Phobias are irrational fears of specific things. The fear of animals, and more specifically spiders (arachnophobia), is one of the most common. This evolutionary reaction helped man to survive as a species at some point.
In other words, the fear of wild or unknown creatures released enough adrenaline for man to escape. However, a phobia develops when the fear is extreme, and becomes limiting for one’s life.
About three out of ten people are extremely afraid of spiders (arachnida). However, this type of phobia includes not only spiders but also scorpions, mites and ticks. So while most people are afraid of large, robust spiders, the fear can extend to or be focused on smaller spiders or any other type of spiders.
Animal phobias are specific, simple phobias that usually develop in childhood or adolescence. They consist of irrational fear, either because of the nature of the phobia or the intensity of the fear, which causes a person to avoid a certain thing as much as possible. The symptoms manifest themselves in many different ways.
Some people only experience symptoms when faced with a spider, while others may experience them at any time. In fact, it is not necessary for the phobic stimulus to be present. Just the mental image of it or even something related to it will trigger a fear response.
These are some of the main symptoms of arachnophobia:
- High heart rate.
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation.
- Abdominal pains.
- General discomfort.
- Gastrointestinal disorders.
In addition, people with arachnophobia will try to avoid these animals at all costs. They will probably try to stay away from areas where there are spiders or where there are signs of their presence. Similarly, many try to avoid looking at them while others kill them as soon as they see one.
In general, animal phobias are due to traumatic experiences with the given animal. Perhaps a child grows up with someone who has this phobia, thus learning implicitly or explicitly to fear these animals. This type of fear is also often genetically transmitted.
In fact, arachnophobia is an irrational fear of these kinds of animals or a pure inner rejection of them. The component of disgust that characterizes arachnophobia has led experts to believe that it may be an evolutionary fear. A kind of benefit that helped humans survive deadly bites and other unknown dangers.
Therefore, a study by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig (Germany) has established that arachnophobia has an innate evolutionary origin.
The researchers measured babies’ anxiety while viewing images of spiders and snakes. To do this, they analyzed how much the babies’ pupils dilated, and it told them that they showed signs of anxiety when they saw pictures of various animals and things, including spiders.
Is there a cure?
All phobias can be treated successfully. You can get professional help and learn some relaxation techniques that can both relieve symptoms and be helpful in systematic desensitization.
This technique consists of gradually exposing the object you fear. That is, professionals perform relaxation exercises while showing you pictures of spiders until you are able to remain calm when you see the live animal.
You can also work on your beliefs about spiders. In general, lack of knowledge reinforces the fear of these animals. So learn what you can about them, and especially about the myths that surround them.
It is a good exercise to gather information about the likelihood of being bitten, what function it has in nature, and how many people have actually died from it.
However, due to the disgust involved, arachnophobia is one of the most difficult animal phobias to treat. This feeling is quite instinctive and people cannot reason around it. Nevertheless, psychological work can help the person with their symptoms and negative thoughts.