What is arachnophobia?

Arachnophobia is a fear of spiders,  (and possibly other arachnids such as scorpions), and is one of the most common phobias in the world. Someone with arachnophobia fears being in any area or situation where they believe spiders might be present. Like any phobia, arachnophobia can be extremely debilitating and even life-changing. Some of the consequences of this phobia may include avoidance of outdoor activities and continual checking of one’s surroundings. 

How does it start?

Arachnophobia generally begins in early childhood and usually from one of the following circumstances.

  1. Learned Behaviour – copying a parent or loved one who you have witnessed scream/panic when seeing a spider. We learn from replicating behaviour and certainly learn dangers from our parents.  A hysterical response to a spider by an adult creates a heightened state of emotion, a fear that we must be in great danger, and also the incorrect learning that spiders are to be feared.
  2. Bad Experience –  Being scared or chased by someone with a spider for example.
  3. Illusion – nightmares or scary films featuring spiders can also cause phobias. Regrettably, just as witches, zombies, bats and ghosts have been used in scary films, during Halloween and scary stories in childhood, so have spiders. However, none of the aforementioned hit our headlines or news reports as causes of mass murder or injury, none feature in government risk-warning campaigns, and none are used in wars to fight against people as a proficient form of attack because it is fabricated and not fact.

Overcoming arachnophobia

The great news is that arachnophobia can be completely overcome. It is vital to address and alter your perception of the events that created your phobia in the first place as well as to learn facts, and educate yourself about your perceived oppressor.  When you start to change your perception of spiders, you will change how you feel. Evidence to help you accept that you have created incorrect learning is an important component in overcoming your fear. To change your life around start with these steps.

  1. Understand how your phobia came about, and challenge it to assist you in realising you have been blaming the wrong thing.  For example, if you saw a parent screaming, realise it was the screaming parent that caused the fear in you and NOT the spider.  This is a very important element as if something happened when you were a child, then you must now view it from an adult’s perspective.  What really happened?  Who really caused the problem?  What did the spider really do? If you are finding it hard to pinpoint when your fear started, you might like to do a Timeline.
  2. Provide yourself with evidence to accept that you have been believing something that you now know is not true such as:
    a)    Spiders are not dangerous (spider facts below).
    b)    Acknowledging that pet spiders are ones that could bite but never do.
    c)    Realise that spiders are actually the victims as they merely keep us free from flies and want to be left alone. 
    d)    Spiders fear carbon dioxide, so if you’re breathing they’re not coming near you unless completely by accident and then they run as fast as they can to get away from YOU.
  3. If you have a pet, imagine how they would feel if you took them to a stranger’s house and that stranger started to scream at your pet hysterically?  Your pet would be terrified and want to get away!  This is what happens to spiders constantly; they come in a stranger’s house and get screamed at, so in their terror run away as fast as they can but get criticised for being ‘fast runners’!  Surely it’s a bonus that they’re running away from you fast!
  4. Knowing that house spiders don’t ever kill or attack humans, that they are cowards, virtually blind and terrified of people, eat bugs, flies and malaria-causing mosquitoes ask yourself is it fair to victimise and blame them?

It would now be worth armed with this new information to slowly look at a picture of a spider for the first time as an adult, knowing that no longer being an arachnophobe will make your life much better.

If you really want to overcome your phobia, then you can. Once you start to accept spiders are not a real danger, and you simply misunderstood them. 

Spider facts every arachnophobe should read

  1. UK spiders DO NOT attack or bite. Even if a house spider were to feel so very petrified of you that it would try to bite, it could not pierce your skin as it’s too weak and small – therefore you would never know.
  2. Spiders are cowards and fear humans greatly, and will always try to run away.
  3. Spiders are virtually blind, so only see shadows, light and dark.  They use vibrations to sense others.
  4. Spiders run fast as they are prey to a multitude of animals and therefore need to get away, to protect themselves.
  5. Spiders fear carbon dioxide (and therefore if you breathe on them they scarper in the opposite direction) as they assume you are a predator swooping down to eat them.
  6. Spiders are non-aggressive, their first line of defence is to flick hairs from their abdomen. Spiders have tiny hairs which are an irritant, so if a bird were to swoop down on them, they’d flick their hairs hopefully into the eyes of their aggressor. If you were about to sit on a spider unexpectedly, it would flick hairs first as it can’t see you, so senses the darkness and assumes you’re about to try and eat it.
  7. We would potentially starve without spiders! They are our saviours as one spider will eat over 2,000 bugs and flies each year, thus stopping our crops from being destroyed or polluted by strong pest killing chemicals!
  8. Mosquitoes have caused more deaths in the world than anything else, and their number one enemy is the spider. As there are now 30 recognised types of mosquito in the UK, and several with the capability of carrying malaria, spiders are once more protecting us from harm.
  9. Spiders don’t hate you, AND they definitely don’t want to be near you. They are very fearful and shy, and only come into our homes to keep warm, find a mate and eat any flies.
  10. Spiders find sleeping humans terrifying. The vibrations caused by the human heartbeat, snoring and even simple breathing, signify danger to a spider. 

Living with arachnophobia can be extremely challenging, however, you are not alone. Here at Trauma Research UK, our belief is, ‘it’s not what’s wrong with you, it’s what happened to you’. With this philosophy, we believe that everyone can successfully overcome their mental health issues if given the right help and support. Read more…