From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the specific phobia. For other uses, see Arachnophobia (disambiguation).

Arachnophobia or arachnephobia[1] (from the Greek: ἀράχνη, aráchnē, "spider" and φόβος, phóbos, "fear") is a specific phobia, the fear of spiders and other arachnids such as scorpions.[2]

Signs and symptoms[edit]

People with arachnophobia tend to feel uneasy in any area they believe could harbor spiders or that has visible signs of their presence, such as webs. If arachnophobics see a spider, they may not enter the general vicinity until they have overcome the panic attack that is often associated with their phobia. Some people scream, cry, have trouble breathing, have excessive sweating or even heart trouble when they come in contact with an area near spiders or their webs. In some extreme cases, even a picture or a realistic drawing of a spider can also trigger fear.



An evolutionary reason for the phobias, such as arachnophobia, claustrophobia, fear of snakes or mice, etc. remains unresolved. One view, especially held in evolutionary psychology, is that the presence of venomous spiders led to the evolution of a fear of spiders or made acquisition of a fear of spiders especially easy. Like all traits, there is variability in the intensity of fears of spiders, and those with more intense fears are classified as phobic. Spiders, for instance, being relatively small, don’t fit the usual criterion for a threat in the animal kingdom where size is a factor, but most species are venomous,[citation needed] though few are dangerous to humans.

Arachnophobes will spare no effort to make sure that their whereabouts are spider-free (or to the point where they believe it to be 'spider-free'), hence they would have had a reduced risk of being bitten in ancestral environments. Therefore, arachnophobes may possess a slight advantage over non-arachnophobes in terms of survival. However, this theory is undermined by the disproportional fear of spiders in comparison to other, potentially dangerous creatures[3] that were present during Homo sapiens environment of evolutionary adaptiveness. Studies with crickets have shown that a fear of spiders can develop before birth.[4]

It may be an exaggerated form of an instinctive response that helped early humans to survive,[5] or a cultural phenomenon that is most common in predominantly European societies.[6]


Though many arachnids are harmless, a person with arachnophobia may still panic or feel uneasy around one. Sometimes, even an object resembling a spider can trigger a panic attack in an arachnophobic individual. The above cartoon is a depiction of the nursery rhyme "Little Miss Muffet," in which the title character is "frightened away" by a spider.

The alternative view is that the dangers, such as from spiders, are overrated and not sufficient to influence evolution. Instead, inheriting phobias would have restrictive and debilitating effects upon survival, rather than being an aid. For some communities such as in Papua New Guinea and South America (except Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Bolivia), spiders are included in traditional foods. This suggests arachnophobia may be a cultural, rather than genetic trait.[7][8]


The fear of spiders can be treated by any of the general techniques suggested for specific phobias.

The first line of treatment is systematic desensitization – also known as exposure therapy – which was first described by South African psychiatrist Joseph Wolpe.[9] In addition, beta blockers, serotonin reuptake inhibitors and sedatives are used in the treatment of phobias.[10]

Before engaging in systematic desensitization it is common to train the individual with arachnophobia in relaxation techniques, which will help keep the patient calm. Systematic desensitization can be done in vivo (with live spiders) or by getting the individual to imagine situations involving spiders, then modelling interaction with spiders for the person affected and eventually interacting with real spiders. This technique can be effective in just one session.[11] The discovery of the implication of N-methyl-D-aspartate in fear and fear extinction[12] has led to the use of D-cycloserine—originally developed as an antibiotic—to augment the results of therapy.[13]

Recent advances in technology have enabled the use of virtual or augmented reality spiders for use in therapy. These techniques have proven to be effective.[14][15] There is an iOS app using games and augmented reality to treat arachnophobia.[16]


Arachnophobia affects 3.5 to 6.1 percent of the population.[17]

