Arachnophobia, also known as a fear of spiders, is one of the most widely known phobias, thought to affect between 3-15% of the population. It is characterised by significant distress associated with the animal and can even affect a person’s quality of life. On this page, we’ll explore what a specific fear of spiders is in more detail, including the symptoms, causes, and how hypnotherapy can help people overcome it.
What is arachnophobia?
Arachnophobia is the name given to a very intense fear of spiders. Whilst many of us may claim that we are scared of the eight-legged creatures, for those with a specific fear, even the thought of them can be extremely distressing.
A phobia typically impacts the daily life of the person suffering. Someone who doesn’t like spiders may do their best to avoid having to go near one or get the shudders if they spot one out of the corner of their eye. A person with arachnophobia, on the other hand, is likely to avoid going on outdoor activities, such as walking or they may not participate in events like Halloween to avoid possible triggers. This can have a real impact on a person’s life and mental health as it often restricts their ability to socialise with friends and family or stops them from reaping the benefits of nature.
What triggers arachnophobia?
There are various situations that might trigger an arachnophobic response. These include:
- seeing a spider or its web (both in person or in pictures)
- thinking of spiders
- talking about spiders
What causes arachnophobia?
Arachnophobia is an evolutionary survival response that can be identified in babies as young as six months. Our early ancestors used their instincts to survive - we know some spiders can be poisonous, so it’s only natural to take caution around them. But, with new understanding, many of today’s species pose no danger to humans, so why do some people experience such adverse reactions?
There are various reasons why someone might develop a specific fear of spiders. Although the causes are not widely researched, some possible explanations include:
- a past traumatic experience involving a spider
- a family history of anxiety
- developing behaviours from parents with arachnophobia
Phobias often present themselves when the part of the brain responsible for processing fear - called the amygdala - becomes overstimulated. It is, therefore, thought that genetic mutations affecting this part of the brain could also cause arachnophobia.
Symptoms of arachnophobia
There are both emotional and psychical symptoms associated with arachnophobia, which are very similar to that of anxiety. These include, but are not limited to:
- inability to concentrate when thinking about spiders
- anxiety when thinking or seeing spiders or spider’s webs
- rapid or difficulty breathing
- feeling faint or dizzy
- dry mouth
- tight chest
- panic attacks
How to get an arachnophobia diagnosis
As with all phobias, in order to be diagnosed with a specific fear of spiders, the person will experience fear or anxiety out of proportion to the threat from the spider itself. This means that an arachnophobe will experience what would typically be deemed as an ‘irrational’ and/or ‘extreme’ reaction.
Most people can self-diagnose a phobia, however, we recommend seeking advice from a healthcare professional, like your GP, so that you can be equipped with the right tools needed to work through it.
A medical professional will determine if you have a phobia by assessing the following:
- how long you’ve been experiencing the reactions
- how quickly your response is triggered
- what level of distress you experience
- the impact it has on your daily life
Once you have received a diagnosis, you can then work to overcome it.
How to treat arachnophobia
There are a number of methods used to treat or significantly reduce arachnophobic responses.
Cognitive behavioural therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of talking therapy used to change the way you think and feel and therefore change your behaviours. It can be a very effective treatment for arachnophobia.
It is often used in conjunction with exposure (or desensitisation) therapy, by gradually introducing you to spiders. For example, your therapist might ask you to begin by reading about spiders before looking at pictures or maybe visiting a zoo. Exposure will always be done at the client’s pace and only when they feel ready to do so.
The ultimate goal is to gain control over your phobia so that you can face it head-on and start to feel less anxious. To help you take back control, CBT and exposure therapy are often used in conjunction with learning breathing and relaxation techniques that help you stay calm and teach your body to lessen its fight or flight response when encountering spiders.
Hypnotherapy for arachnophobia
Hypnotherapy is another safe and effective method used to treat the fear of spiders. Hypnosis works by addressing your reaction to spiders and changing your thoughts so that you can react in a better way - retaining control and preventing you from entering a panicked state that might lead to a panic attack.
It’s important to note that hypnosis isn’t a magic cure that will stop you from feeling scared, but rather, it works to help you recognise your fear and lower the extreme reaction. By entering a controlled, deep relaxation, your hypnotherapist will help you to identify the causes of your fear of spiders which are often rooted in your unconscious mind. Your hypnotherapist will then work to help you put your phobia into a manageable perspective - like understanding that the spider is most likely more scared of you than you are of it.
You don’t have to face the fear head-on. Hypnosis can reduce anxiety and replace old unhelpful thought patterns. Rewind sessions, reframing and other NLP techniques can move the phobia from an emotional memory to an intellectual one, re-patterning thoughts and memories around your phobia so you feel calm and in control.
Following treatment, your hypnotherapist will often put together a tailored plan so that you can continue to practice hypnosis techniques and implement them when you encounter a spider.
Self-hypnosis can be performed on ourselves and is a great way to take the skills learnt in your hypnotherapy sessions into the real world. Reinforcing positive affirmations, visualising how you’d like to respond to seeing a spider and taking back control can help you overcome your fear at home and allow you to begin to do the things you may not have been able to do previously, such as going on a walk. Some people have even learnt to like our eight-legged friends.
Read more about getting over arachnophobia with hypnosis.
How much does it cost?
Hypnotherapy for arachnophobia is generally a very cost-effective way to overcome your fear. Often, many clients begin to see the benefits almost immediately, typically only requiring a few sessions. However, the number of sessions needed to cure a phobia will vary for each individual and, in severe cases, the person may need longer-term treatment. For more information on the cost of hypnotherapy sessions, it’s best to speak to a few hypnotherapists, which you can do using Hypnotherapy Directory.
How many sessions will I need?
The number of times you’ll need to visit your hypnotherapist will often depend on the severity of your fear. Some people report feeling better within two to three sessions, whilst for others, the process may take longer. The important thing to remember is that overcoming fear can take time and, in order to see the full benefits, you will be encouraged to take your learnings away with you to continue your journey beyond the hypnotherapy room.
Finding a professional
If you feel ready to reach out to a professional who can help you work through your fear of spiders, you can use our search tool to find a hypnotherapist best suited to you and your needs. Acknowledging that your fear is holding you back is the first step towards overcoming it so, just by being here, you can feel safe in the knowledge that you are not alone and there is help and support available.