With summer coming, we can expect some nice weather – although often that nice weather is short lived and, when we try to make the most of it, we may find the normal buzzing insects ruining our picnics and those larger-than-normal spiders you seem to see in summer running across your path.
It’s bad enough for most of us but when you have a phobia of insects it can really ruin your summer.
In the world, there is estimated to be 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual insects alive at any moment, so the odds of one coming to wreck your day is quite high.
Often a fear of insects is linked to a negative childhood experience involving a specific insect. The phobia sometimes resolves itself, as the child realises that the insect was not going to cause them any harm. However, in other cases the person is unable to rationalise their fears and it continues into adulthood. For example, Mottephobia (fear of moths) is usually triggered by a child having a moth fluttering around them. Although harmless, this sensation can be enough to trigger a phobia.
A fear of spiders tends to stimulate feelings of disgust which trigger a fear response in us. It is believed that this basic fear is because we feel more aversion to creatures that look more alien and have fewer similarities to human form.
A spider phobia can also be triggered from your parents. For example, if you watched your mum jump up and scream when she saw a spider, it’s likely to create a phobia in you.
A fear of spiders, like most insects, is not proportional to the possibility of you being harmed. If it were, there would be more phobias of spiders in countries that have more dangerous species of them such as Australia or Africa. However, the statistics seem to show no higher rates of phobias in these places than in the UK.
Pain can also be a trigger for a phobia and a sting or bite is often the initial trigger that causes a fear like bees (Apiphobia) or of wasps (Spheksophobia).
As a child, I was stung by a wasp which made me phobic. This lessoned over time and when I was taught wasps normally only tend to sting if you are flapping your arms around. When you keep still they will normally realise you’re not food or a threat and fly away. My phobia, however, came back with a vengeance when I had a wasps’ nest in my house and was stung several times. It was then I realised knowledge isn’t always enough.
So, if you have a fear of creepy crawlies what can you do to reduce the fear?
One way is to make your insect funny i.e. imagine that spider you fear by picturing it on roller skates in the manner of Harry Potter’s ‘Riddikulus’ spell or imagine your spider dancing with a top hat and cane. What happens to your fear if you imagine the Benny Hill tune playing as it does.
Another way is to notice what you imagine about that insect you’re scared of. Is it a big picture (normally people make the insect larger in their mind than it is in real life)?
Take the image in your mind make it small black and white and push it off in the distance, now imagine yourself towering over it. Notice how that changes your feelings.
You can also notice what you feel when you think of the insect you are scared of. Where do you feel it? How intense is the feeling? Try to become aware of how the feeling is moving about in your body. Take the feeling out of your body and spin it in front of you like a wheel.
Become aware of the colour, then change the colour to something more pleasing, then reverse the direction of the spin. Pull it back into your body, spinning it in the opposite direction. Spin it faster and faster until it disappears. You should notice the fearful emotions are gone.
Try these tips and you may find you can make the most of the (albeit short) British summer.
Christoper Paul Jones
Phobia & Anxiety Expert