Entomophobia (Fear of Insects)

Entomophobia is an extreme and persistent fear of insects. It’s what’s referred to as a specific phobia, which is a phobia that focuses on a particular object. An insect phobia is one of the most common types of specific phobia.

  • A phobia is overwhelming and causes significant anxiety. It’s different from simply not liking insects or getting a case of the heebie-jeebies when one scurries by. For some, the anxiety is disabling and interferes with their daily activities.
  • Entomophobia is a fear of insects. People with this specific phobia feel anxious when they think about or see an insect. Many people with insect phobia have had traumatic experiences with insects. 

What is entomophobia?

People with entomophobia have a fear of insects. Someone with entomophobia may have extreme anxiety or fear when seeing or thinking about insects. They may avoid walking or exercising outside and may stay away from outdoor events. Some people may stop leaving their house to reduce their chances of seeing insects.

What are other names for entomophobia?

Entomophobia is also known by other names. You might hear this phobia called:

  1. Acarophobia
  2. Insectophobia

What is a phobia?

Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder. They involve an overwhelming fear of an object, event or situation. The fear is out of proportion to the likely real-life harm from an event or situation. There are hundreds of specific phobia disorders like entomophobia. In entomophobia, a particular object (insects) leads to a fearful reaction.

How common is entomophobia?

It’s hard to know exactly how many people have a specific phobia like entomophobia. Many people may keep this fear to themselves or may not recognize they have it. We do know that about 1 in 10 American adults and 1 in 5 teenagers will deal with a specific phobia disorder at some point in their lives.

What does a person with entomophobia fear?

Someone with entomophobia may be afraid of:

  1. Being stung or bitten by an insect, like a bee, wasp or tick
  2. Coming across insects, either outdoors or indoors
  3. Getting a disease from an insect, like a fly or mosquito
  4. Having a bug infestation in their house or in their body
  5. Seeing images of insects in TV shows, movies, books or online

Who is at risk for entomophobia?

You are more likely to develop entomophobia or a different type of specific phobia disorder if you already have:

  1. Another phobia
  2. Anxiety disorder
  3. Panic disorder
  4. Substance use disorder

What other phobias are associated with entomophobia?

Other phobias linked to entomophobia include:

  1. Apiphobia or melissaphobia (fear of bees)
  2. Arachnophobia (fear of spiders)
  3. Helminthrophobia, scoleciphobia or vermiphobia (fear of worms)
  4. Katsaridaphobia (fear of roaches)
  5. Myrmecophobia (fear of ants)
  6. Pteronarcophobia (fear of flies)
  7. Spheksophobia (fear of wasps)

What are the causes of entomophobia?

Possible causes of entomophobia include:

  1. Past traumatic experiences: People who have had a traumatic experience related to insects may develop entomophobia. For example, you or someone you know may have had a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting.
  2. Environmental irritations: Some people have itchy skin caused by pollen, mold or household allergens. Persistent irritated skin may lead someone to blame insects.
  3. Family history: Your risk of entomophobia increases if you have a close relative or parent with a phobic disorder or anxiety disorder. You may be more anxious than other people if you have a certain gene mutation (change).
  4. Modeling: Seeing a person with entomophobia or hearing someone talk about their fear of insects can cause you to have the same phobia.

What causes entomophobia?

Experts don’t know exactly what causes specific phobias. Certain factors increase your risk, including your age. Most phobias develop in childhood, though it’s possible to develop a phobia as an adult.

Possible causes of entomophobia may include:

  1. A negative experience: A traumatic or negative experience can trigger the development of specific phobias. For example, you may have been stung by a wasp as a child or startled awake by an insect on your arm.
  2. Your family: Children can learn a phobia from a parent or other family member. For instance, you may have learned your fear of insects from your mother who had the tendency to scream at the sight of a spider in the house.
  3. Genetics: May play a role in phobias and anxiety disorder.
  4. Traumatic brain injury: Brain injuries, such as concussions, have been linked to the development of anxiety disorders. A brain injury appears to increase fear conditioning and predispose the brain to fear learning during stressful events experienced after the injury.

