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Do you or someone you know have a very strong fear of spiders? We are all afraid of something, but usually we can handle it. However, a phobia is an extreme fear that we may need help to overcome. Here we explain what arachnophobia (spider phobia), is and how to get help.

What is arachnophobia?

Arachnophobia, or spider phobia, involves an intense and irrational fear of spiders. This fear can be so overwhelming that it affects a person’s daily life and can be triggered by the sight of a spider and even the thought of spiders. It can lead to limiting one’s life in various ways and avoiding places where one might encounter a spider, such as basements or forests. It is a treatable condition so help is available.

Why do people get spider phobia?

The causes of spider phobia are not fully understood, but it is thought to be a combination of evolutionary, genetic and environmental factors. One evolutionary theory suggests that a fear of spiders may have been beneficial to human survival in the past, as it may be functional to avoid what could potentially be a danger to life. Genetic factors may also play a role. But also personal experiences, such as a frightening event with a spider during childhood, can contribute to the development of the phobia. So there are several different factors that contribute.

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How common are phobias?

According to research in this area, approximately 8-12% of the population suffer from one or more phobias in their lifetime. These can range from common phobias such as fear of heights and social phobia to lesser known ones such as ‘hole phobia’ (trypophobia).

Symptoms of spider phobia

Spider phobia is a specific phobia, which means that you have a strong fear of a particular thing. It can lead to other problems of avoidance and limitations in life, which can affect your quality of life in different ways. Symptoms of spider phobia are:

  1. Immediate anxiety reaction: feeling panic or intense anxiety at the sight of a spider or the thought of encountering one.
  2. Avoidance behavior: actively avoiding places or situations where you think spiders may be present, such as basements, forests, or avoiding entering certain rooms.
  3. Physical symptoms: Heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, nausea, shortness of breath, or even panic attacks at the sight or thought of spiders.
  4. Excessive vigilance: constant attention or caution to avoid encountering spiders.

If you have symptoms of arachnophobia, you shouldn’t have to suffer, there are effective treatments for the condition. It is possible to overcome the phobia and improve your quality of life.

How can spider phobia be treated?

The treatment for spider phobia that has shown the best results in research is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It helps people to challenge and change negative thoughts about spiders, but the main approach is exposure therapy, where people are gradually and safely exposed to their fears. Exposure is usually quick and can be treated in a few hours. In some cases, medication for anxiety management can also be used.

It is important to remember that treatment is individualized. It is also important to seek help from a licensed health professional to get effective treatment for your phobia.

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How therapy can improve your life

Seeking professional help can significantly improve your quality of life. As it gives you effective tools to manage phobias and can change the pattern you have developed that causes anxiety. Seeking help for psychological problems can be embarrassing, but talking to a psychologist or therapist can be incredibly liberating and helpful if you are living with a phobia that hinders your daily life.

Take the first step to booking a therapy session

Life is too short to let phobias limit you. Therefore, therapy is a step in the right direction to help you live a full and rich life. If you or someone you know is living with phobias, professional therapy can make a real difference. Our therapists and psychologists offer a confidential and safe environment to explore and treat your phobias.

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12 common questions and answers about spider phobia

What is a phobia?

A phobia is an irrational and intense fear or anxiety about a particular object, situation or activity. This fear is usually long-lasting and can be very limiting in daily life.

How are phobias different from ordinary fears?

Ordinary fear is a natural reaction to an actual danger, while a phobia is an exaggerated fear that has no rational explanation. Phobias can be triggered even when there is no actual risk.

Are phobias common?

Yes, phobias are one of the most common forms of mental health problems. It is estimated that a significant proportion of the population suffers from at least one form of phobia.

What is arachnophobia?

Spider phobia (arachnophobia) is a phobia that involves an intense and irrational fear of spiders. This fear can be so overwhelming that it affects a person’s daily life and can be triggered by both the sight of a spider and even the thought of spiders.

What causes spider phobia?

The causes of spider phobia are not fully understood, but as with other phobias, it may be a combination of genetic factors, personal experiences (such as a childhood fear of spiders), and environmental influences.

Is it possible to get rid of a phobia?

Yes, with the right treatment and support, phobic symptoms can be treated. However, it usually requires the help of a licensed psychologist or therapist.

How does treatment work?

Treatment can vary but often involves cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with exposure and medication if necessary.

Can phobias lead to other mental health problems?

Yes, untreated phobias can lead to other problems such as depression or other anxiety disorders if many things related to the phobia are avoided.

What is cognitive behavioral therapy?

CBT is an active evidence-based treatment method that works on thoughts, feelings and behaviors in different situations to improve quality of life and overcome certain symptoms.

What is exposure in treatment?

Exposure is a tool in CBT where you gradually approach what you are afraid of in a systematic and safe way together with a psychologist or therapist.

I have started to avoid things because I am afraid of meeting a spider, what can I do?

If you have a fear of spiders that is affecting or limiting your life, you can seek treatment. There is effective help available.

Where can I seek help for my phobia?

If you suffer from a phobia, we recommend that you contact a licensed psychologist or therapist. You can book a first appointment with one of our therapists here at Lavendla. We make the hard things easier.

Treating spider phobia with cognitive behavioral therapy

This is what treating spider phobia can look like and it can feel overwhelming, but remember that you are not alone in overcoming your fear. There is help available and here is an idea of what treatment might look like:

Understanding and assessment

The first step is to understand that you have a phobia and that it is okay to seek help for it. A licensed psychologist can help you assess your situation and understand what is causing your fear. You may also be asked to complete assessment forms.

Psychoeducation and objectives

You will learn about your phobia and how it affects you both physically and mentally. It is important to understand what happens in your body, thoughts and feelings when the fear occurs. Goals are also set for treatment.

Tools to change behaviors and patterns

This works on identifying and changing patterns of thinking that are linked to the fear. This will help you develop a more nuanced picture and increase your ability to manage the phobia. Exposure therapy can be scary, but it is an effective way to gradually face your fears. Together with your therapist, you will explore situations that trigger your phobia and learn how to deal with them. You will also be given homework to practice between sessions.

Medication (if needed)

In some cases, doctors may suggest medication to help with anxiety symptoms. This is something you and your doctor can discuss if appropriate.

Follow up and evaluate progress

You will have support from your psychologist throughout the process. At the end of the treatment, you will also receive a plan to continue practicing and maintain your progress over time.

Feel free to book a first session with one of our licensed psychologists or therapists to see how we can help you.

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Written by Ellen Lindgren

Licensed psychologist

Ellen is a licensed psychologist and has experience mainly in clinical psychology where she has worked with various conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, crises and trauma in primary care and psychiatry. She has also worked with research while studying in the US and with affective disorders and insomnia at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.