Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, is one of the most common phobias in the world. Seeing spiders is enough to make some people anxious, and it's difficult to get this particular fear out of the subconscious. You will probably never like spiders, but your fear of them can be dealt with.
Part 1 of 2: Facing the fear of spiders
Step 1. Expose yourself to spiders
Most phobia treatments include some form of exposure to the dreaded object, as you have to face the fear to overcome it. If you only feel discomfort or a fear that doesn't trigger panic attacks or uncontrollable anxiety, you can overcome the problem on your own.
If just thinking about spiders is enough to make you extremely anxious or trigger panic attacks, don't resort to self-help techniques. Consult a psychologist or therapist experienced in exposure therapy, a great treatment for phobias
Step 2. Build an exposure hierarchy
Write a list of ten items, the first being the least frightening (like thinking about spiders) and the last being the most frightening situation (like touching a spider). Get comfortable with the first item on the list by thinking about spiders until you're no longer afraid of it. Then progress to the other items on the list until you complete it. Find people who support you every step of the way. Check out the hierarchy example below:
- 1. Look at pictures of spiders.
- 2. Watch videos of spiders.
- 3. Hold a toy spider.
- 4. Watch a spider in the zoo.
- 5. Look for outdoor spiders.
- 6. Capture a spider and observe it.
- 7. Visiting a friend with a pet spider.
- 8. Observe a pet spider with the aviary lid open (provided this is safe, of course).
- 9. Observe the friend feeding the spider.
- 10. Observe the friend handling the spider.
- There's nothing wrong with starting at the bottom, after all, that's the purpose of hierarchy. Rank the anxiety levels with values from one to 10 (with one being the least amount of anxiety and 10 being the greatest amount). If you get extremely anxious, it might be better to go back to the previous Step or stop the exhibition for a while. If the anxiety does not lessen with prolonged exposure, you may end up making the phobia worse. Take care and consult a mental health professional.
Step 3. Determine the amount of time you will spend on exposure therapy each week
It is very important to spend enough time exposing yourself to fear for therapy to work. Sporadic performance will not produce the results you are looking for, so try to set aside at least an hour of exposure a few times a week.
- Remember that as much as you may experience anxiety during sessions, there is no real danger: you may be able to overcome it.
- Try to overcome the initial experience of anxiety using deep breathing exercises. The longer you spend on the show, the more likely it is to work.
Step 4. Start with pictures and spider toys
To overcome the real phobia, you have to learn to deal with the presence of spiders. Find someone to support you and help you feel less anxiety in the process: Sit next to them as they pick up the toy or photo. Try to stay still for a few seconds and repeat the process a few times.
- Increase the time spent with the toy or with the photo each day. When you feel comfortable enough, try touching the object. In the following days, increase the amount of time spent in contact with the item.
- Once you get used to looking at pictures of spiders, try watching videos or holding a toy spider. Continue even when you feel discomfort, except, of course, when the discomfort is extreme and harmful.
Step 5. Tolerate the presence of a spider
When you find a spider, kill it, run away or scream for help. Stay as far away from her as possible, but maintain eye contact until you feel less scared. Identify the spider to ensure it is not a lethal species (such as the black widow) and approach slowly. Don't forget that the spider won't do any harm and keep progressing until you're less afraid.
- Visit a zoo's spider exhibit to tolerate the presence of arachnids.
- Go around looking for spiders. When you find one, observe it from afar.
Step 6. Capture a spider
When you find a spider indoors, try to capture it with a glass cup. Looking closely at the spider can help control the phobia. Watch her until you feel safe and comfortable. If you can, talk to her: as strange as this may seem, you will feel that you are communicating with her and this may alleviate the fear a little.
Take the spider out of the house. Watch her walk away, thinking about how you had more control over her life than she over yours
Step 7. Increase interactions
If you're feeling more confident, try touching a non-aggressive and non-poisonous spider. To find these spiders, find a friend who has one or visit a pet shop.
If you know someone with a pet spider, ask to observe the animal with the aviary lid removed (provided this is safe). You can watch your friend feed and handle the spider, and try to handle it yourself
Step 8. Consider having a treatment
If the phobia is excessive, interfering with your daily life, you may need professional help. There are several therapies that help people with a fear of spiders, with cognitive behavioral therapy being the most common one using exposure and systematic desensitization.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) restructures thinking (about spiders) to change feelings (fear) and behaviors (spider withdrawal). CBT can replace thoughts that reinforce fear. For example, instead of thinking something like "That spider is going to hurt me", you can think something like "That spider is harmless and doesn't care about me". A therapist can help you with the process so that you can use CBT on your own to challenge automatic thoughts.
