Entomophobia is an extreme and persistent fear of insects. It’s what’s referred to as a specific phobia, which is a phobia that focuses on a particular object. An insect phobia is one of the most common types of specific phobia.
A phobia is overwhelming and causes significant anxiety. It’s different from simply not liking insects or getting a case of the heebie-jeebies when one scurries by. For some, the anxiety is disabling and interferes with their daily activities.
Unlike a fear or dislike of insects, a person with entomophobia has an irrational fear of them.
Adults with phobias often understand the irrationality of being afraid of something that poses no actual danger. Even still, the mere idea of being near an insect can bring on severe mental and physical symptoms, such as:
- immediate feelings of intense fear or anxiety when seeing or thinking about an insect
- anxiety that worsens as an insect comes closer
- inability to control the fears even though you’re aware they’re unreasonable
- trouble functioning because of fear
- doing anything possible to avoid insects, such as avoiding parks, basements, or activities where they may be present
Entomophobia can also cause physical symptoms, such as:
- panic attacks
- rapid heart rate
- chest tightness
- dry mouth
- shaking or trembling
- crying, especially in children
The goal of treatment is to stop your phobia from interfering with your quality of life by teaching you to manage your reactions to insects.
Entomophobia and other phobias are treated with psychotherapy. Your doctor may recommend more than one type of therapy. Medication may also be prescribed.
Treatment for entomophobia may include:
This type of therapy involves gradually exposing you to the source of your phobia and repeating exposure to help change your response to insects. This is also referred to as systematic desensitization.
Exposure therapy usually begins with talking about your fear of insects. You may be shown pictures or videos of insects, and then eventually exposed to live insects in a controlled environment.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) centers on your thoughts and beliefs about the source of your phobia and how they influence you.
CBT is combined with exposure and other types of behavioral therapy to change how you think about your triggers and how you react to them.
The goal is to develop a sense of control over your thoughts and feelings so you’re no longer overwhelmed by them.
Psychotherapy is the most effective way for overcoming fear of insects. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend medication to help reduce your anxiety and other entomophobia symptoms.
Beta-blockers are also used to block the effects of adrenaline, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, heart palpitations, and shaking.
Antidepressants can also help calm anxiety and fear.
Anxiety drugs, beta-blockers, and antidepressants haven’t been FDA-approved for the treatment of phobias.
Certain lifestyle and home remedies can help with the anxiety that accompanies your fear of insects.
You may want to consider:
To diagnose entomophobia, a doctor will conduct a thorough clinical interview, and review your symptoms and medical and psychiatric history.
They’ll base your diagnosis on your interview and certain guidelines and diagnostic criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) by the American Psychiatric Association.
If you suspect you have entomophobia, you can fill out a specific phobias screening questionnaire online to print off and take to your appointment.
Only a trained healthcare professional can confirm a phobia diagnosis.
Experts don’t know exactly what causes specific phobias. Certain factors increase your risk, including your age. Most phobias develop in childhood, though it’s possible to develop a phobia as an adult.
According to the Mayo Clinic, temperament can also make you more likely to develop a phobia, such as being more negative or sensitive.
Possible causes of entomophobia may include:
- A negative experience. A traumatic or negative experience can trigger the development of specific phobias. For example, you may have been stung by a wasp as a child or startled awake by an insect on your arm.
- Your family. Children can learn a phobia from a parent or other family member. For instance, you may have learned your fear of insects from your mother who had the tendency to scream at the sight of a spider in the house.
Evidencesuggests that genetics may play a role in phobias and anxiety disorder.
- Traumatic brain injury. Brain injuries, such as concussions, have been
linkedto the development of anxiety disorders. A brain injury appears to increase fear conditioning and predispose the brain to fear learning during stressful events experienced after the injury.
Like most phobias, entomophobia is curable with treatment.
If your fear of insects is disruptive to your life and causes you anxiety, reach out to your healthcare professional, or find a therapist in your area who has experience treating phobias.