What is the first thing you think of when you see a spider? Are you one of those people who are intrigued by them? Or are you more of those who discover you have a high vocal range after screaming?
Spiders can be very interesting creatures, their anatomy, function and their splendid web creations make more than one sit still for a while just watching them and letting them be in peace.
But for a significant percentage of mankind, spiders represent one of their greatest fears. They have even been the inspiration for fantastic horror stories and movies, precisely because of their particular characteristics that, instead of causing fascination, fill people with fear just by mentioning or suspecting their presence.
- And also: “The 20 strangest phobias of the human being”.
Why do spiders cause so much dread in people? Find out in this article where we will talk about what arachnids are. we will talk about what arachnophobia is, the causes that originate it and its symptoms.. This way you will be able to find out if you suffer from this disease.
What is arachnophobia?
In psychological terms, arachnophobia represents a specific phobia towards spiders.. That is, it is an irrational fear of their mere presence or mention, despite the fact that they do not entail any minimal danger to the person’s overall health. Generally, people who are afraid of spiders also fear other animals of the arachnid family such as scorpions.
The responses that result from this phobia are visceral rejection, paralyzing fear, feelings of apprehension, elevated pulse, and the desire to flee the site. They can occur in low or high measures, from simply wanting to keep them away, to avoiding going to places where they may be present, or even feeling physiological discomfort when near a spider.
Some fear spiders that are large and hairy, because they have a more menacing appearance. Although there are those who fear the so-called ‘house spiders’ and sometimes even the spider web itself. However, this fear, together with the fear of snakes, corresponds to the most common phobias experienced by humans and some experts believe that it is due to an evolutionary issue.
Why are spiders feared?
Many experts in psychology and also those who study spiders agree that this fear has a human evolutionary character, as a result of the adaptation between the interaction with man and the dangers of nature. This is because, in prehistoric times, our ancestors had to be wary of spiders that were poisonous in order to preserve their health, especially since both shared the same place to live: caves.
With the passage of time, our instinct took over this lesson and we developed an innate hereditary reaction towards the rejection of these creatures, despite the fact that nowadays we have a very strong instinct to avoid them.even though today it is very easy to keep them away from our homes.
In summary and supported by Seligman’s theory of preparedness, arachnophobia or irrational fear of spiders comes from an inheritance of our past, where the organism learned to identify with the passage of time and evolution, certain elements that can endanger our integrity. In this case, that risk is represented by spiders.
Why is it called irrational fear?
A great part of phobias are actually irrational fears of people towards a specific element that causes repulsion without any apparent reason and this is in essence, the main characteristic of an irrational fear: we do not know where this fear comes from and most importantly, we cannot control it.
But it is when these acquire a maladaptive sense for the person, that is, when they affect his or her daily life, that they are considered phobias. Although the person may notice all the affections that his reaction entails, he is not interested in making changes to improve or reverse his situation, because his sense of security has been completely distorted.
In the case of arachnophobia, most only feel rejection by spiders, hate their presence and avoid approaching them.. But in more severe cases, they may avoid going out to parks and green places, stay confined to their home or develop compulsive hygiene and cleaning behaviors to keep them away from their home.
Phobias in the DSM 5
Due to their maladaptive nature already mentioned, phobias are considered within the mental disorders of the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), more specifically, they are categorized within the Anxiety Disorders. In which are established: Social Phobia or Social Anxiety, Agoraphobia and Specific Phobia.
The Arachnophobia falls within the classification of Zoophobiasbelonging to specific phobias. It causes discomfort and anxiety aggravated by the mention, presence or image of any animal (in this case, spiders).
Symptoms of arachnophobia
It is very important to recognize if you just have a common fear of spiders or if it is a phobia, which is a slightly more aggravated situation. We are going to know the symptoms of this phobia as follows.
1. Significant discomfort
People suffering from arachnophobia manifest to feel a highly significant discomfort in the emotional and physical spheres, which can affect their health in the long term if this phobia is not treated.
Among the physical discomforts we can mention: rapid palpitations, increased blood pressure, dizziness, nausea, vertigo, excessive sweating, tremors or muscle cramps, agitated breathing, stomach discomfort or pressure, momentary paralysis or fainting sensation.
In the emotional sphere, people may experience feelings of apprehension or hopelessness, depersonalization (feeling that they are out of their body) or derealization (feeling that they are in a nightmare or that they are not real), instability, crying, excessive fear, anxiety, stress and worry about not being able to get out of the situation.
2. Marked anxiety
As we have just mentioned, people feel a clinically significant discomfort in their emotional area when faced with or even just at the thought of encountering a spider. Therefore, the person lives in constant anxiety that varies in levels, but is always present.
So you may experience daily fatigue, insomnia, decreased daily performance or even social isolation. Although this occurs in the most severe cases of arachnophobia, that is, when it is a Specific Phobia Disorder.
For those who are afraid of spiders but this does not represent a threat to other spheres of life, i.e., when this fear only manifests itself when in the physical presence of the spider. Their discomfort is limited to paralyzing fear, tremors or stress that fades away once they are away from the spiders, no matter where they are.
3. Exit restriction
At all costs, people who have arachnophobia avoid any kind of minimal situation where they may have a possible contact with spiders, reaching the point of becoming almost a paranoid tendency.
Therefore, they may develop an inclination to stay locked up in their homes, to keep them always clean, to demand that the people around them comply with their hygienic standards in order to let them enter their homes and of course to avoid walking in places with vegetation, where spiders may inhabit.
4. Affection of the spheres of life
Many people can be compromised in the performance and functionality of their daily life because of arachnophobia, which affects their social, interpersonal, work, academic and recreational life. Not because of the spiders themselves, but because of what they represent for their integrity, we must remember that we are talking about a phobia and therefore, a psychological disorder.
Therefore, when a person is convinced that many places are potential scenarios for the appearance of spiders and therefore avoids them, he/she will never want to return to the same place or stay near it. It does not matter if it is at your workplace, at school, in certain parts of your home, at a family gathering or in a public place.
5. Disproportionate fear
Of course all these fears, physical discomforts and anxieties are the product of a disproportionate fear of the ‘real threat’ to your life, which is constant for a period longer than 6 months. By themselves, spiders do not represent a latent danger to us, unlike the species that are venomous, of which there are few.
In short, this paralyzing fear is only provoked by the imagination and distorted beliefs of the person himself. Therefore, it is an irrational fear.
Arachnophobia, like the rest of the specific phobias can be treated and reduced to a great extent with the and greatly reduced with the help of a therapist and some changes in the person’s mentality.
The best way to overcome any phobia is to attend therapy, where the psychologist will give you the most functional and simple tools so that you can face your fear and more importantly that it does not dominate you, nor represent a problem in other areas of your life.
In the most severe cases, the help of a multidisciplinary team is needed to deal with the different symptoms. In addition, it is possible that the intake of psychotropic drugs may be required to reduce the effects of anxiety or obsessive compulsive tendencies.
2. Recreational activities
It is very important that the person practices recreational activities to reduce the constant state of worry and stress, the intention in these is that the person manages to have a moment of relaxation for your body to regenerate energy.
Another recommendation is to perform external activities, so that he/she can adapt again to his/her environment without any fear of the appearance of a spider.
3. Information about the phobia
It is always important to have a minimum knowledge about the current state of this disorder, why it occurs and that it is combattable with psychological help and the recommendations that the therapist recommends. As long as the patient is committed to achieve that positive change.
So don’t let your fear control you and face it, so you can get your normal life back.