Arachnophobia refers to the intense fear of spiders, or spider phobia. While it’s not uncommon for people to dislike arachnids or insects, phobias of spiders can have a far more significant impact on your life.
A phobia itself is more than just fear. It’s an intense and overwhelming emotion that can make you feel like you’re under a serious threat. Arachnophobia can prevent you from participating in certain events or situations because your mind tells says you’re in danger from spiders.
Like other types of phobias, arachnophobia can be debilitating and interfere with your life. But it doesn’t have to. Once you’ve identified spider phobia, it’s possible to work with it so your fears don’t have to interfere with your everyday life.
Both the intense fear of spiders and spiderwebs are types of specific phobias. These types of phobias center around single items compared to more complex phobias, such as social anxiety. Arachnophobia is one of the most common specific phobias you can develop.
A fear of spiderwebs falls under the same umbrella of arachnophobia. You might have a fear of both spiders and spiderwebs, or just spiders individually. For some, seeing a spiderweb can lead to the intense worry over seeing a spider next.
A phobia refers to a significant, irrational fear of animals, objects, and places, as well as certain situations. These intense fears often stem from negative past experiences. So, in the case of arachnophobia, it’s possible to have a debilitating fear of spiders due to a negative encounter with these arthropods.
Most specific phobias like arachnophobia occur before the age of 10. However, it’s possible to develop a phobia at any stage of life.
Phobias are also linked with anxiety disorders, some of which may be genetic. These include generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and panic disorders, just to name a few. Having an anxiety disorder could increase your risk of developing phobias, including those related to spiders.
It’s also possible to develop arachnophobia from your environment. If you grew up with parents or other loved ones who had an intense fear of spiders, you may be at an increased risk of developing the same fears.
Phobia symptoms most often occur when you’re put in the situation you fear. With arachnophobia, you may not experience symptoms until you see a spider. It’s also possible to experience your symptoms if you’re just thinking about spiders, or perhaps if you see pictures of them.
Physical symptoms of a spider phobia may include:
- upset stomach
- shaking or trembling
- shortness of breath
- increased heart rate
You may also have the following habits to help cope with these fears:
- avoidance of places and situations where you might see or encounter spiders
- worsening anxiety as an impending encounter looms
- overall difficulty with concentration and functioning
- social isolation
Specific phobias such as those related to spiders may be easier to treat compared to complex phobias. It’s also possible to experience fewer symptoms of arachnophobia as an adult if your intense fear of spiders affected you as a child.
Mental health counseling is the most effective way to treat phobias, including arachnophobia. Medications don’t directly treat this condition because it doesn’t help with the underlying issues causing the phobia. However, medications can help treat underlying anxiety.
One interesting alternative could be indirect exposure to spiders as a way to overcome your fears.
While these medications won’t treat spider phobias directly, it’s possible to see improved anxiety symptoms overall. Options include:
Lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising can help decrease anxiety, and subsequent symptoms of phobias.
Arachnophobia doesn’t generally require a formal diagnosis from a doctor. This is due to the fact that phobias are most often self-diagnosable.
However, you may consider seeing a professional to help you work through your spider phobia if you find that it’s significantly impacting your life. You might ask yourself if arachnophobia impacts you in the following ways:
- makes it difficult to go outdoors
- gets in the way of work
- impacts your social life
- prevents you from spending time with your loved ones
- keeps you awake at night
- consumes your thoughts on a regular basis
If you’ve answered “yes” to any of the above, you may consider seeing a psychotherapist to help you address spider phobias. One-on-one talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and group therapy are all possible counseling options for phobias.
A therapist will help you address the fear head-on so that you can have fewer fearful encounters with spiders in the future, should they arise. This approach is known as desensitization, or exposure therapy. As with other phobias, complete avoidance isn’t recommended because it will only intensify your fears.
The sooner you seek therapy, the greater the chances that your phobia can be treated. Delaying professional help can make therapy that much more difficult.
Arachnophobia is just one of many phobias that can arise during a person’s lifetime. Like other types of phobias, a significant fear of spiders usually stems from a former bad experience.
The good news is that you can find ways to cope with arachnophobia so that it no longer interferes with your life. Therapy is the most effective approach to addressing spider phobias. The sooner you work to help overcome your phobias, the better you will feel.
It’s also important to note that working through a phobia takes time, so you shouldn’t expect to be “cured” from arachnophobia overnight. The treatment process may also address other phobias and sources of anxiety. In many cases, mental health treatment can be a lifelong commitment.