Fear of Spiders – Arachnophobia
Did you know that about 50% of women and from 10 to 25% of men have a fear of spiders? That’s a lot of people frightened of them. In my search for information on arachnophobia, I also learnt that there are 63,000 species of spiders and only 7 are dangerous to humans.
If you have managed to stay on the page and are still reading, I can hear the arachnophobes saying “and that’s 7 more than are necessary!”
Irrational anxiety or panic over spiders?
So what is it about these magic little creatures that gets us wound up tighter than a drum? Evolutionary psychologists would say that we have an inbuilt instinct for survival and that spiders may have been seen as a threat to us. Hmmm…. Maybe those big bird-eating spiders were around thousands of years ago.
On the other hand, it may be something far more basic such as our ability to learn by modelling another’s behaviour and who better to model than Mum or Dad? Maybe Mum is cleaning and something falls down and brushes her neck while she is dusting and she over-reacts as one is want to do when something unfamiliar and maybe tickly or itchy, comes into contact with sensitive skin.
Mum screams and then spends the rest of the day vacuuming for all she is worth, cleaning everything from top to bottom, upside and down to find this critter that gave her such a fright.
Or maybe Dad is in the shed and reaches into a dark corner to get something out of a jar and something unexpected scuttles out of the way of the giant hand that’s heading in its direction… and Dad gets a fright and jumps about 2 metres into the air with a big shout.
If I were the baby or toddler or child watching and listening, wouldn’t I get a fright simply witnessing Mum or Dad’s reactions? I think so and then the fear can generalise across to me so that I decide that spiders are on my hit list? Even if I didn’t see the spider, the reaction I witnessed probably scared the pants off me anyway, so that my fear becomes associated with spiders (and not Mum or Dad).
Symptoms of Arachnophobia?
- Irrational fear of spiders, whether real, imagined, written about or as photographs or graphic images
- Anxiety, panic, sweating, jelly legs, pounding heart, blood pressure increase or decrease, anger, screaming, heart pounding, fight – flight or freeze, hyperventilation (some or all of these)
Treatments for Spider Phobia
1. Hypnosis for Fear of Spiders
Yes, hypnosis is also used successfully for fear of spiders and here are a couple of links to audio hypnosis sites:
2. Graded Exposure
I came across an amazing program called Fear Drop which provides Graded Exposure to help you to systematically desensitise yourself to spiders. WOW! This cognitive program looks great and is from the University of Tasmania.
At the Fear Drop website you are asked to register and then login, and rate your anxiety before you start (and later after each stage). You’re then shown a picture of a spider which has a moving circle overlaid over the top.
You put your mouse cursor over the circle and track the moving circle with the mouse. This means that you are focussed more on the circle and tracking it, than the spider. If the picture of the spider is too much for you, then the moment you stop tracking the circle, which you might if you turn away and your hand moves the cursor off the circle, the spider picture disappears. Very nifty! There are a number of stages so that gradually you are able to track the circle for a longer and longer period of time, and at the same time your anxiety reduces as well. Pretty neat, isn’t it?
3. NLP Techniques
a. There’s also the Phobia technique (from timeline therapy and NLP or Neuro-Linguistic Programming), where the limiting decision to have a spider phobia is removed, and then there is another process in which the phobia is cleared.
b. NLP would also provide the really fun Blow-Out technique, where you practise being relaxed and seeing the spider gradually expand and get larger and larger until it is so enormous it explodes, like blowing up a yellow rubber glove.
c. Spider images in the mental imagery photograph album can be made the size of a dot and released into the atmosphere like a mote of dust, while simultaneously playing really positive upbeat music to replace the whimpering or screaming sound-track.
It’s advisable to have someone qualified in NLP and Timeline to take the person through the processes as these are very simplified explanations and there is quite a lot more to it than what has been described.
4. Relaxation Training
Learning to deep breathe and relax is probably one of the most beneficial things one can do for oneself in the long run no matter the situation, because it is always helpful to be able to calm yourself down.
5. Cognitive Therapy
Cognitive therapy would focus on restructuring your thoughts towards acceptance of the beauty of these creatures, how useful they are to eat mosquitoes and insects, how strong their silk is, and how they usually only bite humans if feeling threatened. And I guess if you are a little spider and some ginormous human rolls on one of your legs you might do anything you could to defend yourself too.
In some countries such as South America and Papua New Guinea, spiders are also eaten as a food so I’m guessing that the bigger the spider, the bigger the cause for excitement as that’s a much bigger meal. (No, I never want to see spiders on the menu! Seeing roasted grasshoppers for sale in Thailand markets, as crisp as crispy critters can get, was quite enough for me to look at, thanks very much!)
PS You can visit Fear Drop here: www.feardrop.com
There is a beautiful spider in the picture below.
Scroll down if you would like to see it.