We all know the classic image of the elephant being terrorized by a mouse. But elephants aren’t the only ones who fear mice and other rodents, such as rats.
Most people are uneasy around rodents, and for good reason. Commonly associated with carrying and spreading disease, they are creatures to avoid at all cost. They’re also fast, nimble and small enough to crawl up your leg. Not a nice thought.
Musophobia, derived from the Latin word Mus meaning rat, and the Ancient Greek Phobos, meaning fear, is a fairly common phobia, affecting hundreds of thousands of people across the globe. Far more than a healthy wariness, however, Musophobes suffer spine tingling terror, often just at the mere mention of a rodent.
CAUSES OF MUSOPHOBIA
Musophobia is typically the result of a traumatic experience, normally early in life, but on occasion it can develop later. It only takes a rodent to scuttle across the room in front of you to cause shock and alarm, especially as a child. However, a bite from a pet mouse or having a rodent touch you while taking out the rubbish can also cause Musophobia to develop.
The possible scenarios are endless, but don’t necessarily need to involve the sufferer directly. A witnessed event, such as your parents panicking at the sight of a mouse in the house can be distressing. Feelings of fear, unease and anxiety at the abnormal way your parents are behaving, can stick in a young mind, and the mouse will always be the cause.
If no such trauma was suffered, the fear of mice and rats could very well be learned unconsciously. Again, this can occur in numerous ways, from overly protective parents, to negative depictions in cartoons and stories.
Even on a conscious level, we are taught that rodents are to be avoided. We all quickly learn that they are dirty creatures that dwell in sewers and spread disease. An intense fear of mice and rats may also be linked to a phobia of disease in general.
SYMPTOMS OF MUSOPHOBIA
The portrayal of Musophobia in cartoons is pretty accurate, with many sufferers seeking to avoid contact by any means possible.
- Severe anxiety attacks when confronted with a rodent. This can involve increased heartbeat, screaming, crying, running away, being frozen to the spot, hot or cold flushes, sweating, dizziness, nausea and even fainting.
- Panic attacks when seeing a picture or movie, or even thinking about a rodent.
- Avoiding any possible encounter with rats. This may include avoiding urban areas, underground transport systems or taking out the rubbish. In more severe cases, sufferers may fear leaving the house at all.
Fortunately, Musophobia can be cured for life using a variety of techniques. As with many other animal related specific phobias, Exposure Therapy, otherwise known as gradual desensitization therapy, can produce fairly fast and effective results.
In a controlled environment, the patient is gradually exposed to images of a rat, while describing their feelings. Relaxation techniques are practiced, and as the patient improves, a caged rat is introduced to the room. Eventually, the patient will be encouraged to touch, and even hold it.
Using a combination of exposure therapy and Hypnotherapy, more extreme cases can be cured. So, if you cannot contemplate even thinking about rodents, a trained hypnotherapist will help your mind cope with the idea more positively.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming exercises can also be used to train your brain to react to rodents in a more positive way. The ‘faulty’ fear reaction is unlearnt, and replaced by a relaxed and controlled reaction to rodents.
By seeking the help of a professional therapist, with experience of dealing with phobias, the road to recovery is fairly rapid. Of course, you can also seek self-help, in the form of CDs and audio downloads to be listened to in the comfort of your home. Using hypnosis and Subliminal Messaging you can begin to change your way of thinking. Positive Affirmations can also be used to reduce anxiety and stress.
Less severe cases of Musophobia can benefit from doing a little research on rodents. When you discover that there really is very little risk of dangerous diseases to be caught from them, you may feel your fear drifting away.
BENEFITS OF OVERCOMING FEAR OF MICE AND RODENTS
A life lived in fear is no life at all, and in the case of Musophobia, you may never feel entirely at ease. This can lead to more severe problems in your personal and working life.
By overcoming your fear and being more relaxed, life can be enjoyed, and lived to the full. Severe Musophobes who may have avoided urban areas will find new worlds to explore, and increased opportunities to find work, friendship or even love.