- Although exposure is the most based psychotherapeutic method in the treatment of phobias, there are alternative treatments such as meditation, biofeedback, relaxation techniques, mindfulness and anxiety tolerance.
- If the phobia is severe, there are also pharmacological treatments that use antidepressants (Zoloft, Prozac), anticonvulsants (Lyrica) and anxiolytics (Xanax).
- Consult your health care provider for a list of professionals suitable for your desired treatment.
- Look for the Phobia Free app for smartphones to overcome fear.
Part 2 of 2: Understanding fear and changing your thoughts about spiders
Step 1. Understand the difference between a common fear of spiders and arachnophobia
Some studies suggest that fear of spiders is an adaptive trait that humanity has evolved through evolution. When fear is uncontrollable and disrupts your life, it becomes a phobia that usually requires professional help to overcome.
Step 2. Discover the source of fear
Fear of spiders may be a conditioned response generated after a negative association with the spider. Try to find out why you fear spiders or what frightens you about them and start shifting the specific thoughts that trigger the fear into more positive thoughts.
Talk to a trusted friend, close relative, or therapist to try to understand the specific reason behind the fear. Did a spider climb your leg when you were younger? Did you hear a story about a killer spider? Have you convinced yourself to hate arachnids? Remember how it all started to get rid of this evil
Step 3. Know the spider's positive aspects so that you don't think about the scary parts
Changing your thoughts is crucial to overcoming fear and feeling more comfortable when encountering a spider. Get to know the region's native spiders and identify the ones that are dangerous so as not to run any risks. There are very few spiders that are really lethal in Brazil. In other regions of the world there are some more dangerous species, but it is quite likely that there are antidotes to their poisons in every hospital.
- Understand that spiders do more good than harm, eliminating pests that can spread disease. For spiders, the bite is just the last defensive resort.
- Watch movies or read children's books about spiders.
- Learn to appreciate the beauty of these creatures, whether by watching documentaries or reading more about them.
- Draw a happy, non-threatening spider. Imagine that she wants to be your friend and talk to the cartoon, asking questions you already know the answer to and pretending that the spider is answering them. So you can start to consider the spider friendlier.
Step 4. Find out what the common myths about spiders are and deny them
People often pass on wrong information about the dangers of spiders. For example, species in the home are usually harmless and unable to pierce the skin. Also, spiders do not purposely attack humans, only in self-defense. These are antisocial arachnids that like to be alone.
Step 5. Understand the behavior of spiders
When confronted by humans, they usually hide, flee or stand still. Because they have poor eyesight, spiders are easily startled by sudden movements or loud sounds. They don't try to scare humans, but they can get curious and try to figure out what you are. Depending on your reaction, the spider should just take one look and leave. Panicking and trying to kill her will make her try to defend herself.
Step 6. Accept and understand that spiders are a natural part of the world
With the exception of Antarctica, spiders are on every continent and can hardly be avoided. Just understand that just because they exist does not mean they will all come in contact with you. Furthermore, spiders are good at ridding houses of insects and pests: without them, we would be surrounded by insects!
Step 7. Talk to yourself in a positive way
Cognitive behavioral therapy seeks to modify automatic negative thoughts through self-talk. When you're scared of a spider, think of something like "the spider is harmless, I'm just scared of how it looks." You can also repeat to yourself that the spider won't do you any harm.
- Be patient. Fears and phobias are not easily overcome and progress takes time. Accept that fear of spiders can be natural and part of your life.
- If you're helping someone overcome a fear of spiders, make them comfortable and don't try to scare them off. Remember that the person trusts you to help them: scaring them can make the situation worse.
- Tell yourself and others that you like spiders. It is possible to fool yourself into liking them or at least putting an end to your fear.
- Spiders in movies or horror tales are not like in real life. They don't consider humans prey and don't try to hunt them down.
- Some spiders are dangerous. Be careful even if you're not afraid, as a small bite from the wrong spider can make a big impact. Get to know the region's venomous spiders and learn more about their habitats. THE black Widow, for example, is an easily identifiable spider that inhabits dark places and piles of garbage.