What’s the outlook for people with entomophobia?

Like most phobias, entomophobia is curable with treatment. If your fear of insects is disruptive to your life and causes you anxiety, reach out to your healthcare professional, or find a therapist in your area who has experience treating phobias.

Is entomophobia and insectophobia same?

Entomophobia, sometimes known as insectophobia, is the fear of insects. The fear is relatively common in the US, particularly in urban areas. Where coming into contact with bugs is relatively infrequent because of the lack of interaction with nature.

Getting over your fear 

Conquering your phobia, no matter its source, takes time, dedication and a commitment to educating yourself. And a pest control analogy helps to illustrate how. The more you, as a homeowner, know about the behavior of termites, the better prepared you are to defend your home against the damage they can do. Likewise, if you are willing to investigate what is causing your entomophobia, you have already begun to take the kind of initiative you need to put bugs in their place.

Fear of Contamination

In many cases, people with entomophobia are afraid of becoming contaminated by insects. Many bugs, such as cockroaches and flies, can carry disease. In addition, disgust reactions can contribute to feelings of anxiety.

A variety of research has shown that we react more strongly to creatures that we find disgusting than we do to animals that may be more inherently dangerous. Perhaps this is an evolutionary response to our ancestors’ misunderstandings of disease prevention.

Fear of Being Bitten

Some people worry that they will be bitten by an insect. Specific worries run the gamut from the fear of pain to the fear of illness. Legitimate allergic reactions, particularly to bee stings and fire ant bites, do exist, as do legitimately venomous insects, but by in large, the fear of being bitten by common insects such as house flies, cockroaches, and the like are not realistically warranted.

The vast majority of insect bites or stings cause little more than an annoyance, and most fears of being bitten are out of proportion to the risks.

Fear of Infestation

Some people worry about their homes or bodies becoming infested with bugs. According to an article in the Cultural Entomology Digest, people with this fear often bring items that they believe to be bugs to pest control or medical professionals. These specimens, gathered around the house, often turn out to be bits of lint, scabs or dust, rather than the feared bugs.

  • Infestation fears may be indicative of delusional thoughts rather than a simple phobia. It is up to the treatment provider to carefully analyze the client’s thoughts and behaviors in order to accurately diagnose and treat the issue.
  • The fear of insects is relatively common but does not need to take over your life. The fear responds well to a variety of short-term behavioral treatment methods. With a bit of hard work, you can beat even the most stubborn entomophobia.

What are entomophobia triggers?

Anything related to insects may bring on entomophobia. Entomophobia triggers include seeing or thinking about insects:

  1. In public spaces like parks, playgrounds or sidewalks
  2. Inside your or someone else’s house
  3. In TV shows, movies, books or online
  4. While walking outside to your car

What are entomophobia symptoms?

Entomophobia symptoms can range from mild to extreme. The most common symptom is extreme anxiety when you think about insects or see them. Other emotional symptoms include:

  1. Excessive thinking about how to avoid insects
  2. Fear and avoidance of places where you might see an insect

People may also experience physical symptoms such as severe itchiness or a crawling sensation on their body. Other symptoms include:

  1. Chills
  2. Dizziness and lightheadedness
  3. Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)
  4. Heart palpitations
  5. Nausea
  6. Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  7. Trembling or shaking
  8. Upset stomach or indigestion (dyspepsia)

What are the other symptoms of entomophobia?

Unlike a fear or dislike of insects, a person with entomophobia has an irrational fear of them.Adults with phobias often understand the irrationality of being afraid of something that poses no actual danger. 

Even still, the mere idea of being near an insect can bring on severe mental and physical symptoms, such as:

  1. Immediate feelings of intense fear or anxiety when seeing or thinking about an insect
  2. Anxiety that worsens as an insect comes closer
  3. Inability to control the fears even though you are aware they are unreasonable
  4. Trouble functioning because of fear
  5. Doing anything possible to avoid insects, such as avoiding parks, basements, or activities where they may be present

How is entomophobia diagnosed?

