Scared Yelling Woman Run Away from Creepy Spider Being Afraid of Insect. Female Character Suffering from Arachnophobia Psychological Problem, Having Panic Attack. Cartoon People Vector Illustration

Arachnophobia (Fear of Spiders)

Fear of spiders becomes a phobia when it consumes your thoughts, interferes with your daily activities and keeps you from socializing with your family and friends. Symptoms of arachnophobia include sweating or shaking and tightness in your chest or rapid heartbeat. Behavior therapies along with relaxation and breathing exercises are the main treatment options.

What is arachnophobia?

  • Arachnophobia is an intense fear of spiders. Many fears seems reasonable. We all try to avoid things that make us feel uncomfortable. The difference between a fear and a phobia is that a phobia is an intense and irrational fear toward one or more things or situations. Also, with phobias, the level of your fear doesn’t match the actual danger presented by the feared object or situation.
  • Phobias become a health issue when the fear interferes with your ability to carry out daily activities. Phobias can limit your ability to work efficiently, can put a strain on your relationships and reduce your self-esteem. In this case, for example, you might purposely avoid outdoor activities (hikes, picnics, biking) or seasonal activities (Halloween) with family or friends because of your fear that spiders might be present.

What situations can trigger arachnophobia?

Common triggers include:

  1. Sight of a spider (in person or in pictures)
  2. Sight of a spider web (in person or in pictures)
  3. Thoughts/anticipation about spiders or spider webs
  4. Speaking about spiders or spider webs

What does arachnophobia feel like?

If you have arachnophobia:

  • You feel anxious about seeing or thinking about spiders or spider webs. Your anxiety worsens as you get closer to the encounter.
  • You have trouble concentrating and functioning. You are consumed by thoughts of spiders. These thoughts keep you up at night.

How common is arachnophobia?

About 3% to 15% of the population has arachnophobia.

Who gets arachnophobia?

Arachnophobia is more common in females than males. Although anyone, at any age, can develop a specific phobia, such as arachnophobia, most develop in childhood and adolescence.

What are the symptoms of arachnophobia?

Symptoms of arachnophobia are similar to symptoms of anxiety and a panic attack. You may experience:

Physical symptoms

  1. Sweating or shaking
  2. Tightness in your chest or rapid heartbeat
  3. Trouble breathing or breathing fast
  4. Chills or flushing (red, hot face)
  5. A choking feeling
  6. Upset stomach or feeling “butterflies” in your stomach
  7. Dizziness, feeling faint or lightheaded
  8. Dry mouth
  9. Crying, tantrums, freezing or clinging (symptoms of a specific phobia in children, although adults can experience these symptoms too)

How does a person with arachnophobia typically act?

If you have arachnophobia, you may:

  1. Avoid places or situations in which you might experience a spider or spider web or see pictures of them.
  2. Choose to stay where you feel most comfortable and turn down social activities or family and friend gatherings due to your fear.
  3. Scream, run or cry if you see a spider
  4. Freeze in place because of your fear

Is the spider in arachnophobia real?

The small spiders used in the film were Avondale spiders (Delena Cancerides), a harmless species from New Zealand. That were provided by Landcare Research in Auckland. Despite their fierce appearance, this spider is a docile member of the crab-spider family and is, in fact, harmless to humans.

Is arachnophobia a mental disorder?

Classified as a specific phobia, arachnophobia causes clinically significant distress that can impact an individual’s quality of life. When in contact with, or thinking about arachnids, individuals will likely feel fear and experience symptoms of anxiety almost immediately.

Can spiders smell fear?

Arachnids, commonly known as spiders, are laden with special features and talents which make them such unique creatures and one such feature is their ability to sense danger. Yes, spiders can in fact sense danger but the method might be something you are hearing for the first time.

What causes arachnophobia?