Notable cases[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Patricia Bowen (ed.), Internal Medicine Words, Rayve Productions, 1997, p. 18.
  2. ^ Heather Hatfield. "The Fear Factor: Phobias".
  3. ^ Gerdes, Antje B.M.; Uhl, Gabriele; Alpers, Georg W. (2009). "Spiders are special: fear and disgust evoked by pictures of arthropods". Evolution and Human Behavior 30: 66. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2008.08.005. 
  4. ^ "Fear of spiders can develop before birth". MSNBC. 2010-02-18. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  5. ^ Friedenberg, J., and Silverman, G. (2005). Cognitive Science: An Introduction to the Study of Mind. SAGE. pp. 244–245. ISBN 1-4129-2568-1. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  6. ^ Davey, G.C.L. (1994). "The "Disgusting" Spider: The Role of Disease and Illness in the Perpetuation of Fear of Spiders". Society and Animals 2 (1): 17–25. doi:10.1163/156853094X00045. 
  7. ^ Wagener, Alexandra L. and Zettle, Robert D. (2011). "Targeting Fear of Spiders With Control-, Acceptance-, and Information-Based Approaches". The Psychological Record 61 (1). 
  8. ^ Ohman, A; Mineka, S (2001). "Fears, Phobias, and Preparedness: Toward an Evolved Module of Fear and Fear Learning". Psychological review 108 (3): 483–522. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.108.3.483. PMID 11488376. 
  9. ^ Wolpe J. (1961). "The systematic desensitization treatment of neuroses". Journal of nervous and mental disease 132 (3): 189–203. PMID 13786444. 
  10. ^ "Phobia Treatments and drugs". Mayo Clinic. 
  11. ^ Ost, L. G. (1989). "One-session treatment for specific phobias". Behaviour research and therapy 27 (1): 1–7. PMID 2914000. 
  12. ^ Davis, M (2011). "NMDA receptors and fear extinction: implications for cognitive behavioral therapy". Dialogues Clin Neurosci 13 (4): 463–74. PMC 3263393. PMID 22275851. 
  13. ^ Nave, AM; Tolin, DF; Stevens, MC (2012). "Exposure Therapy, d-Cycloserine, and Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Patients With Snake Phobia: A Randomized Pilot Study". J Clin Psychiatry 73 (9): 1179–1186. doi:10.4088/JCP.11m07564. PMID 23059145. Retrieved 2014-03-08. 
  14. ^ Bouchard, S.; Côté, S.; St-Jacques, J.; Robillard, G.; Renaud, P. (2006). "Effectiveness of virtual reality exposure in the treatment of arachnophobia using 3D games". Technology and Healthcare 14 (1): 19–27. 
  15. ^ Kim, J., ed. (2011). Virtual Reality. InTech. ISBN 9789533075181. 
  16. ^ "Phobia Free". Virtually Free. 
  17. ^ Schmitt, WJ; Müri, RM (2009). "Neurobiologie der Spinnenphobie". Schweizer Archiv für Neurologie 160 (8): 352–355. 
  18. ^ "What makes Justin Timberlake anxious?". Celebrities with diseases. December 27, 2009. Archived from the original on 2012-05-23. 
  19. ^ Oldenburg, A. (April 4, 2012). "Emma Stone does not like spiders". USA Today. 
  20. ^ "Simon Pegg conquers fear of spiders". OK!. June 8, 2012. 
  21. ^ "J. K. Rowling Is Scared Of Spiders". Boldsky. December 5, 2008. 
  22. ^ "Stars and Their Phobias". Archived from the original on 12 November 2013. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  23. ^ Lee, Christopher (2002). Actor's Notebook: Christopher Lee (The Hound of the Baskervilles DVD). MGM Home Entertainment. 
  24. ^ Pardoe, R (1999). "M.R. James and the Testament of Solomon". Ghosts and Scholars. 
  25. ^ "Jennifer Lawrence Is Seriously Terrified Of Spiders". Inquisitr. December 1, 2013. 
  26. ^ "Gareth Bale reveals the things he doesn't like about playing for Real Madrid". The Telegraph. March 4, 2015. 

External links[edit]