If entomophobia affects your life, your healthcare provider may suggest that you see a mental health professional like a psychologist. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) doesn’t recognize entomophobia as a phobic disorder. 

But a psychologist may diagnose you after asking about your symptoms.

You may have a specific phobic disorder if the fear of insects:

  1. Occurs when you think about or see insects
  2. Leads you to skip situations like going to a park or for a hike
  3. Causes you to miss out on social events
  4. Affects your ability to enjoy life
  5. Triggers symptoms of anxiety or fear that don’t match the actual danger
  6. Lasts at least six months

Management and treatment

What are entomophobia treatments?

Exposure therapy is one of the main treatments for entomophobia. During exposure therapy, a mental health professional introduces you to situations and images that may trigger your symptoms. They gradually help you manage your response. Most people with specific phobias see their symptoms improve after getting this type of psychotherapy (talk therapy).

During exposure therapy, your provider helps you:

  1. Learn relaxation and breathing techniques to use before and during an exposure.
  2. Talk about your fear of insects.
  3. View pictures or videos of insects.
  4. See live insects in a controlled setting, such as at your healthcare provider’s office.
  5. Gradually progress to a situation where you may see insects, such as a park or forest.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) centers on your thoughts and beliefs about the source of your phobia and how they influence you. CBT is combined with exposure and other types of behavioral therapy to change how you think about your triggers and how you react to them.

The goal is to develop a sense of control over your thoughts and feelings so you are no longer overwhelmed by them.


  • Psychotherapy is the most effective way for overcoming fear of insects. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend medication to help reduce your anxiety and other entomophobia symptoms.
  • Anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines, a type of sedative are often prescribed to reduce anxiety. Sedatives are addictive and only recommended for short-term use.
  • Beta-blockers are also used to block the effects of adrenaline, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, heart palpitations, and shaking.
  • Antidepressants can also help calm anxiety and fear.
  • Anxiety drugs, beta-blockers, and antidepressants haven’t been FDA-approved for the treatment of phobias.

At-home treatment

Certain lifestyle and home remedies can help with the anxiety that accompanies your fear of insects.

You may want to consider:

  1. Relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, and diaphragmatic breathing
  2. Practicing mindfulness
  3. Getting regular exercise
  4. Reducing your intake of caffeine and other stimulants
  5. Joining a support group


Providers use guided relaxation techniques and focused attention to help alter your perception of insects. Providers can also use hypnotherapy to find the underlying cause of your insect fear.

Yoga and meditation

A regular yoga practice can help you relax and reduce your stress levels. Meditation helps you focus on your breathing and calm your body to lessen panic attacks.

What are the complications of entomophobia?

Severe entomophobia can have a huge impact on your day-to-day life. You may not want to walk outside, meet friends in a park or take your kids to a playground. Just thinking about seeing an insect when you leave your house can cause extreme anxiety. You may decide to stop going out of your house at all.

Some people with entomophobia have panic attacks. These attacks can lead to a racing heart rate and noncardiac chest pain or heart attack symptoms. Uncontrolled panic attacks and constant worry can lead to a panic disorder.

When should you call the doctor?

You should call your healthcare provider if you have:

  1. Panic attacks.
  2. Persistent anxiety that causes problems with daily life or sleeping

What questions should you ask your doctor?

You may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  1. How long will I need therapy?
  2. Should I look for signs of complications?
  3. What is causing this phobia?
  4. What is the most effective treatment for me?

Specific phobias like entomophobia can impact your quality of life. You may avoid outdoor activities and events or spend less time with family and friends. Healthcare providers can help you overcome your anxiety about insects. Talk to your provider about treatments like exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy or medications. These treatments can help you feel better about coming across insects in your daily life.


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