What causes arachnophobia isn’t fully understood. Researchers believe causes might include:

  1. A traumatic past experience with a spider.
  2. Childhood exposure to a parent’s arachnophobia. You may develop arachnophobia if you felt the anxieties of one of your parent’s reactions to spiders.
  3. Family history of anxiety disorders. This could increase your chance of developing a phobia, such as arachnophobia.
  4. Technically, scientists believe neurochemicals over stimulate an area of your brain your amygdala in the presence of fear. There’s also thought that a single genetic mutation can increase your risk of arachnophobia if you have that gene defect.
  5. A phobia refers to a significant, irrational fear of animals, objects, and places, as well as certain situations. These intense fears often stem from negative past experiences. So, in the case of arachnophobia, it’s possible to have a debilitating fear of spiders due to a negative encounter with these arthropods.
  6. Most specific phobias like arachnophobia occur before the age of 10. However, it’s possible to develop a phobia at any stage of life.
  7. Phobias are also linked with anxiety disorders, some of which may be genetic. These include generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and panic disorders, just to name a few. Having an anxiety disorder could increase your risk of developing phobias, including those related to spiders.
  8. It’s also possible to develop arachnophobia from your environment. If you grew up with parents or other loved ones who had an intense fear of spiders, you may be at an increased risk of developing the same fears.

How is arachnophobia diagnosed?

  • If you have arachnophobia, you know you have a fear of spiders and you know it’s a problem because you take great caution in avoiding situations in which you might encounter a spider.
  • Healthcare provider will want to confirm that your fear is a phobia versus a normal level of fear and that it’s not the result of a medical condition or psychiatric disorder. Phobias significantly interfere with your ability to live a normal life. 
  • Provider may give you a questionnaire to fill out or ask you directly how your arachnophobia has affected your daily life, how intense your fear feels and how often you feel it. They may also ask how you cope.
  • He will make the diagnosis of arachnophobia if you have all of the following:
  • Fear of spiders is intense and has been present six months or longer.
  • Your fear or anxiety is about a specific situation or object in this case, spiders.
  • Your fear and anxiety almost always happen as soon as you encounter a spider or think about spiders.
  • Avoid places you think there are spiders or endure it with intense fear or anxiety.
  • Fear is out of proportion to the actual danger.
  • Causes you significant distress or significantly hampers your ability to function.

Fear of spiders vs. spiderwebs

Both the intense fear of spiders and spiderwebs are types of specific phobias. These types of phobias center around single items compared to more complex phobias, such as social anxiety. Arachnophobia is one of the most common specific phobias you can develop.

A fear of spiderwebs falls under the same umbrella of arachnophobia. You might have a fear of both spiders and spiderwebs, or just spiders individually. For some, seeing a spiderweb can lead to the intense worry over seeing a spider next.

How is arachnophobia treated?

Mental health counseling is the most effective way to treat phobias, including arachnophobia. Medications don’t directly treat this condition because it doesn’t help with the underlying issues causing the phobia. However, medications can help treat underlying anxiety.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy are the two main treatments for arachnophobia. This type of psychotherapy (talk therapy) focuses on managing your phobia by changing the way you think, feel and behave.

During CBT, you will:

  1. Discuss your symptoms and describe how you feel.
  2. Explore your phobia more deeply to gain insight into how to respond.
  3. Learn how to recognize, re-evaluate and change your thinking.
  4. Use problem-solving skills to learn how to cope.
  5. Face your phobia instead of avoiding it.
  6. Learn how to keep your mind and body calm.

Exposure therapy (also called desensitization therapy)

In this type of psychotherapy, you are gradually exposed to your feared situation. With gradual, repeated exposure, the goal is that you will feel comfortable when faced with your feared situation and, in this case, to recognize that spiders are not dangerous (unless you live in parts of the country known for dangerous spiders).

Exposure therapy may involve:

  1. Recalling and describing your feared experience.
  2. Looking at pictures or using virtual reality to get close to the real feared experience yet be in a safe environment.
  3. Facing your feared phobia directly, in real life.
  4. Exposure therapy can be paced in in several ways. Therapy also includes relaxation and breathing exercises. Your psychologist will develop a unique plan for you, based on the severity of your symptoms.

CBT and exposure therapy are often used together in a single treatment plan. CBT helps you gain insight into your fears, then exposure therapy helps desensitize your body’s “fight or flight” response to spiders.

