Arachnophobia, the irrational fear of spiders

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4 years ago

Arachnophobia causes very annoying symptoms to those who suffer from it and can even limit their lives. Currently, there are treatments that have been shown to be effective in remedying this problem, such as exposure therapy.

Arachnophobia is one of the most common fears in humans. This is striking when you consider that spiders are one of the animals that make a presence in most homes on a daily basis. Still, many people fear them.

Despite the fact that dangerous spider species are very rare, for those who suffer from arachnophobia, all these animals are cause for apprehension. Obviously, it is not a rational fear, since these insects almost never generate risk.

In some people, arachnophobia reaches such an extreme that they can experience panic just by thinking about these animals. Others do not reach that degree of fear, but their quality of life is limited by the presence of these insects. Why does this happen? Is there a way to fix it?

What is arachnophobia?

As many know, arachnophobia is an irrational fear of spiders. Phobia is defined as a disorder characterized by extreme fear of a specific object or situation. Due to its intensity, it goes beyond normal fear and, in some cases, significantly limits a person's life.

Phobias are estimated to be the most common mental disorder in women and the second most prevalent among men over the age of 25. The irrationality of this fear is in the disproportion between the object or situation that is feared and the level of threat that they represent.

The interesting causes of this phobia

The general opinion among scientists is that arachnophobia is established in childhood and that it is a learned fear, based on threats or inappropriate behavior by adults. Sigmund Freud, for his part, considered all phobias to be an unconscious displacement; that is, the child's real fear is transferred to a harmless object because it rejects the existence of primordial fear.

Recently, an interesting theory has come up around the fear of spiders. It was developed by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive Sciences and the Brain in Leipzig - Germany - and published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

According to these scientists, fear of spiders is genetic and is passed down from generation to generation. To test this theory, the researchers took a group of babies and presented them with various images. The objective was to measure the level of anxiety that each image caused them, through the dilation of the pupils.

The result was that babies showed increased signs of anxiety when presented with pictures of snakes or spiders. Instead, the fish and flowers calmed them. It is believed that if a negative experience with these animals is added to this natural repulsion, arachnophobia is generated.

Manifestations of arachnophobia

The symptoms of arachnophobia are similar to those of other phobias. They include, among others:

  • Jerking of the heart and / or elevation of the heart rate.

  • Palpitations and sweating.

  • Tremors and tightness in the chest.

  • Nausea, dizziness, and fainting.

  • Feeling of suffocation and unreality.

  • Chills or suffocation.

  • Hectic breathing and temporary paralysis.

  • Fear of losing control or dying.

Solution routes

Everything indicates that the most effective treatment to overcome this irrational fear of spiders is exposure therapy. To carry out this therapy the help of a psychologist is needed. The first thing it does is to develop a subjective anxiety scale; This is a measure that allows establishing the degree of the phobia.

Typically, the psychologist requests that the patient rate the level of anxiety caused by various situations, from 1 to 100. The situations that are investigated are as follows:

  • Read the word spider in a book.

  • Talk to someone about spiders.

  • See a spider in a movie.

  • Go for a walk in the fields.

  • Know that there is a spider nearby.

  • See a spider from afar.

  • See a spider a meter from us.

  • Hold a spider in your hand.

Based on the score of each situation, an exposure to fear begins, first virtually. The goal is for the person to tolerate fear, until it disappears. Then, the same will be done, but with real exposure and the same result will be sought.

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4 years ago


In Nigeria, people see spider as a diabolical insect whose cobwebs mean some spiritual interpretations in term of bad luck, especially when it intercepts someone's path.

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