Fear of Snakes – Ophidiophobia

In late July on a beautiful Sunday morning, I was walking through the Smith St Mall in Darwin. To my surprise there was someone with not one, but two really big pythons 3m and 2m, plus a smaller python and two or three beautiful lizards.

You could pay $5 to hold a snake and I found it just as fascinating to observe the reactions of those walking by, as it was to see the snakes.  One gentleman approached me while his wife was happily snapping away to ask if I was going to hold the snake.  (Umm, the wife was taking pictures to send home to her girlfriend who had a severe snake phobia!)

Have you seen the Snake Phobia Cure Video?

Narelle with Carpet Snake at Gabah Restaurant, Kuta

Narelle with Carpet Snake Bali

As I had already enjoyed holding a carpet snake in Bali I told him how beautiful the snake actually feels, and when I asked him if he was going to have a go at it, he shuddered and moved away from me quickly.  I couldn’t help wondering if his fear of snakes was now generalised to fear of Narelle!!

Origins of the fear of snakes

  • The fear of snakes is an age-old phobia and most likely evolutionary in its origins, developed as a protective and survival instinct. Research with both children on adults using similar colours for flowers, shrubs and snakes, gave a surprising result as snakes were quickly spotted.  It is as though both children and adults sorted by what was different rather than what was the same.
  • I remember watching a hilarious episode on Funniest Home Videos where a little toddler was screaming for her father to come quickly because there was a snake. Dad ran to the rescue only to find a large caterpillar sashaying down the garden path! So how did she develop this irrational notion that it was something to be frightened of, and that it was a snake?  I would suggest that perhaps she has learnt this from her mother, or father, another child, or even her grandparents. Many of us have grown up in the bush with lots of snakes around so it depends on whether your family treated snakes as something to be respected for their contribution to keeping rats and mice down and saving the crops, or something to be terrified of and to try and kill (snakes are now protected).
  • [Because of my parents’ influence I’ve always thought of snakes as interesting, more interested in getting away from me and something to observe with a healthy respect. Others don’t get that education though and simply say all snakes are bad snakes and want to kill them which is so sad because they are marvellous for the environment and also very beautiful.]
  • Movies! Movies! Movies!  Are one of the big reasons for people to have a phobia of snakes.
  • Getting cornered or threatened by a snake with neither of you having an escape route
  • Being teased by someone who is comfortable with snakes and they keep trying to put a snake on you
  • Getting bitten by a snake
  • Not expecting to see a snake and suddenly you nearly step on one.

As you can see, there are many ways for this phobia to develop, and remember that a phobia is an irrational and excessive fear of an object or situation and children will often outgrow their fear if allowed.

Treatment for the Fear of Snakes

  • Relaxation training is often very useful as many people with a phobia also suffer from anxiety, so learning how to breathe properly and relax while controlling the mind and its pattern of anxious thoughts, may be a good place to start.

  • Graded Exposure therapy that starts with pictures of snake eggs could be a good place to begin because most people do not have a phobia of eggs. The client would practise deep breathing and be encouraged to continue deep breathing while looking at the pictures. These pictures should start small, in black and white or even as a drawing so that desensitization can commence. I would also suggest that giving biological information on snakes while looking at the eggs can be useful as it engages the attention and mind and detracts from the panic-stricken thoughts.
    • In the next session continue the deep breathing and relaxation and then show small black and white pictures of the baby snake emerging from the egg shell and gradually move to larger pictures and coloured photos.
    • This needs to be done over time, with lots of encouragement and reinforcement of positive gains that have been made.
    • Eventually, and the client needs to guide the speed of the exposure and be guided by the therapist as well, lifelike pictures can be shown and of course, the relaxation and deep breathing is begun first.
    • After photographs, documentaries could be introduced, be sure to vet them first, and then it’s time to move to the real thing. That’s right. It’s time for a trip to the zoo or a herpetologist, someone who studies reptiles.  Again, take things slowly or quickly depending on the success of the graded exposure.  Some people may even be able to head straight for the zoo.
  • Hypnosis can also be used for Ophidiophobia as the Clinical Hypnotist can address the fears within the subconscious mind, where they will have been planted and grown to become this phobia. The hypnotist is likely to explore where your fears began and then gently lead you into a trance state which is often experienced as a deep relaxation. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how the fear of snakes began.  You are awake and ‘softly’ aware within yourself and would be guided to find your inner resources, to put your irrational fears aside.  You may require one session or you may require 5 or 6 because sometimes people have to learn how to be hypnotised first and then may need repetition to make those internal decisions to let go of the fear of snakes.

Check out this Snake Phobia video

  • Timeline Techniques are my favourite for fears and phobias. I like to explain how we have become habituated to react in the same old ways, and that means fear can also become a habit. Timeline techniques provide a new script of inner resourcefulness as it dispenses with the old emotional habit. There is also the Trauma/Phobia technique which can then follow up the release of fear.

The fear of snakes can be dealt with, and it does take willingness, commitment, and patience with yourself.  It may also take acceptance that you have a problem and trust in the professional you choose to work with, so take your time to choose.

« Previous PageNext Page »