Entomophobia (Fear Of Bugs And Insects)

While it is normal for human beings to have a natural sense of repulsion to bugs and insects, Entomophobia is the persistent and unreasonable fear of insects whether or not they are present.

What is Entomophobia?

Entomophobia (fear of bugs and insects) is one of the most commonly experienced specific phobias. It is characterized by a marked and persistent fear of the presence of insects. This may be simply triggered by the presence of insects or be a marked paranoia of insects that are not actually in proximity to the patient. While it is normal for people to fear insects, especially biting or stinging varieties, Entomophobia is not only an abnormal amount of fear but it persists even if the patient logically knows that there is nothing to fear. This disorder is closely linked to a fear of spiders (arachnophobia) or other tiny creatures and could be co-experienced. Those who are suffering from this specific phobia may go to great lengths to avoid insects, including a profound reluctance to go outside or refusing to enter dark places where there may be insects. Just the idea that insects may be in the area can cause someone who has this disorder profound distress.

What are the Symptoms of Entomophobia?

Entomophobia is a complex, although common, specific phobia that has a wide variety of indications in addition to the fear of insects. An entomophobic person may constantly complain that they are being bitten by insects whether or not this is actually happening. In behavior, they will demonstrate a constant succession of escalating efforts to avoid insects both real and perceived. This can include excessive cleaning or unneeded fumigation efforts to rid the home of insects. Social isolation, to include a reluctance to go outdoors, can profoundly affect the lives of those in the grip of this affliction. Lack of physical activity can lead to morbid obesity and other health problems that require frequent visits to doctors. Some extreme cases have seen certain degrees of self-mutilation such as scratching the skin raw or even self-cutting because of a belief that insects are infesting their bodies. The reaction to insects, even ones who are harmless pests, can be extreme.

The patient may hold false beliefs about harmless bugs, including that they can lay eggs in the body and conduct internet searches and other research in an effort to validate these beliefs. When affected by the phobia, patients may demonstrate certain physical symptoms consistent with other phobias including nausea and vomiting, uncontrollable trembling, throbbing headaches and crying or screaming at the sight of insects.

Entomophobia Causes

Entomophobia develops in much the same way as other phobias and can persist for a significantly long period of time. One of the most common causes of this specific phobia is childhood trauma, although a genetic predisposition towards anxiety and panic disorders is also a possibility. Although the large majority of insects do not pose any danger to human beings, it is normal for most people to have a sense of disgust or apprehension associated with them. For those with Entomophobia, this natural instinct is extremely heightened. It may also be a learned behavior, as parents who are afraid of insects will be overprotective of children and teach them that there is something to fear and the children adapt accordingly. This childhood fear can carry on deep into adulthood. The amount of trauma necessary to develop Entomophobia varies and can include being scared by an insect as an infant or even being stung by a bee. Fear of stinging insects can be magnified a great deal for individuals who are allergic to bee stings.

How is Entomophobia Treated?

The treatment of phobias usually starts with psychotherapy or counselling and is a complicated effort to redefine the relationship that a patient has with the stimuli that are eliciting a fearful response. The goal is not to make the patient unafraid of insects so much as it is building coping skills to help them regain full function in their lives. During the course of therapy, many different techniques may be employed to help the patient overcome their fear of insects. At the beginning of a treatment plan, the therapy may focus on the patients’ earliest memories of insects in an effort to discover the root of the fear that has grown beyond control. Once this is determined, the most common method of treating a phobia is known as exposure therapy. This is a systemic desensitization by way of gradually introducing the patient to the source of their phobia in order to gradually reduce the intensity of their reaction to it. This is done in a controlled environment, although patients are free to make attempts to approach insects on their own as they grow more confident. This may be accompanied by other life skills instruction or even pharmaceutical treatment. Sedatives and beta blockers are often employed in the short-term during initial therapy but are not considered a permanent solution.

Other therapies which may be employed to help patients deal with a fear of insects include:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Intensive psychotherapy
Mindfulness and medication
Relaxation techniques
Practical exercises

Entomophobia Prevention

Although there are many steps that may be taken to prevent Entomophobia, it may not be strictly preventable. One of the most effective ways to prevent this specific phobia is early childhood introduction to insects and education about what insects are harmful and which ones pose no threat. Introducing them to children as gentle little creatures rather than malevolent things to fear will help children to be more welcoming of their presence, or at least see them as gross instead of terrifying. The exact combination of terror and trauma that leads to Entomophobia is different for every individual patient, but it is best addressed early when avoidance behaviors begin and before more extreme behavior develops. Many of the therapeutic steps taken to help patients in the grip of full-blown Entomophobia can also be applicable to preventative medicine and helping young children to deal with the normal childhood fear of bugs before they spiral out of control.