The term spheksophobia (fear of wasps) is derived from the Greek terms spheco, meaning wasp, and phobos, the Greek god of fear. It is one of the most common phobias in the world, causing the patient to feel discomfort at the presence or perceived presence of wasps.
With spheksophobia, the body gets caught in “fight or flight” mode, which is nature’s means of preparing the body for danger. Spheksophobia is similar to a phobia of bees (apiphobia) in that it can cause immense distress when the patient is outdoors, particularly during the summer months.
One of the most common symptoms of spheksophobia is experiencing a panic attack. When the body enters “fight or flight” mode, an adrenalin rush takes place which can give rise to the following symptoms:
The patient feels like running away from their current location, but most likely remains frozen (either sitting down or standing still)
Many spheksophobics show signs of avoidance behavior. For example, they might refuse to go outdoors on a sunny day if wasps are prevalent in the area. Spheksophobics might also avoid parks, gardens, florists or other places with flowers, trees, and bushes.
Wasps are known to be aggressive creatures and are feared due to their stings. Some people can suffer allergic reactions after being stung, which can cause anaphylactic shock. If left untreated, this can be fatal, and patients who are allergic to stings are advised to carry suitable reversal medication, such as an Epi-Pen. In these circumstances, a rational fear of wasps can be justified.
Wasps tend to attack in swarms, resulting in the victim receiving several stings on the body. Unlike bees, wasps do not leave their stinger behind in the skin. Instead, they can withdraw their sting and use it multiple times. This viciousness combined with an ability to attack multiple times makes wasps one of the most feared small creatures on the planet. Their stings can cause extremely painful burning sensations and leave swelling, redness, and inflammation behind for days.
Given the dangers surrounding wasps, it is only natural for a person who has experienced a wasp sting or witnessed a family member/loved one being stung to develop a lifelong phobia. Parents and caregivers could also play a role in unwittingly instilling a fear of wasps in young children – simple statements along the lines of “don’t play in the garden because there is a wasp’s nest” can cause spheksophobia in later life. Similarly, an adult reacting to the sight of wasps with fear or disdain (for example, screaming if a wasp enters the home) could also have an impact on a child, causing them to develop similar reactions.
TV shows, movies, news reports and other media about wasp stings can also cause spheksophobia. Watching a horror movie where the protagonist is attacked by swarms of wasps, for example, could cause the condition to form. There have been well-documented cases of death by wasps in the mainstream news, and these reports could either trigger an episode of spheksophobia or contribute towards the development of the condition.
There are several treatments available to help alleviate the stress experienced by sufferers of spheksophobia (fear of wasps). These range from complementary therapies to medication. Some healthcare professionals may recommend a combination of different treatments to get the condition under control to a manageable level. The most popular treatments for this condition include:
Hypnotherapy is a tried and tested method for phobia reduction. It involves the patient being induced into a deep state of relaxation, and from here, the hypnotherapist can help the patient to re-evaluate the causes of their phobia.
NLP is a form of psychotherapy which is useful in helping to detect the faulty pattern-matching abilities of the brain which cause the fight-or-flight response. Over time, this can help the patient to successfully overcome the more damaging symptoms of spheksophobia.
Patients with severe spheksophobia may benefit from anti-anxiety or depression medication. Medicines such as fluoxetine are useful in fighting symptoms of anxiety and dread associated with acute phobias and can be effective when used in combination with talking therapies.
Some patients may also benefit from the use of beta blockers. These medicines are designed to combat high blood pressure, but in smaller doses they can be used to control the pounding heart, shaking limbs and increased heart rate experienced by sufferers of spheksophobia.
While some medicines are effective in treating the symptoms of spheksophobia, patients must understand that, to overcome their phobia, medication alone will not be enough. To get to the root of the cause, some form of talking therapy will be required.
CBT is a popular form of therapy which often involves incremental exposure to fears to help rationalize the phobia in the mind of the patient. Under CBT, the patient will experience alternate beliefs about the nature of their fears and bodily sensations while understanding the impact these feelings have upon their life. CBT helps the patient to develop confidence and to control their thoughts as opposed to becoming overwhelmed by them.
The only way to prevent a phobia from having an adverse effect on the life of a patient is professional treatment. Treatments can help manage an entire phobia, or aspects of it, so that the patient no longer feels like a prisoner to their own fears. Some of the most common prevention tactics include placing the patient in a controlled environment (in the case of spheksophobia, placing them near to some wasps in a container, for example) to help them get used to being around the object of their fears.
Prevention of phobias can be quite difficult as each person is different, which means there is no specific root cause of a phobia. However, with therapy and medication, sufferers of spheksophobia can make a sufficient enough recovery to begin enjoying life again without irrationally fearing being stung by wasps to the point where it interferes with work, leisure, personal relationships or education.