Ophidiophobia or phobia of snakes
Phobias of snakes are very common, like the fear of spiders it is a little unusual as phobias go because it is not completely irrational. Generally a phobia is an irrational fear of something. As with spiders, fear of snakes is usually out of proportion or disproportionate, especially if in the UK.
Why are we phobic or afraid of snakes
As with spiders, the fear of snakes is based around a couple of factors:
- We have an instinctive inbred fear of certain creatures that behave, move or look in a certain way. Snakes have a movement we tend to instinctively identify as a danger sign. Snake patterns and colours are also instinctively perceived as warning signs, as is a hiss or rattle sound.
- We are usually very aware that snakes can bite, and that even a non poisonous snake bite can be painful or cause infection. I (stuart) have been nipped by a python and it was rather sore. So we know they may bite, and of course we know that some snakes are venomous. The Adder or Viper is the only snake in the UK capable of giving a venomous bite of any note, and that is considered about as painful as a bee sting. Finally however are are all aware that in other countries there are snakes with deadly or incapacitating bites, and therefore we often have a disproportionate fear based on our knowledge of those snakes.
- Again, as with spiders, part of our culture is scary stories and scary movies. spiders and snakes are up there with Zombies as popular fear creatures. Also most scary creatures in horror movies share the tendency to bite. This draws on another primal fear of being bitten.
What is the risk level in the UK with snakes?
There is almost no actual risk in the UK unless of course a family member or friend keeps them as pets, and even then the risk is low. By definition pet snakes are pets, often either non poisonous or venom glands removed, and are used to varying degrees to humans. Wild snakes such as grass snakes are not poisonous, and even Vipers share the instinct to escape from human contact. Snakes are scared of humans! Biting is absolutely the last resort. So risk is extremely low in the UK.
What triggers fear of snakes?
Each person has different triggers, it can be a personal fear of being bitten, a fear of blood (from a bite), a fear of the way a snake moves, of the colours / patterns of a snake, the hiss, or the overall way one looks. Identifying the individual’s triggers is a vital step in therapy.
What therapies are used for snake phobia?
Typically anxiety and phobia related treatments recommended by NICE tend to be based around cognitive behavioural psychological therapies. These include cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT. Hypnotherapy and associated visualisation is often used. Hypnotherapy can be used in a variety of ways, including for visualisation and for cognitive behavioural work. Combined with desensitisation work, psychoeducation, stress inoculation therapy and general anxiety reduction, hypnosis and CBT are usually quite effective.
There are no quick fixes with severe phobias. Some practitioners, including NLP practitioners offer “rapid cure” treatments for phobias. These have been known to help mild sufferers, but in severe cases, or where there is general anxiety or other issues, trying to “quick fix” is dangerous and is unlikely to work. It is vital to combine work “in clinic” with exercises “in real life” to create manageable, progressive and permanent real change, and to be able to measure it.
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