Arachnophobia: Definition, Treatment & Symptoms

Arachnophobia: Definition, Treatment & Symptoms
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  • 0:00 Definition of Arachnophobia
  • 1:00 Symptoms
  • 1:35 Causes
  • 3:30 Treatment
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Arachnophobia, the irrational fear of spiders, is one of the most common types of phobias. Learn more about the symptoms, causes and treatment of arachnophobia.

Definition of Arachnophobia

Imagine that you are at home watching television, and you see a spider walking across the floor. How would you respond? One normal response would be to scoop the spider up, and drop it outside your front door. Another normal response would be to squish the spider, and flush it down the toilet or put it in the trash can. However, if you find yourself having a panic attack and running away from the spider, you just might have arachnophobia.

So, what is arachnophobia? At the root of the word is arachno-, which comes from the Greek word for spider. A phobia is an excessive and irrational fear of something. If you combine the two words, you get 'arachnophobia', which is the excessive and irrational fear of spiders. Arachnophobia is the most common type of animal phobia. Adults who suffer from arachnophobia are able to recognize that their fear of spiders is excessive, while children may not be able to make this distinction.

Symptoms

The symptoms of arachnophobia are triggered by seeing a spider or something that indicates spiders are nearby, such as webs or egg sacs. For some, looking at pictures of spiders or hearing someone talk about spiders is enough to trigger symptoms. These symptoms can include:

  • Overwhelming fear of being bitten or poisoned by a spider
  • Intense anxiety or panic attacks
  • Fainting, vomiting or loss of bladder control
  • Avoidance of places that are thought to have spiders, like gardens or corners
  • Having someone check the room for spiders before entering
  • Sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure

Causes

There is no one definite cause for arachnophobia, though there are a few theories as to what causes this fear. The main three are evolution, cultural background and personal experience.

Some scientists believe that there is an evolutionary reason for the fear of spiders: that venomous spiders were very dangerous to our ancestors, so evolution has taught humans to fear them. Since some spiders are venomous, it is advantageous to our survival in the wild that we fear spiders. Those who fear spiders go to great lengths to keep spiders away; therefore, they have less of a chance of being bitten by a poisonous spider. This gives people who fear spiders a greater chance of survival than those who do not fear spiders.

Arachnophobia may be due to our cultural background. Spiders are eaten by humans as food in certain countries, such as Cambodia, Venezuela and Papua, New Guinea. As a result, arachnophobia rarely occurs in these countries. In the United States and United Kingdom, spiders are often seen in horror films, are made villains in children's stories and are believed to be unfriendly creatures by the general population. As a result, arachnophobia is very common in these countries. Additionally, if a young child witnesses a parent display fear of spiders, the child can learn this fear and develop arachnophobia.

Have you ever felt frightened by something as a child? If so, you probably don't remember the circumstances surrounding the event, but you remember how it made you feel. This same type of traumatic experience holds true for some arachnophobes. It is thought that some arachnophobes have had an incident with a spider occur when they were younger that frightened them. As a result, they became afraid of spiders and avoided them. Over time, this avoidance developed into arachnophobia. Many people are unable to recall what led up to their arachnophobia, only that there was an incident involving spiders and it caused them to panic.

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