How Can I Overcome My Fear of Spiders?

Dear GoodTherapy.org,

Okay, so I get that spiders play an important role in the ecosystem. I get that they keep mosquitoes under control. I know they don’t hunt people. I still have wicked nightmares about them covering my body in sticky silk and slowly draining the life out of me. I still want to burn my house down anytime I see one in my home. I still won’t go hiking or camping for fear of running into a web.

I’ve definitely been bitten by spiders before. I am guessing most people have at one point or another. But I’ve never had an overly bad reaction to a bite, so I don’t know what it is about spiders that makes me react this way. I haven’t even seen the movie Arachnophobia (I’m told it wouldn’t help). Also, where I live, there is only one type of dangerous spider, and my chances of ever encountering it are next to zero.

Why, then, am I so afraid of spiders? Will I always be this way, or can arachnophobia be overcome? Are there therapies that help with this sort of fear specifically? —Spun Out on Spiders

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Dear Spun Out,

Thank you for writing and sharing so much about your fear. Just talking about the subject of a phobia can create a sense of anxiety, so I really appreciate your candor. As far as causes of arachnophobia, some research points to evolutionary explanations, meaning humans evolved to be afraid of spiders to avoid poisonous spider bites. Other research suggests social conditioning is the cause—if, as a child, you see people reacting with fear every time they see a spider, you may learn to be afraid of spiders too. Still other research suggests fear of spiders can be genetically inherited.

The good news is there is treatment that can help. Partnering with a therapist could give you the opportunity to uncover the root cause of your specific fear of spiders. Beyond possibly gaining an understanding of the origin of your phobia, you can also work on moving past it.

Since there is something specific you want to work on—arachnophobia—it makes sense to start by looking for local therapists who have experience in treating this specific condition.

The first step to getting treatment is finding the right therapist and treatment for you. Since there is something specific you want to work on—arachnophobia—it makes sense to start by looking for local therapists who have experience in treating this specific condition. Exposure therapies and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) are treatments commonly used to address phobias.

After you identify a few therapists, call them and talk to them about what you are experiencing. Ask how they have been successful treating this issue in the past. Hopefully, these phone calls will give you a sense of which therapist and what approach you feel most drawn to. If you have it narrowed down to a couple of therapists, schedule consultations with both therapists to see which one seems like the best fit for you.

I wish you success in finding the right therapist to help you tackle this. It sounds like this fear has created a lot of discomfort for you and even stopped you from doing some things you might otherwise enjoy—camping and hiking, for instance. You deserve a full, rich life free from this fear.

Kind regards,

Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC

Reference:

Buddle, C. (2015, May 20). Why Are We So Afraid of Spiders? Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/why-are-we-so-afraid-of-spiders-10263450.html

Sarah Noel
Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
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  • Kelly

    Kelly

    June 25th, 2017 at 8:26 AM

    I am claustrophobic so I totally understand that feeling of being overwhelmed by that fear but also being afraid that other people see your real fears as irrational or silly.

  • Bennett

    Bennett

    June 26th, 2017 at 9:19 AM

    could hypnosis help?

  • connor y

    connor y

    June 28th, 2017 at 8:59 AM

    There are way too many things that would be available to you therapy wise to just give up and allow this to infiltrate your life in such a harsh way. I would try to do a lot of different things, mainly so you could figure out what is going to work for you. Some of the efforts will make a difference and some won’t but at least you will be trying and feeling your way around it until something eventually clicks for you.

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