Most of us have a slight aversion to creepy crawlies, especially when you find them skulking around where they’ve no business being. The nimble spider is responsible for terrifying huge numbers of adults and children. With eight long, spindly legs, a dark, evil demeanor and the ability to seemingly be anywhere at any time, it’s not surprising!
Some of you reading may already feel your heartbeat increasing, slight nausea and a rising sense of anxiety. Fear not, there won’t be any more descriptions of these fell beasts from here on in and you’re certainly not alone. In fact, in the UK research shows that in excess of 50% of women and 18% of men suffer from a fear of spiders.
Arachnophobia, the specific phobia targetted at arachnids such as spiders and scorpions, takes this fear up a few notches. In some cases, the phobia is so strong that sufferers experience panic attacks or faint, and will go out of their way to avoid anything related to spiders.
CAUSES OF ARACHNOPHOBIA
There are numerous theories as to how the phobia of spiders is developed, backed up by much research. One of the most popular theories is that humanity evolved to fear spiders, who perhaps posed a larger threat in ancient times. Over the years, a healthy ‘disgust reaction’ to the presence of spiders possibly improved chances of survival.
There are a number of studies to back this theory up. When children as young as 3 years old are asked to talk about the things that scare them most, spiders often appear at the top of the list. In 2010 Vanessa LoBue also worked with children, who when showed pictures of spiders and cockroaches, were normally quicker to spot the spiders.
Alternatively, conditioning theories suggest that a fear of spiders is learnt – typically at a young age. This could be a result of a direct, negative experience, such as a bite, or learnt from the people around you. Many sufferers have reported that they have family members who also have a strong fear of spiders. However, twin studies have provided evidence suggesting that the fear of spiders could well be inherited.
SYMPTOMS OF ARACHNOPHOBIA
Not sure if your fear of spiders is just a healthy wariness or something more? The easiest way to check is to ask yourself is your fear rational or irrational.
- It’s HUGE! Ever panicked at the sight of a huge spider only to be told by everyone else that it’s not that big? Spiders can appear larger than they actually are to Arachnophobes.
- It’s touching me! In the same way, they can often seem closer than they actually are.
When you see a spider, or signs of a spider (i.e. cobwebs), or even just a photo in extreme cases, you may suffer the following;
- Increased heart rate
- Hot/cold flushes
- Restricted breathing and chest pain
Fortunately, in this day and age it’s becoming increasingly easier to cure your phobia. By far the most successful method to date is exposure therapy. A single professional session can lead to lasting results. Indeed, sufferers previously unable to even look at a picture, were capable of holding a tarantula some 6 months later.
It’s possible to carry out your own exposure therapy at home if you’re not able to seek professional help. Ask a fearless friend or family member to calmly handle a spider while you watch. Next, try to get closer and closer, until you’re comfortable being in close proximity. The whole time, speak to your partner about what you’re feeling, describing your fears and why you’re feeling this way.
In today’s digital world, there are even apps or audio therapy sessions such as subliminals you can download to help rid you of your phobia.
BENEFITS OF OVERCOMING FEAR OF SPIDERS
Having had a look at what arachnophobia is, how it’s caused and how it can be treated, you’re more likely to understand your fear. And with an understanding of it, you can start to rid yourself of it. Imagine a relaxed, stress free life where you’re free to go where you please without worrying about what may be lurking in a shadowy corner.
By treating arachnophobia, you can say goodbye to sleepless nights of terror, anticipating the erratic movement of a spider on your bed. No more will a brush with a cobweb result in a panic attack that leaves you fighting for breath. Instead, life will be enjoyable, with a thousand new possibilities suddenly open to you. Maybe that trip to Australia isn’t off the cards after all…