Fear of cockroaches (blatophobia): causes, symptoms and consequences

There are many insects or animals that produce disgust and, in some cases, fear. Some of the most common can be spiders, snakes, and cockroaches. The latter are often related to dirt, and although in some countries they are considered a food, many people fear them.

The truth is, few insects produce more waste for humans than cockroaches. These little animals, which have been around for millions of years (coexist with dinosaurs), produce irrational reactions in many people.

In this article we will talk about blatophobia, the irrational fear of cockroaches.

    What is blatophobia?

    Blatophobia is a phobic disorder and therefore belongs to the group of anxiety disorders. Phobias can be divided into two groups. The most specific, such as aerophobia (fear of flying) or coulrophobia (fear of clowns) and blatophobia; or in complex phobias, which include social phobia and agoraphobia.

    Cockroaches are one of the most feared insects since disgust and fear are two universal negative emotions. For many, they are disgusting animals, and although they are harmless, some individuals may not have cockroaches nearby.

    Jeffrey Lockwood, professor of ecology at the University of Wyoming and author of The Infested Mind: Why Humans Are Afraid, Disgusted, and Love Insects, explains that “although mosquitoes are more dangerous and can be fatal, they don’t nothing to do with the reaction some people have cockroaches. ”

    Phobias are disorders that cause great anxiety and discomfortAnd to avoid this unpleasant feeling, many people tend to avoid the dreaded stimulus. In case they cannot do this, they will go into a state of panic upon seeing the object of their fear. In the following audiovisual content, you can see a totally irrational reaction of a girl to a harmless beetle

    Causes of irrational fear in cockroaches

    Phobias often have their origin in a traumatic experience in the past, and they are learned through a process called classical conditioning, Which is a type of associative learning. You can read more about this type of learning in this article: “Classical conditioning and its most important experiences”

    Although one of the first researchers to discover this type of learning was Ivan Pavlov, it was John B. Watson who made the term popular in the United States and the first to experiment with humans.

    In his experiments he made a little boy named Albert learn an irrational fear of a white rat that he loved at first. Despite its interesting findings and being one of the most important experiments in the history of psychology, it could not be conducted today because it would not be considered ethical.

    You can watch a video of this controversial study below:

    Other causes of phobias

    Other experts further claim that phobias such as blatophobia may be due to other reasons. One of them is proxy learning, In other words, by observation. For example, watching a horror movie about cockroaches. Phobias can also be due to our biological predisposition, as we are ready to be afraid of certain stimuli.

    Fear is an adaptive emotion that throughout history has enabled the survival of the human species, and that is why phobias are made up of primitive and non-cognitive associations, which are not easily modifiable by logical arguments.

      Symptoms of phobia in cockroaches

      Whether it is specific or complex phobias, the symptomatology is similar in all phobic disorderss. They are known as anxiety disorders because they are characterized by strong anxiety and discomfort caused by fear or irrational fear in the face of the phobic stimulus, anticipating the encounter with it and even imagining it. Mainly, the symptoms of blatophobia can be classified into three groups:

      • cognitive symptoms: Great fear and irrational fear, anxiety, catastrophic thoughts …
      • behavioral symptoms: Avoidance of the stimulus that causes fear
      • physical symptoms: Sensation of suffocation, dry mouth, dizziness, abdominal pain and nausea, headache, hyperventilation, rapid heartbeat, tremors, chills …


      Phobias cause great discomfort, but they are curable (at least to the point of drastically reducing their symptoms). In fact, psychological treatment is very effective in this type of disorder.

      Typically, psychotherapy sessions focus on cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a type of therapy that aims to change internal events (emotions, thoughts, and beliefs) and behaviors that cause discomfort. This form of therapy uses different techniques of behavioral and cognitive therapy, but for the treatment of phobias. relaxation techniques and exposure techniques are really helpful. Among these, the systematic desensitization stands out, in which the patient is gradually exposed to the feared stimulus and at the same time he learns different coping strategies that improve his well-being.

      In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, which belongs to what are called second generation therapies, other third generation therapeutic models are also in use today: mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and therapy acceptance and commitment. This type of therapy they do not focus on changing internal events and behaviors, But in the acceptance of the experience and therefore the reduction of the symptomatology.

      On the other hand, in extreme cases pharmacological treatment can be used, But always in combination with psychological therapy.

      New technologies and treatment of phobias

      In recent years, with the advancement of new technologies, psychologists have started to use new tools that they help expose the patient to phobic stimuli without the need for these to be present. Virtual reality and augmented reality are a few examples.

      Moreover, with the use of smartphones, patients can also have different apps which help to overcome phobias. You will find more details in the article “8 applications to treat phobias and fears from your smartphone”.

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