Arachnophobia is an irrational fear of spiders (although being scared of black hairy eight-legged things that scuttle across the floor at night is pretty sensible in my book!). So why are some people afflicted with this common phobia? And what are the symptoms of arachnophobia?
Arachnophobia is a very common specific phobia and most people know at least one person that suffers from a fear of spiders. Lots of us dislike spiders—particularly the great big enormous ones that lurk in dark corners of the garage—but there is difference between a person that dislikes spiders and one who is suffering from arachnophobia. People with arachnophobia will not be able to tolerate exposure to spiders and will go to great lengths to avoid any possibility of coming into contact with a spider, no matter how small it might be.
What are the symptoms of arachnophobia?
When a person with arachnophobia comes into contact with a spider they are likely to react in several ways. Screaming hysterically is a pretty common reaction, but some people go into a state of shock when confronted with an eight legged beast and become paralysed with fear. For others the natural flight mechanism takes over and they run away from the object of their fear.
If a person dislikes spiders, but is not in the grip of arachnophobia, they will normally be able to put aside their discomfort and get close enough to the spider to deal with it, whether this involves putting it in a cup and tossing it out of the window or squashing it with a book. Anyone with arachnophobia will be unable to do anything other than freeze or run away screaming, so it will be left to somebody else to remove the source of the problem.
People suffering from arachnophobia often find that their fear of spiders begins to take over their lives. They may get to the point where they have to check a room for spiders before relaxing, or they might refuse to go camping for fear of meeting a spider outdoors. Even spiders safely inside glass enclosures at the zoo are sufficiently frightening to cause a panic attack if the person is forced to enter the exhibit.
What are the symptoms of arachnophobia in children?
Young children are rarely frightened of spiders, but if they witness the symptoms of arachnophobia in others, they soon learn to fear spiders, too. I am scared of spiders, as was my mother, and consequently my eldest daughter is petrified of them. However, her younger sister has conquered her fear of all things arachnid and is now the designated spider killer in our house.
What are the symptoms of arachnophobia and can it be cured?
Many people find their fear of spiders lessens as they grow older—I am nowhere near as scared of spiders now compared to what I was like when I was in my twenties. But for those whose deep seated phobia of spiders is still profound, techniques such as hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapies can help, as can repeated exposure to spiders in a controlled environment.