Do you hate spiders? Perhaps you have a fear or phobia of spiders. Autumn in the UK is the time for spiders, but they are everywhere worldwide, and many people dislike or greatly fear them. But why is this so?
As a hypnotherapist, over the years, I have met many people who fear spiders and want help with hypnosis and counselling. October for people living in the UK is often a crisis month, and Halloween exacerbates it. Consequently, people want help quickly to rid themselves of this problem.
What is a fear of spiders called?
A fear of spiders is called arachnophobia.
This fear can be on a continuum, with a dislike at one end and a full phobia at the other end.
Reasons why you might have a fear of spiders?
A fear of spiders usually happens for one of two main reasons, but there are others which I will include here.
Firstly, it can be a learned behaviour. So if you have a parent, older sibling or another significant person around you when you are growing up who screams every time they see a spider, it will make you learn that spiders equal fear. It’s easy for children and young people to pick up anxiety from others.
It can also be a learned behaviour if the child was bitten and it hurt because they have learnt that spiders equal pain.
So, as a young person, you are constantly gathering information to help you grow and survive. But this type of information is a negative message, especially when many people tell you that they don’t like spiders.
Secondly, a fear of spiders can be developed because it is suddenly linked to an emotional response. Because in these circumstances, you are being fed information with a negative emotion attached to it, your mind thinks spiders should be avoided. I have often heard people state that as a child, they were chased by another child waving a spider in their hands, or they woke to find a huge spider running across the bed.
Other things can complicate the fear of spiders because this fear is also considered an evolutionary response. We instinctively fear anything that will threaten our survival. Living in, say, Australia, avoiding spiders is rational because there are some deadly spiders which can bite you and make you seriously ill, or in rare cases, they can kill you. However, fears and phobias for people living in the UK seem much more irrational as spiders do not kill people there.
In addition, if a person lacks knowledge about spiders, it will reinforce the fear of the unknown. This tells us more about the fear of spiders. The fear of spiders is an irrational fear, but a lack of knowledge or incorrect information can confuse us.
For example, many people know that Australia has deadly spiders, but they don’t know that you rarely see them in cities (although some spiders do live in urban areas) and that some spiders actually eat poisonous spiders. They don’t know where the spiders live, and people assume that the big spiders are always worse. An Australian Huntsman spider is over 15 cm and would rather run away than bite you! They also don’t have first aid skills or know what to do if someone gets bitten.
Furthermore, in Australia, there are many antivenoms against spider bites.
According to Clementine Thuilier, from an article in the Australian Geographic:
… from our urban centres to the bush, bites are infrequent. In fact, spiders are less life-threatening than snakes or sharks, or even bees.
Many people say to me that they know some spiders are harmless (thinking rationally), but the other reasons for hating them have taken over. Some people say things like ‘I hate the way they are looking at me’, but it is rare that you can see the eyes of a small UK spider!
Another reason for having a fear of spiders is a lack of exposure to them as a child. If we regularly see a spider as a child, we learn to ignore them. This fear is caused again by a lack of awareness and natural desensitisation.
But sometimes, this problem can be caused by misinformation from the media in films that portray spiders as being bigger or more scary than they really are. Spiders can also be included in horror movies and horror stories. Having this fear in culture can also lead to social reinforcement, where disgust and negative emotions are continually discussed or shown throughout society.
Some research suggests that genetics and personality traits can affect the level of fear or phobias with things like spiders.
Other research suggests a link between past traumas where someone needs to link the trauma with a phobia.
Fear of spiders may also stem from anxiety and the need for people to feel in control of their lives as they may also focus on the fear of wanting to control everything around them when, of course, we can’t control a spider running across the room.
Treatments for fears and phobias
Visiting your doctor is a good idea, particularly if you have related anxiety issues, but the main treatments are:
- Systematic desensitization (This is paring relaxation and exposure).
- Applied relaxation techniques.
- Talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). (This can be individual therapy or group therapy).
- Eye Movement and Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR).
- Virtual Reality Exposure (VRET).
- Other alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, may also help.
- Flooding (a challenging exposure therapy).
- Coaching for self-regulation and exposure through goal setting.
- Biofeedback (A method of learning to control your bodily responses).
- Medication (SSRIs are a medication that helps reduce anxiety. NB medication is often used with talking therapies).
The treatment choice often depends on the severity of the problem, the person’s beliefs and willingness to feel uncomfortable with some treatments like flooding.
Hi. I’m Linda. My business is called Awaken the Change. I have been helping people rid themselves of fears and phobias with hypnosis and counselling for about 18 years now. Contact me for a free initial consultation online and learn more on my website, www.awakenthechange.com.