Spider Phobia Treatment Cardiff
One of the most common and oldest recorded phobias is a spider phobia (or arachnophobia). The term is derived from the Greek terms “arachne” meaning spider and “phobos” meaning fear. Whilst the term is usually associated with spiders, it also includes other arachnids including daddy long legs and scorpions.
Arachnophobia in UK
In UK, about 45% of the population admit to being terrified of spiders. However, the research doesn’t say what percentage of the sample is too embarrassed to admit that they have a spider phobia!
Are UK spiders dangerous? Some UK spiders are known to bite, but their venom is considered harmless.
Spider phobia symptoms and reactions
The fearful reaction that is common with all phobias (including an intense fear of spiders) is a panic attack. Your panic reaction can seem disproportionate to the actual danger that confronts you, but “knowing” that the actual harm you face is minimal doesn’t ease your severe emotional response.
The panic response can include, but is not specific to:
- A racing heart rate and stress induced chest pains
- Breathlessness (rapid and shallow breaths)
- Sweating and hot/cold flashes
- Trembling and Dizziness
- Confusion and hysteria
- Nausea and other gastrointestinal tension
The role of anticipation with your spider phobia
The panic reaction is generally acute when actually confronting your phobic object (a spider). Where you see the spider and experience the panic attack can then become a fearful location in which you anticipate seeing the spider again. Your fearful mind is trying to protect you from yet another “trauma” by generating anxiety symptoms, so you feel the breathlessness and the rapid heart rate etc. as you approach the (previous traumatic) location. You now distrust the location and avoid it, whether there is a spider there or not. Your anxiety symptoms predispose you to believe that you will see another spider because your “instincts” are being emotionally influenced by fear. At this advanced stage of your spider phobia management, others might say that you are becoming paranoid! You are just responding to how your brain has become wired to deal with spider fear.
In addition to location traumas, there are other associations that you will instinctively make. The season in the year can be a significant trigger for anxiety. Feelings of apprehension can creep up on you, leaving you confused about having Seasonal Affective Disorder or some background virus and then you remember that “spider season” in UK is around autumn (early September until mid October). This is when the outdoor temperatures drop and male spiders seek their mates in warmer indoor locations.
With advanced spider phobias, generalised anxiety (to unrelated issues) can raise your irritability and expectations that you will confront a spider. It’s as if the more anxious you are, the more spider-paranoid you become. You may even have “arachne”-related dreams that are part of your unconscious mind symbolising your anxious connection with spiders.
Spider Phobia: Home used to be a safe place
Progressively, as you are traumatised by seeing spiders, you become more alert to their whereabouts. You want to stay ahead of yourself, so you ask others where they have come across them and label their account as a potential danger. Google is a great place to traumatise yourself further because, still in avoidance mode, you are drawn towards topics that confirm that spiders are a threat to your emotional wellbeing. Your mind is filtering “in” the content that confirms your beliefs about spiders.
With your hyper vigilant action plan, you then compulsively cleanse popular spider assembly areas before you can relax. You might approach the location armed with a long vacuum cleaner and frantically suck up cobwebs as you go. Or you send your “spiderphiliac” loved ones to thoroughly investigate and purify the location first.
Here are some of the popular spider assembly danger areas:
- Under and behind furniture including sofas and under your bed
- Confined spaces with limited exit points such as cupboards, attics or basements
- Outdoor areas such as the shed or garage
- In the ceiling corners of a room
- Various places in the bathroom or toilet
- Near holes, crevices and cracks in walls (all of which need to be sealed)
- Outdoor areas of clutter, debris or vegetation
If you believe that harming a spider is cruel, this may compromise your ability to take assertive action over the spider. You may have access to a “spider catcher”, but you struggle to maintain the dexterity to use it when you are trembling with fear.
For many people, home is the safe place where you close the door and recover from a stressful day, but with a spider phobia, home becomes a restless and insecure place which needs your constant hyper vigilance to feel safe.
Spider pranks, social anxiety and other phobias
Even though your own spider phobia panic reaction can seem illogical, your panic attack can also seem highly irrational to those around who do not have a spider phobia. Unfortunately, their lack of compassion can make you a victim of their practical jokes. I have treated many arachnophobes who have retold their accounts of friends (I use the term “friends” loosely here!) who have placed a toy spider (and worse!) down the spider phobia sufferer’s back just to get a kick out of their startle response. Don’t ask me what their enemies have previously done to them!
