Synonyms in a broader sense
Spider fear, fear of spiders, arachnophobia English: arachnophobiaArachnophobia is a type of specific fear. The term comes from ancient Greek and means fear of spiders (arachnophobia). It describes the fear of spiders, which is exaggerated and unfounded, as there is no real danger. The fear does not always have to start from the confrontation of a real spider, but can also be triggered by pictures or toys depicting a spider.
Arachnophobia is widespread both in Germany and throughout Europe. In total, about 10% of the population in Germany suffer from such a phobia. The fear of spiders is most common within animal phobias.
Among those affected, women (90-95%) are particularly common. There are hardly any poisonous spiders in Europe. Nevertheless, more people suffer from the fear of spiders in EU countries than in areas where the poisonous spiders are more common (e.g. rain forests).
The symptoms that occur in patients in an anxiety-ridden situation (real encounter with an arachnid) are comparable to the general symptoms of specific anxiety. Not every affected person shows the same symptoms to the same extent. The type and intensity of the symptoms also determines the type and duration of treatment.
The fear caused by an arachnid can manifest itself on three different levels: The fears caused by the thought of an arachnid or by the confrontation with such an animal are usually strongly exaggerated and not appropriate in the respective situation. Thus, the fear described above can often lead to panic-like symptoms, which represent an enormous amount of suffering for the person concerned. Furthermore, the attention of the affected person is usually very focused.
Affected persons usually search for possible spiders in rooms they enter or in which they are staying. If it comes to a confrontation with an arachnid (in reality, or in the form of a picture/toy etc. ), the affected person usually reacts with a feeling of discomfort up to flight and strong physical symptoms (sweating, trembling, palpitations, shortness of breath, etc.)
Persons suffering from arachnophobia/spider anxiety are often not able to control their fears themselves or to keep in mind the inappropriateness of fear in the respective situation. – subjective: through stories about the person’s own fears of spiders. – in behaviour: Avoidance of the fear-stricken places and objects where there might be a confrontation with a spider.
- Physical: physical reactions occur in connection with the spider (e.g. sweating, trembling, accelerated heartbeat etc. ),
The factors used to explain the development of arachnophobia are also based on the explanatory approaches of the specific fear. Here, a multidimensional approach is used, i.e. many causes may have contributed to the development of arachnophobia.
The explanatory approaches can be summarized in three different groups: The development of arachnophobia is most often explained by learning theories. For many of those affected, “learning from a model” (observational learning, a form of learning) plays a major role in the development of their arachnophobia. Already in childhood, people observe the behaviour of their parents or close relatives very closely.
If the child’s mother suffers from arachnophobia and the fear is already very evident in her behaviour when the child is still small, the child has observed this behaviour as a reaction to a spider and learned this connection (spider and mother’s fear). It is assumed that these children often also develop arachnophobia during their lives, although they themselves must not have had any negative experiences with the arachnids. An indication for this assumption is the increased fear of spiders, which can be observed in different family members.
In contrast to other specific phobias, such as fear of flying, arachnophobia is not always based on a traumatic event as the trigger for arachnophobia. – Learning theory factors
- Neurobiological factors
- Individual variations
In order to be able to make a diagnosis of arachnophobia, a therapist/doctor usually asks about the behaviour of the affected person in a personal interview (clinical interview). During the interview, the therapist/doctor tries to find out whether the patient’s behaviour and thoughts match the diagnostic criteria (criteria of a specific anxiety) that have to be fulfilled in order to make a diagnosis of arachnophobia.
For example, the patient is asked when the anxiety started, when it occurs, what symptoms the person has noticed. Alternatively, specific questionnaires are used, which also ask for the presence of the above criteria. With the help of these procedures, the therapist/doctor can also rule out the possibility that the person concerned has a different clinical picture.