We all know someone who is afraid of spiders. It might even be you that feels a shiver run down your spine every time you spot one of these 8-legged creatures. But some people experience this fear so strongly it's classified as a phobia. This intense fear of spiders is called Arachnophobia. We’ll cover some symptoms and causes so you can tell if you or someone you know has moved from being scared to developing a phobia of spiders.
What is Arachnophobia?
Arachnophobia isn’t just your everyday dislike of spiders, it refers to developing a phobia of either the spider itself or spiderwebs. A phobia is classified as a type of anxiety disorder which is an irrational fear reaction. When you suffer from a phobia you might experience a strong sense of panic or dread when you come face to face with your fear. Compared to general anxiety disorders, a phobia is most often associated with something quite specific.
If you don’t suffer from a phobia Arachnophobia might seem a bit nonsensical, but those who suffer from it go through extreme fear when encountering spiders. A person who has Arachnophobia will go out of their way to avoid coming into contact with spiders or spider webs. The avoidance and panic spiders cause will interfere with their life.
If you suffer from Arachnophobia you’ll find yourself going to extreme lengths to avoid interactions with spiders.
This could mean not going near the place you last saw one, which can affect your life quite often. You might avoid going to places where spiders are usually found such as sheds, forests or tv which has spiders. You’ll constantly be exaggerating your chances of seeing a spider, it'll be the question you ask yourself when going places. It also means when you come into contact with a spider web or spider your body will go into full panic mode, including raised heart rate, dizziness, trembling, sweating and/or chest pain. You won’t be able to go near the spider and will have to get someone else to remove it if it’s in a place you commonly visit. This is quite different to just a general dislike of spiders which is also quite common.
Try our free online test here to check your level of Arachnophobia and receive a free customised report for your severity level.
If you suffer from Arachnophobia it means you have learned to associate spiders and spiderwebs with fear. This often starts when you're younger and commonly becomes less of a problem as you get older.
There is a belief these fears could be ingrained in us from our ancestors, where some types of spider bites were deadly. This evolutionary theory believes that our primal instincts have remained with us and we fear spiders as they can be poisonous and harm us. This theory does make sense as children often have an unexplainable dislike of spiders. Arachnophobia and fear of spiders is more commonly seen in countries where spider bites can be deadly such as Africa, installing the fact this is a survival response.
You may have had an encounter with a spider when you were younger that gave you such a fright that you have developed a fear of them. Our memory of childhood isn’t always clear so an event like this could’ve happened and you now don’t remember it.
There are also social theories which suggest we fear them as our peers do or the people around us fear them too. In the media spiders are usually depicted as sinister or scary, reinforcing this social theory of Arachnophobia.
Spiders aren’t everyone's favourite creatures and the sight of them may make us feel a bit uncomfortable which is normal. If you’ve moved beyond this and developed a significant fear of them it could be time to reach out for help!