Living with a fear of spiders
Updated: Aug 24
Arachnophobia is one of the most common fears suffered by humans, affecting around 40% of the global population. So, it comes as no surprise that a quick search online and you can find a myriad of content on the internet, showing everything from spiders, people reacting to seeing or handling them, and even the classic hoovering up of the 8-legged creatures. So, what is it about spiders that has people feeling uncomfortable, anxious and fearful? And what is it like to live with the phobia?
Whether it be their 8 legs, each of which can move independently of each other, or the short hairs which grow all over their body, there are some physical characteristics which set spiders apart as somewhat odd and unnerving. Suffers of arachnobia also commonly report that they are ‘freaked out’ by their body shape and, for some, the sharp-looking fangs and set of eyes on their head.
Significantly, a fear of spiders is encouraged by the negative depictions of spiders in films, television programmes and even in books. This isn’t anything new, but recognising that it is feeding the idea of arachnids being worthy of our fear is important. What’s more, the level of misinformation out there about spiders feeds into the idea that they are worth fearing, which causes this fear and justifies why it is so prevalent in the population. For example, the likelihood of being presented with a spider which can actually do harm (a legitimate reason to be fearful) is incredibly low. Of the 44,500 different species in the World, only 2% of them have the potential to do any harm to us.
If you would like to have a more in-depth look at the fear of spiders, have a read of Georgia Burgess' article, How do you know if you have arachnophobia, which looks more closely at what it is and what some of the causes for it can be.
Some experts believe that we are fearful of spiders because they are perceived as a constant threat. There are claims from some researchers that every person is always within ten feet of a spider. This constant proximity to arachnids represents an exhausting condition for those who suffer from arachnophobia. But how does that affect their day to day lives? Here are just some of the habits which show how people are living with a fear of spiders.
Many sufferers will often find themselves scanning the room for spiders or webs and the potential areas where they think that spiders could be found. This is particularly common when they are in spaces which are not within their control, such as visiting other people’s homes or public areas and buildings.
When presented with imagery, like in the aforementioned media, it is common for arachnophobes to avert their gaze or even skip those sections. In the worst case scenario, they may even disengage from the content completely.
When trying to avoid unpleasant surprise exposures to spiders, linen and soft furnishings pose a significant threat. For that reason, those with arachnophobia commonly shake out items of clothing and blankets, ruffle cushions and seats and even check bedding each night.
Avoidant behaviour is also very common. For example, sufferers will likely do their best to avoid camping excursions, time outdoors and even stay away from wooded areas or old buildings. Think rarely used sheds or garages and you can quickly appreciate why.
Then there are those who are more proactive about their fear, consciously attempting to spider-proof the home and their personal spaces. From ensuring all cavities are sealed and maintained, to putting up screens and researching further methods to employ, there is a lot of content for them to find, all to simply avoid the problem.
Unfortunately, it can drastically affect the quality and routine of sleeping too. Regular spider nightmares are common for those who fear the arachnids and that can have a more significant effect on their long term physical health.
And finally, with all of these habits and strategies employed by arachnophobes, the rate of those who seek actual help is low - only 2% of sufferers seek support and medical advice. What does that mean? Well, there are a lot of people who are living in a constant state of fear and anxiety, and who are facilitating a lot of negative reactions towards spiders, simply by not asking for help. Why that is, is unclear. But there are pathways in place and oVRcome is here to help.
Does the content of this article have you thinking you might just have arachnophobia? Why not try our free arachnophobia online test here, and receive a free customised report with some actionable tips for your severity level? It is a great place to start!