Mottephobia (Fear Of Moths)


An extreme and uncontrollable fear of moths is called Mottephobia.

Overview of Mottephobia (fear of moths)

Similar to Lepidopterophobia, or the fear of butterflies, Mottephobia refers specifically to the fear of moths. While this phobia is not as common as Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, it is still relatively popular. This anxiety can refer to the fear of moths in general, or the fluttering and swarming of moths. Unlike spiders, moths are generally harmless. However, to a Mottephobe, they can be frightening and unpredictable.

A Mottophobic individual may become frightened by the sight of a moth, a gathering of moths or the feeling of a moth landing on them. They may experience anxiety symptoms like sweating, crying and panic attacks. Even the thought of moths might terrify them, and they will go to great lengths to avoid moths in their day-to-day lives.

Like most phobias, Mottephobia is involuntary and cannot be controlled. The origin of phobias can vary from person to person, depending on their experiences and background. While some phobias can be caused by traumatic events, others can inexplicably arise later in life. Some treatments can be used to lessen someone’s anxiety of moths, but most phobias are chronic and last their entire lives. However, with proper treatment and anxiety training, a Mottephobe can lead a life free from extreme fear.

Nothing can be done to prevent a moth phobia. Exposure to moths and proper education can reduce the likelihood of Mottephobia, but anyone can develop a fear of moths.

Symptoms of Mottephobia (fear of moths)

Anxiety and phobic symptoms can vary depending on the person. Where someone may only experience mild symptoms, another may have an extreme reaction to their phobias. While this list is not exhaustive, someone with Mottephobia might exhibit these symptoms:

  • Upset when encountering a moth.
  • Heightened heartbeat and breathing.
  • Avoidance of moths or moth-heavy areas.
  • Anxiety regarding moths, even in videos and photographs.
  • Sweating, crying and other panic reactions.
  • Watching moths with scrutiny when they are present.
  • Paranoia that a moth is going to land on you.

The nature and severity of these symptoms might change depending on the person’s fear of moths, how scared they are at the moment and whether or not a moth is present. It is important to remember that not every person is vocal about their fear. Some people may stifle their reactions to avoid mockery. If you know someone who looks nervous when moths are present, they may have Mottephobia. Sufferers of Mottephobia may have a hard time going out at night because of their fear. They may fear butterflies as well, and go to great lengths to avoid both. Take their fear seriously, and do not mock or tease them. While a moth may seem completely harmless to you, they have an irrational fear that cannot be controlled.

Causes of Mottephobia

Like most phobias, Mottephobia may be rooted in a number of things. The person may have had a traumatic experience involving moths, or may just have an unpleasant memory linked to them. The movement and appearance of moths might trigger anxiety symptoms in them, causing them to feel nauseated or anxious. They may feel nervous about the moths landing on them, and imagine how their wings would feel against their skin. Different people have different reasons for fearing moths.

Here are a few common reasons that moths scare and unnerve Mottephobes.

Fluttering. Moths and butterflies fly by fluttering their thin wings, an action that makes their movement unsteady and unpredictable. They may bump into things, including humans. Someone with Mottephobia may experience paranoia about the moth landing on them. The fluttering of their wings against their skin may make them feel nauseous, and they may feel anxiety regarding them. When a moth is in the room, they may watch it closely to make sure it doesn’t come close. Even the sound or sight of the moth’s fluttering wings can trigger a panic attack, they may try to leave the room to avoid the moth.

Swarming. When they find food or begin to migrate, moths and butterflies might swarm. Other swarming insects include bees and locusts, which the person may also have a phobia of. Swarms of butterflies or moths are a Mottephobe’s worst nightmare. The behavior of the insects while swarming might make them intensely anxious, mostly due to the abnormality of it. Humans do not swarm, so seeing insect swarms might unsettle a Mottephobe. They may also fear the lack of control they have over the situation, as they cannot control all the moths.

Trauma. It’s important to remember that trauma doesn’t just mean serious, extreme incidents. Even a vague memory of a moth landing on them as a child can trigger a phobia. If the person had a moth land on them while they didn’t want it, this may trigger a fear of moths. People want to have control over their own bodies, and a moth fluttering over their skin can make the situation feel scary and out-of-control. Some people’s trauma may lie elsewhere. They may have a traumatic memory where moths were present, hence the phobia. Their mind focuses on a background detail to feel afraid of, instead of the actual trauma.

Treatments for Mottephobia

The first step to receiving help for a phobia is admitting you have the phobia. People with Mottephobia may have a hard time admitting that they have it. They might feel ashamed or embarrassed that they have such a condition. Reassure them that their fears are valid, and encourage them to seek help. Phobias aren’t something you can control or get rid of, it’s important to control your anxiety. If left untreated, a Mottephobe may have a hard time going outside at night, on the off-chance they may encounter moths.

With proper treatment, people with Mottephobia can control their anxiety and overcome their fear. While this might not ‘cure’ the phobia, they might have an easier time dealing with it. They can learn important coping mechanisms to deal with their phobia, and they can talk about it in a judgment-free, safe place.

Here are a few of the treatments for Mottephobia:

  • Thought training. By controlling their thoughts, people with Mottephobia can stop their anxiety from taking root. When they start having anxious thoughts about moths, they can sort through them and prevent themselves from having a panic attack.
  • Positivity training. Patients are encouraged to find nice things about moths. Their pretty wings, how harmless they are, etc. They may be encouraged to draw or paint them, or talk to people who like moths. By associating moths with good things, they can desensitize themselves and overcome their fear.
  • Exposure therapy. While this treatment should be left until last, it is a good way to desensitize the person against moths. By exposing them to moths in controlled, safe environments, they can overcome their fear. This may involve looking at moths, watching videos of moths or VR simulations of moths.
  • Talk therapy. The patient is encouraged to talk about their experiences with moths, and how these experiences may have affected them. This gives them time to vent about their phobia in a safe space, and they can feel validated and reassured. They might be able to find the root of their phobia and gain closure, thus alleviating their fear.
  • Anxiety management. Coping methods can be learned to deal with fear. With breathing exercises and thought training, someone can deal with their fear in a productive way. When a moth is present, the person can use these coping methods to prevent a panic attack.

Prevention of Mottephobia

Phobias are largely unpredictable, making them hard to prevent. Children may develop Mottephobia early in their life, and overcome it as they grow older. A grown man or woman may experience a fear of moths as they grow older. Some phobias may occur after traumatic events. Because of the nature of phobias, it’s impossible to truly prevent them.

If you think someone you know has Mottephobia, do not needlessly expose them to moths. This may upset or scare them, you should always respect people’s fears. Phobias are uncontrollable, so they cannot help how scared they are. While you cannot prevent or ‘cure’ phobias, some fear is caused by ignorance. Educating people on how harmless moths are can prevent them from feeling afraid. This usually keeps young children from developing a fear of moths, because they grow up knowing that they’re safe around them.

Last Reviewed:
June 23, 2018
Last Updated:
June 21, 2018