Phobias are irrational and persistent fears, Which can drastically affect a person’s quality of life. Many of them have an animal or a group of animals as a phobic stimulus, as is the case with agrizoophobia, that is, the phobia of wild animals.
In this article, we’ll learn what is meant by wild animal, examples of them, as well as the symptoms, causes, and treatments for agrizoophobia.
- We recommend that you read: “Types of Phobias: Exploring Fear Disorders”
Agrizoophobia: what does it consist of?
Agrizoophobia is the phobia of wild animals. Like any phobia, it results in an unjustified, irrational and intense fear of the phobic stimulus. It is a specific phobia, classified as such in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders). Remember that phobias are anxiety disorders, and that they are the most common anxiety disorders in the general population.
More precisely, we can place agrizoophobia within animal phobias, one of the 5 groups of phobias proposed by the DSM-5, with: phobia in a natural environment, situational phobia, phobia of injections / blood / wounds and other phobias.
But what exactly are wild animals? What are some of them? Let’s explain it to understand this type of phobia in more detail:
Wild animals are animals that live in the wild and have not been domesticated by humans. They can live in water as well as in air or on land; that is, there are different types. Examples of wild animals are: lion, tiger, shark, elephant, giraffe, leopard, wolf, crocodile, etc. As we can see, everyone has a specific natural habitat and an area where they are used to living.
It is difficult for a wild animal to become a domestic animal, although there have been cases of people who have “domesticated” them or who live with them: for example, this is the case of a resident of Florida who has a tiger like. “However, this is not the usual or for a long time, as these animals often need a wild and outdoor life, without human control.
The danger is often associated with wildlife. Indeed, some of them are, in particular when they are attacked, disturbed or disturbed in their natural habitat. however, in agrizoophobia, the danger is not real or not high enough to explain the symptoms triggered by the phobia itself.
Symptoms of agrizoophobia consist of an intense and disproportionate fear of wild animals, combined with other associated psychophysiological symptoms: for example dizziness, nausea, vomiting, overexcitement, nervousness, restlessness, sweating, shortness of breath, loss of control, anxiety…
Usually, however, these latter symptoms only appear if the patient with agrizoophobia exhibits a panic attack associated with the presence (or imagination) of this type of animal. Let’s concretize the symptoms of this phobia a little more.
1. Disproportionate fear
The intense fear of the intense animals involved in agrizoophobia is, moreover, disproportionate; this means that while one might logically think that a wild animal can cause fear (because it can cause harm), in agrizoophobia fear arises even when the animal cannot cause harm (in a zoo, for example) or when it is not present (in the imagination).
2. By irrational
In other words, in agrizoophobia, the real danger does not exist (or is not severe enough to justify the symptoms). It is therefore an irrational fear (as in any specific phobia). This irrationality can be envisioned by the patient himself (that is, he can realize that the fear is irrational); however, he is unable to cope with the phobia.
3. Avoidance / resistance of the phobic stimulus
Other symptoms of agrizoophobia include: avoidance of the phobic stimulus (in this case, wild animals); avoidance is also extrapolated to situations or environments where a wild animal can be seen (eg zoos, nature parks, etc.).
If, on the contrary, the phobic stimulus is encountered, a symptom which may appear is resistance to it; that is to say that the patient suffering from agrizoophobia confronts the animal (sees it, approaches it, touches it …) but with extreme anxiety.
4. Global impact
Finally, another characteristic symptom of agrizoophobia is an alteration in the overall and daily functioning of the person, who loses their quality of life and may stop doing things they would normally do due to their phobia.
In addition, the person experiences clinically significant discomfort.
The causes of agrizoophobia are linked to an ancestral and evolutionary response of the organism, To protect yourself from danger. In other words, animals and humans have “learned” evolution to protect themselves from certain stimuli, such as wild animals. It makes sense to think that a wild animal can cause physical harm, because it can happen; for example we think of lions, tigers, wolves, crocodiles …
These mechanisms which we have discussed as a possible cause of agrizoophobia have been shown to be useful for the survival of the species; but, at present, in agrizoophobia, the mechanisms are dysfunctional and inadequate, because they do not respond to a “real” or sufficiently serious danger.
On the other hand, these mechanisms are linked to other types of related phobias, for example phobia of snakes, phobia of scorpions, phobia of spiders, etc. Thus, as the cause of agrizoophobia, we find a response of the organism as a measure of protection against harmful or unknown agents (in this case, wild animals). This response may be unconscious.
Other causes of agrizoophobia are linked to traumatic experiences with animals (Whether it is wild or not, but especially with the savages); now the bite of a dog, the attack of an animal, etc.
After experiencing something like this, the person may well develop such a phobia, as a protective mechanism. One of its causes is also having witnessed the attack of a wild animal on another person (conditioning by proxy), having heard stories related to others, etc.
Agrizoophobia can be treated with psychological therapy, mainly through two types of techniques: exposure techniques and cognitive techniques.. With exposure (therapy of choice for specific phobias), these animals will be exposed to the subject, gradually.
The exhibition can be of different types: symbolic (through images, videos, imagination …), through virtual reality, live (by going to a zoo for example), simulated (through behavioral tests), etc. Your choice will depend on the characteristics, needs and preferences of the patient with agrizoophobia.
On the other hand, cognitive therapy will be used to modify irrational and / or dysfunctional thoughts associated with wild animals; the aim is for the patient to “understand” that he does not have to be in danger and that his fear is disproportionate. Through this type of therapy, effective coping strategies to cope with the phobic stimulus will also be encouraged in the patient.
American Psychiatric Association -APA- (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
Pérez, M .; Fernandez, JR; Fernández, C. and Amic, I. (2010). Guide to effective psychological treatments I and II :. Madrid: Pyramid.
Ruiz, M. and Villalobos, A. (2012). Manual of Cognitive Behavioral Intervention Techniques. Editorial Desclée de Brouwer. Spain. Reference.