Spider Phobia Arachnophobia treatment

Treating Spider Phobia or Arachnophobia

Spider phobia is extremely common. Insects like spiders are particularly good at triggering our deeper instinctive fears. Generally because of the fact that historically they were a threat, and still are in some areas of the world, we have a definite aversion to them.  It is because of this instinct, based in fact, that the fear is stronger than your average phobia.

What is a phobia and why is arachnophobia a little different?

Phobias are usually considered irrational fears. If a fear is totally rational then it is not a phobia. Because some spiders are dangerous, some are non dangerous but can give a nasty nip, and because many use colours to indicate danger, arachnophobia is not an entirely irrational fear. In most cases it is in stead a disproportionate fear. it is disproportionate because many people feel a level of fear with a harmless spider, as they might rationally experience with a dangerous one. It is therefore a lack of differentiation and proportion.

Why are spiders scary?

Generally arachnophobia has three main contributing causes:

  1. Spiders are part of a family of insects that we instinctively consider dangerous. They move differently, have “the wrong number of legs”, they tend to move in a way we consider “unnatural”, they are sometimes stripy or brightly coloured which we associate with venom. Various obvious and noticeable things therefore trigger “danger” responses in us automatically.
  2. Spiders are sometimes dangerous or can bite, and we all tend to know that. We therefore sometimes do not know what kind of spider we are dealing with, and most of us have heard the extremely rare stories of dangerous spiders hitch hiking a ride to the country on fruit. We therefore are aware that the insect we are looking at has dangerous cousins. This tends to cause us to heighten our sense of risk and therefore fear.
  3. There is a cultural obsession in humans with scary things! Philosophers including David Hume have speculated as to why scary things cause us pleasure, Hume for example suggested it is the “release” after fear that gives us a sense of well being. Whatever the reason, certain themes are favourites for scary stories and films. Spiders are right up there with the walking dead! Therefore we have created a socially constructed narrative where we are more than a little unsure whether to trust spiders!

Are spiders dangerous in the UK?

Native spiders are not usually dangerous. Stuart has been bitten several times by native European spiders (I have a condition where I am low in vitamin B1 and this makes me smell tasty to bugs generally).  The False Widow looks scary but gives you head cold symptoms for a brief while, and the rest are like a typical insect bite or minor wasp sting. Generally therefore the answer is no, no worse than a wasp or bee, and unlike wasps, spiders native to the UK are not looking for trouble.

Do Spiders want to bite people?

Native UK spiders are shy and not aggressive, they absolutely do not want to bite you! A spider’s instinct is to run away! In fact the thing that scares a lot of people is when the spider runs towards them because it is attracted to the shadow that we cast and want to hide there.

What are the typical fear triggers for people with spider phobia?

Everyone is different and it is quite important when treating a phobia to actually identify which triggers effect you. For some people it is the “look” of a spider, others the way it moves, others the fact it hides. By identifying the triggers for the individual, these then can be directly addressed with therapy methods.

What therapy methods work well with spider phobia?

The NICE recommended psychological treatments for anxiety and phobias are all based around cognitive behavioural psychological therapies. This however can be in for form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Desensitisation therapy, Stress inoculation Therapy, visualisation practice or hypnotherapy used in a cognitive behavioural model.

Stuart combines psychoeducation, cognitive behavioural therapy and clinical hypnotherapy (including cognitive behavioural and visualisation based models) to address spider phobias and other phobias. This means that hypnotherapy based visualisation reduces the fear, especially once the triggers have been identified, and the cognitive behavioural approaches change how the client perceives spiders and their danger level, and modifies how they act or behave. Gradually the client moves towards feeling less fearful, having a better grasp of the reality of the situation (rather than being frozen with fear), and has prepared and practised responses rather than fight and flight responses.

There are no “quick fixes” in severe phobias, and although there are “rapid cure” methods touted by NLP practitioners and the like, these are for mild phobias and usually are not appropriate in severe cases or where other issues like general anxiety exist. They are certainly not NICE recommended. Depending on the level of contact required, therapy can take just a few sessions or much longer, really depending on whether the person wants to be able to “handle” spiders occasionally being about, whether they want to work or live around spiders in a fairly relaxed way, or whether they need to have contact with spiders (for example work or study). With all cases it is important to ensure that the treatment lasts beyond the clinic premises, therefore a series of sessions with the client practising increased levels of exposure in between is vital to ensure real change has been made.

Key Words
Spider Phobia, Arachnophobia, fears and phobias, anxiety, spider anxiety, fear of spiders, phobic reaction, fight and flight response, dread of spiders, severe phobia, anxiety reactions, hypnotherapy, hypnosis, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, cognitive behavioural psychological treatment, CBT for phobias, hypnotherapy for phobia, CBT for Arachnophobia, hypnosis for Arachnophobia, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.