Arachnophobia is the irrational fear of spiders and other arachnids such as scorpions.
The word arachnophobia is derived from two Greek words; Arachne-meaning spiders and Phobos-deep dread or fear, thus the common name, the fear of spiders.
This phobia is oldest and most popular in the Western cultures.
The reaction to images and/or direct confrontation with a spider can seem irrational to a non-arachnophobe and sometimes even to the sufferer himself.
Causes of arachnophobia:
The causes of the fear of spiders have been traced back to million of years back. Scientific studies has pinned it to evolutionary selection.
That is to say, human instinct have subconsciously linked spiders, especially the venomous ones, to diseases and infections. This triggers the aversion to spiders and a “disgust response” in many individuals.
A study carried out on 261 adult showed that nearly 32% females and 18% males exhibited a nervous, anxious or frightened response to the images of and direct contact with spiders.
Other causes include;
• traumatic events that involved an attack or venomous bite from a spider to a friend, family member, or oneself.
• It might be passive learning from a family member or loved one; they learn to fear after seeing others being fearful of spiders.
• Brain chemical imbalance can also lead to arachnophobia.
• Some cultures have great fear and aversion to spiders and some don’t. For example, some parts of Africa hate spiders but other parts (i.e. South Africa) eat spiders as delicacies.
Symptoms of arachnophobia:
The symptoms of arachnophobia usually presents itself in early childhood up until adulthood depending on its causes. However, the fear of spiders caused by traumatic events may be dominant in all ages if the phobic is in close proximity, directly confronted or shown an image of a spider.
Some phobics may even show symptoms upon anticipation or perception of a spider, and in severe cases, might experience a full blown panic or anxiety attack on the sight of a cobweb.
The symptoms include both physical and psychological symptoms which can be mild to severe depending on the stimulus. They include;
• Rapid heart rate
• Hot or cold flashes
• Feeling of going crazy and losing control
• Chest pain
• Feeling of choking
• Inability to distinguish between reality and unreality
• Trembling sweating
• Thoughts of death
• Nausea or other gastrointestinal distress
Diagnosis and treatment of the fear of spiders:
The diagnosis of arachnophobia is usually confirmed by a medical psychologist who records and recognises the symptoms exhibited by the phobic on exposure to the image/or direct sight of a spider.
Many true sufferers of arachnophobia have an extreme aversion to spiders and will go great lengths to avoid contact with one or more, this can greatly affect the quality of life and work of these individuals, as they have the persistent need to escape from any place where spiders may be present.
Therapy, medication and counselling can greatly help in the eradication of arachnophobia.
Medicines taken with supervised and sparing care, such as benzodiazepines, can aid in calming the intensity of anxiety and panic attacks of stimulated arachnophobics.
Also, relaxation techniques (yoga, acupuncture etc), meditation, and positive reaffirmations can help the phobic differentiate between reality and non reality and also in positive mind control.
Mordern ways of treating arachnophobia include systemic and gradual desensitization techniques which involves the in tandem exposure of the phobic to spiders to help them cope with their fear and face it squarely with time.
The first step in treating arachnophobia is recognising it and asking for help and total readiness to cope with it.