These experiences can be traumatic for the spider phobic sufferer. When you have social anxiety (social phobia), you generally struggle to cope with embarrassment, humiliation, negative attention and judgement. The effect of these social traumas (or when having social anxiety as a separate issue) can elevate the spider phobia from a simple phobia into a complex phobia. A complex phobia combines additional layers of distress and avoidance where one established phobia can overlap with the anxiety from another established phobia or fear. In this case, it’s the additional embarrassment of displaying your spider phobia panic reaction to others, which makes the situation even more difficult to manage; even more traumatising.
New phobias can also develop from the reactions of an untreated already-established spider phobia. With a spider phobia, you can become progressively claustrophobic, particularly if you have been in rooms, seen spiders near the exit points and then struggled to leave the room quickly enough to feel safe. These traumatic situations build up the “withdrawal urgency” typically experienced in a (claustrophobic) panic attack when someone hastily flees the source of the fear. Over time, this learned response becomes automated; you see a spider and then dash away from the area knocking down people as you go, just to feel calm again!
Progressively, with these automated reactions, when you feel generally anxious or feel confined in a location, it’s as if your subconscious mind is telling you to “move from your location to feel relaxed” as you have done previously with confined spider traumas. This process can start to link to new confined situations which previously had only low levels of anxiety e.g. when having a dental procedure. When you now have dental treatment and need to stay put to have a filling, you feel tenser than ever before. You associate into your “rapid withdrawal response” and feel claustrophobic, desperate to get out of the dentist’s chair to feel calm again. The untreated spider phobia is entrapping more situations, more triggers and more avoidance reactions that will reinforce your need to run away from danger, but the list of dangerous situations is growing.
Fear and disgust with spiders
Although the fear reaction is considered illogical, people may not appreciate that there can also be a disgust response mixed in with the panic reaction. The internal disgust reaction associated with spiders can be so hideously repulsive, that you can then fear it being triggered. The mix of fear and disgust can vary between spider phobia sufferers, but it adds another layer of distress to the panic reaction. Disgust can be associated with anything, but in this case, it’s the sight of spiders and what you imagine that they could do to you that overwhelms you.
Most spider phobias are started in childhood. The imagination is so vivid at this young age, that a child will traumatise themselves with ghoulish images of spiders doing ghastly things. As a child, these “horror movies” then leak into your dreams giving you nightmares about it. It’s common to be awoken in a panic imagining the object of fear near you. Even worse is a nightmare where you are in contact with this fearful object, something that is likely to make your skin shiver with disgust. It’s a dream that was terrifying as a young child and remains terrifying as an adult, even though you can appreciate that the dream is just a dream.
At this young age, the child’s conscious mind is not able to contain these fearful and disgusting boundaries. They become installed as “video nasties” that will have a huge emotional impact on your behavioural reactions to spiders as you age. By the time you are old enough and your conscious mind is ready to challenge it with irrationality, the emotional mind-set is already in place. Even when the conscious mind is ready to challenge it, the challenges tend to be inadequate because they tend to lack emotional intensity to have any effect on it. For many spider phobics, some of these images remain as the peak of emotional distress that combines both fear and disgust together.
Causes of a spider phobia
Spider phobias are generally learned by personal direct traumas and indirect traumas from authority figures. Biology may also be a cause of your arachnophobia. Click this link for more information on the causes of a phobia.
Treatment for a spider phobia
Medication from your GP may be used to alleviate the short term effect of a panic attack or general anxiety caused by long-term uncontrolled exposure to spiders. It’s common to combine medication with therapy involving relaxation techniques, visualisation and controlled exposure.
How can hypnotherapy treat your spider phobia?
Phobia sufferers are very responsive to hypnosis (you can try this hypnosis test to assess your level of suggestibility). You can benefit from a combined approach including, visualisation techniques, regression to remove the cause, controlled exposure and anxiety (panic) control to assist the removal of your fear of spiders. There is more information in this link on how hypnotherapy can treat your phobia.
For more information on treatment for your spider phobia in Cardiff, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff