“I remember watching a movie where a mining accident caused the spiders to mutate overnight to the point they became uncontrollable and started spreading chaos in the town nearby. That sight sent frenzy down my spine and since then I have found myself disliking the grizzly creatures. However, my fear of spiders is just that one bad memory and nothing beyond that. But for some people, the fear of spiders can actually interfere with their quality of life and cause them to experience an anxiety attack,” says Dr Binita Priyambada, senior consultant – medical team at Docprime.com.
Such traumatic experiences can result in the person developing a life-long phobia of spiders, which is also known as Arachnophobia — described as a serious condition which can affect the person on a deeper level. But how did it start and why are some people so scared of spiders?
Scientists say that evolutionary theory might have something to do with our fear of spiders. Since the dark ages, spiders have been considered as the source of food and water contamination and were therefore deemed as disease spreading creatures. Spiders were initially believed to be the reason behind the Bubonic Plague, which was later ruled out because rat-fleas were discovered as the main culprits. The misplaced fear has been since passed on to generations and has become ingrained in our minds.
“The fear of spiders can also develop due to a traumatic incident in childhood or adolescence. The trauma starts creating a deep-rooted fear and ultimately becomes an ordeal. Sometimes the fear of spiders can also occur by the mere anticipation of spiders being around,” explains Dr Priyambada.
A person who is afraid of spiders may not necessarily have the phobia. Arachnophobia is a serious condition where the sufferer is symptomatic and the symptoms manifest gradually. Symptoms are as follows-
*Shivering or sweating
*Rapid heart rate
*Hot or cold flashes
If the aforementioned symptoms remain persistent for more than six months to the point that they start interfering with the person’s quality of life, then they should immediately consult with their general practitioner. One can also visit a psychiatrist if they feel the need to do so.
Systematic Desensitization – The most reliable and practiced form of therapy is System Desensitization. The person is made to face their fear of spiders and cope with it in a strategic manner. The relaxation techniques taught in this therapy include breathing control, muscle control and meditation. The primary aim of this therapy is to reduce the fear by maximising exposure in a controlled and relaxed environment till the person is finally confronted with their phobia.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – CBT is the most common therapy when it comes to managing phobias and cognitive behavioral issues. The therapist helps the sufferer in pointing out the root of arachnophobia. CBT modifies the negative thoughts with more positive and tolerable thoughts.
Medication – In some cases, therapists recommend medication alongside therapy. Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills are most commonly prescribed to patients with extreme symptoms.
“The more you learn about spiders the more likely are you to overcome your fear. Spiders are mostly harmless to humans as they generally eat insects and other pest-like creatures. However, in some cases, spider bites can cause allergic reactions, with black widow and brown recluse spiders being venomous. Try and avoid going in areas infested by spiders, keep your home and garage free from cobwebs and talk to your loved ones about your phobia and seek their understanding and patience whenever required,” she concludes.
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