Are medications used to treat arachnophobia?

  • Medications don’t treat arachnophobia, but are sometimes prescribed, for a short period of time, to treat the anxiety caused by your fear of spiders. Medications, if used, are usually part of total psychotherapy treatment plan. 

If your healthcare provider thinks you need medication, the drug classes most often prescribed are:

  • Benzodiazepines, such as the antianxiety drugs alprazolam (Xanax®), clonazepam (Klonopin®) and diazepam (Valium®).
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as the antidepressants paroxetine (Paxil®) or escitalopram (Lexapro®).

While these medications won’t treat spider phobias directly, it is possible to see improved anxiety symptoms overall. Options include:

  1. Antidepressants
  2. Beta blockers
  3. Sedatives
  4. Supplements for anxiety
  5. Tranquilizers

Lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising can help decrease anxiety, and subsequent symptoms of phobias.


What can you do to better cope with arachnophobia?

In addition to seeing your primary healthcare provider or psychologist, you can try any of the following that make you feel comfortable:

  • Learn strategies to relax: Try deep breathing exercises (breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, hold for three seconds, breathe out slowly through your mouth), mediation, mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation (tensing and relaxing muscle groups) and other methods to relax. Visualize and focus your attention on something that makes you calm.
  • Take care of yourself: Eat a well-balanced diet, follow good sleep habits and exercise for 30 minutes at least five days a week. Healthy lifestyle choices can decrease your anxiety.
  • Join a support join for individuals with phobias: Support groups can be very useful for knowing you are not alone and for sharing tips and advice.

Outlook / prognosis

What can you expect if you have a diagnosis of arachnophobia?

  • Without treatment, a phobia can last a lifetime and can isolate you from people and social activities.
  • Fortunately, phobias are very treatable. Psychotherapy: exposure therapy in particular helps as many as 90% of people who are committed to practicing the therapy they learned. 
  • You may notice improvements within weeks to a few months.

When to see a professional

Arachnophobia doesn’t generally require a formal diagnosis from a doctor. This is due to the fact that phobias are most often self-diagnosable.

However, you may consider seeing a professional to help you work through your spider phobia if you find that it’s significantly impacting your life. You might ask yourself if arachnophobia impacts you in the following ways:

  1. makes it difficult to go outdoors
  2. gets in the way of work
  3. impacts your social life
  4. prevents you from spending time with your loved ones
  5. keeps you awake at night
  6. consumes your thoughts on a regular basis
  • If you have answered “yes” to any of the above, you may consider seeing a psychotherapist to help you address spider phobias. One-on-one talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and group therapy are all possible counseling options for phobias.
  • A therapist will help you address the fear head-on so that you can have fewer fearful encounters with spiders in the future, should they arise. This approach is known as desensitization, or exposure therapy. As with other phobias, complete avoidance isn’t recommended because it will only intensify your fears.
  • The sooner you seek therapy, the greater the chances that your phobia can be treated. Delaying professional help can make therapy that much more difficult.

How do you know at what point you need to see your doctor for arachnophobia?

It may be time to see your healthcare provider if your intense fear of spiders:

  1. Interferes with your daily activities
  2. Keeps you away from outdoor activities or special events with family and friends
  3. Consumes your thoughts most of the time
  4. Keeps you up at night

It may be comforting to know that many people have phobias. Your healthcare provider is ready to help you. The good news is that arachnophobia is a treatable condition. With treatment and your commitment to practice the techniques you learn in therapy, you can learn to manage your fear of spiders and enjoy your life.


  • Arachnophobia is just one of many phobias that can arise during a person’s lifetime. Like other types of phobias, a significant fear of spiders usually stems from a former bad experience.
  • The good news is that you can find ways to cope with arachnophobia so that it no longer interferes with your life. Therapy is the most effective approach to addressing spider phobias. 
  • The sooner you work to help overcome your phobias, the better you will feel. It’s also important to note that working through a phobia takes time, so you shouldn’t expect to be “cured” from arachnophobia overnight. The treatment process may also address other phobias and sources of anxiety. In many cases, mental health treatment can be a lifelong commitment.


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