for a fear of spiders. The therapist assesses the levels of fear of spiders within a person and teaches them different techniques to help them relax, such as meditation, breathing control and muscle control. Then the person is exposed to imaginations of spiders and taught to use these relaxation techniques in that scenario. The aim of this treatment is to bring about a reduction in fear and panic each time that person is confronted with a situation that involves spiders. Over time, this treatment is effective in reducing a fear of spiders in an individual.

Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT goes hand in hand with system desensitization. An individual receives effective counseling sessions with a therapist whose aim would be to find the roots of the fear of spiders and make them aware of the situation. By finding the root of the cause, the aim of CBT is to modify the negative images and thoughts associated with spiders and change them into more tolerable and positive images.

Medications

Medications can be effective for a variety of different phobias including arachnophobia, provided they are used alongside other therapies such as CBT. Anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications are generally used to control the symptoms depending on the severity of the phobia.

Virtual reality therapy

Some newer research has shown that virtual reality therapy can help individuals overcome their fear of spiders. This works by exposing the person to the phobia via a virtual representation of spiders.

Prevention

There is not one technique that can help prevent a phobia of spiders. It’s often a reaction to a bad experience and we can’t always avoid fearful situations.

It’s important not to trivialize or underestimate the impact a phobia can have on someone’s life. Phobias cause people to change how they live in order to avoid the object of their fear, in this case, spiders. But their life can also be affected by their attempts to conceal the phobia from others. Some people with phobias have problems with family and friends, fail in school, lose jobs or homes whilst struggling to cope. It’s therefore important that if you feel like you suffer from an extreme and irrational fear of spiders and it’s impacting your daily life that you seek professional help. The great news is that treatment helps 90% of people who follow through.