Fear of insects (entomophobia): causes, symptoms and treatment

There are many phobias, some of which are very common and some not so common. Among the most common we can find fear of insects or entomophobia, also called insectophobia.

If you are paralyzed by a beetle running around the living room of your home, or if you avoid traveling because you are obsessed with the idea that the hotel you are staying in is infested with bedbugs, you may be suffering from be of this disorder.

In this article we will talk about the pathological fear of insects, And we will delve deeper into its causes, symptoms and consequences.

What is entomophobia

Entomophobia is an irrational and persistent fear that manifests itself in the presence of insects, and can appear anywhere, whether camping in the mountains, walking in the park, taking a mountain run to the beach. or by visiting a country house. And does this phobia, although it may seem silly in some cases for the safety of some insects. this creates great discomfort for the sufferer, who feels great anxiety and distress and an exaggerated attempt to avoid the dreaded stimulus.

While most insects are not harmful to humans and pose no threat, those who suffer from this phobia experience extreme anxiety at the mere thought or observation of an insect. People with entomophobia may feel embarrassed and aware of their fear, but are unable to cope and often need professional help to overcome it.

Any insect, be it spiders, wasps, butterflies, dragonflies or caterpillars, can become the stimulus that triggers a phobia.. However, the most common forms of entomophobia are phobia in bees and spiders.

You can read more about these phobias in our articles:

  • Fear of bees (apiphobia): causes, symptoms and treatment

  • Arachnophobia: causes and symptoms of extreme fear of spiders

Causes of fear of insects

To understand how a person develops this phobia, it is necessary to understand how a phobia in general develops. Because the phobia is an irrational fear, it is not a real danger, and it can be learned.

In most cases, phobics have developed this pathology as a result of a traumatic experience. This is due to associative learning called classical conditioning. To learn more, see our article “Classical conditioning and its most important experiments”.

But people don’t necessarily have to experience phobias in their own skin, but can learn them by observation, in what’s called proxy conditioning. Outraged. certain irrational beliefs can favor the development of these pathologies.

Some experts suggest that phobias can also be due to the fact that the human body is biologically ready to be afraid easily. This would be so because fears develop in the primitive part of the brain and not in the neocortex, the more rational part. This is because phobias do not respond to logical arguments.

This can be understood because such behaviors could have helped the human species to survive. But they can cause serious problems today, developing fears with no apparent risk..

Symptoms of this phobia

When a person suffers from this phobia and other people try to get him to reason about the harmlessness of an insect, these logical arguments don’t help much, and the symptoms greatly affect the phobic’s ability to live normally..

Like all phobias, entomophobia or insectophobia is a condition that should be taken seriously as it can be disabling. Symptoms affect the individual cognitively, behaviorally and physically. The first symptoms include fear, anxiety, lack of concentration, or catastrophic thoughts. As a behavioral symptom, the attempt to avoid the phobic stimulus is characteristic. And as the physical symptoms, the most common are choking, hyperventilation, headache, nausea, or an upset stomach.

Treatment of entomophobia

Conventional treatment for phobias aims to break the stimulus-response association, so cognitive-behavioral techniques, also known as second-wave behavioral therapy, are often used with some frequency. The therapist can help the patient overcome the phobia through these techniques. The most common are relaxation and breathing techniques and exposure techniques.

But the technique most used in this type of treatment is systematic desensitization, which includes the two previous ones and consists in exposing the patient, gradually, to the phobic stimulus. In other words, he can start by exposing himself to photographs of insects and later to real insects. This method also allows you to learn coping strategies, including relaxation and breathing techniques. Many patients have successfully completed a routine desensitization program. If you want to know more about this technique, you can read our article: “What is systematic desensitization and how does it work?”.

Currently, other therapeutic methodologies such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and acceptance and engagement therapy can also be used.

In addition, with the development of new technologies, new ways of treating this pathology have emerged. An example of this is virtual reality, which has been shown to be very effective in exposing the patient to phobic stimuli. On another side, Smartphone apps have emerged that include psychotherapeutic tools to address these irrational fears.

  • You can find out more in our article “8 applications to treat phobias and fears of your smartphone”

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