Katsaridaphobia (fear of cockroaches): symptoms, causes and treatment

Phobias are irrational and disproportionate fears rather than stimuli or situations that are generally not harmful, or which, if they are, are not enough to generate these large doses of fear. There are thousands of different phobias. In this article we will get to know one of them, katsaridaphobia, which consists of an intense fear of cockroaches.

We will find out exactly what this phobia is, what are its typical symptoms, its most common causes and the treatments usually used to treat it. In addition, we will review the types of phobias offered by the DSM-5 (Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders).

    Phobias: what are they?

    Typical symptoms of a phobia (called simple phobia or specific phobia) include that intense fear coupled with great anxiety when the stimulus is presented (or even imagined), avoidance of the stimulus in question (or adaptation / resistance with it). high levels of anxiety) and impaired overall functioning of the individual with the phobia.

    The diagnostic criteria to consider that you suffer from a specific phobia according to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders), also include that anxiety, fear or avoidance be present for at least 6 months or more.


    There are phobias for almost every possible stimulus, object or situation. More precisely, DSM-5 classifies specific phobias into 5 groups, Depending on the type of stimulus you are afraid of:

    • Animal phobia
    • Phobia in a natural environment
    • Blood phobia-wounds-injections
    • situational phobia
    • Other types of phobia

    Katsaridaphobia would be classified as an animal phobia, as the dreaded stimulus in this case is cockroaches (a type of insect).

    Katsaridaphobia: what is it?

    So, katsaridaphobia is a specific type of phobia that cockroaches are dreaded for. Cockroaches are also called “blatodeos” and are a type of flattened insect, usually measuring between 3 and 3 inches in length. In the group of “blatodeos” or cockroaches, termites, for example, are also included.

    Irrational fear in cockroaches is linked to our ancestors’ attempts at survival when exposed to animals that could pose a threat; in this case, however, katsaridaphobia is more related to the fear of disgusting stimuli, like many other related phobias (fear of small insects, ants, rotten food, mice, rotting bodies, etc.).

    This way, even though we “know” that cockroaches cannot cause us serious harm (since they are usually very small and harmless), people who suffer from katsaridaphobia they feel such an outrageous feeling of disgust in front of them that they panic when they see them, have them nearby or touch them (especially if they appear in the house, rooms, etc.).

    This “fear or rejection of disgust” is also linked to the fear of contamination or of contracting some kind of disease, which is why the origin of katsaridaphobia, as we will see later, can also be linked to mechanisms. of ancestral survival.


      Symptoms of katsaridaphobiaAs specific as the phobia is, they are:

      1. Fear of intense anxiety

      The main symptom of katsaridaphobia is intense fear or anxiety in cockroaches. Like all specific phobias, fear is limited to a specific and well-specified stimulus, object or situation (although this delineation may vary from one phobia to another); in that case, the specific phobic stimulus is cockroaches.

      One can fear the mere fact of witnessing a beetle; it is common to find this type of insect in the field, in the house itself (under the bed, between cupboards or furniture, etc.) or in other contexts.

      2. Avoidance or resistance

      The second symptom of katsaridaphobia is to avoid situations that may involve seeing or approaching a beetle. Avoidance is also extrapolated to the actual situation of seeing them, i.e. we see them and we have to flee because we cannot “endure” this fear or anxiety.

      If avoidance does not occur, active resistance to the stimulus occurs, with exaggerated and immediate fear or anxiety; that is to say that the presence of cockroaches is confronted or resisted but with a great feeling of discomfort.

      3. Disproportionate fear or anxiety

      Very similar to the first symptom, in katsaridaphobia the individual manifests disproportionate fear or anxiety; this means that they arise in the face of an unrealistic danger or a danger which is not serious enough to explain these symptoms.

      In addition, also these are disproportionate symptoms compared to the socio-cultural context the person with katsaridaphobia is in.

      4. Persistent fear or anxiety

      In addition, this fear or anxiety in cockroaches persists over time, for at least 6 months. This period of time is essential to go through with the symptoms in order to be diagnosed with katsaridaphobia, according to the DSM-5.

      5. Significant discomfort

      The above symptoms end up causing remarkable discomfort in the person, which affects the functioning of his daily life, interfering with it. In this way, either there is significant discomfort or deterioration occurs in one or more areas of the patient’s life (Work, social, personal …)

      the causes

      The causes of katsaridaphobia, as we have argued, are linked to an ancestral mechanism of survival in the face of stimuli generating disgust (since this mechanism made it possible to avoid the contraction of the disease, for example). This ancestral mechanism is extrapolated to other stimuli (Other types of insects, spoiled food with unpleasant odors, etc.).

      On the other hand, cockroaches are known to live in dark and warm areas. It is likely that a person who develops katsaridaphobia has found themselves in low light situations and a beetle has rubbed their skin, causing them to feel uncomfortable or disgusting. This situation can lead to such a feeling of disgust that it ends up causing katsaridaphobia itself.

      In both cases, katsaridaphobia it originates from an adaptive and therefore evolutionary response of the organism. Thus, we know that our ancestors had evolutionary mechanisms that allowed them to be attentive to animals or even cockroaches, when they slept in caves or in dark places.

      Finally, katsaridaphobia too it can come from vicarious experiences (Observation of another phobic person in suffering cockroaches), traumatic experiences with the insect or even due to a genetic predisposition to suffer from this type of phobia.


        Treatments for katsaridaphobia include psychological therapy; As with most specific phobias, techniques of exposure to a phobic stimulus and systematic desensitization (DS) are often used, along with cognitive restructuring techniques.

        Thus, katsaridaphobia can be overcome. For example, if we use systematic desensitization or exposure techniques, we can gradually present the patient with pictures or photos of cockroaches. Little by little, the phobic stimulus will be more and more for him (the therapist must work out a hierarchy of items alongside the patient beforehand); the next step may be for the patient to approach and even touch a dead beetle.

        Then the same can be done with a living beetle. Ideally, the final elements of DS or exposure techniques will include situations where the patient must stay in a room or room with cockroaches without running away and without experiencing anxiety (or exhibiting tolerable levels of it).

        The ultimate goal is that the patient with katsaridaphobia stops experiencing symptoms of fear and anxiety when he sees cockroaches, and that your body does not react by overactivating these situations or stimuli, Thus unmatched the phobic stimulus of physiological symptoms.

        Bibliographical references:

        • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth edition. Washington DC: author.
        • Pérez, M .; Fernandez, JR; Fernández, C. and Amic, I. (2010). Guide to Effective Psychological Treatments I: Adults. Madrid: Pyramid.
        • Tortella-Feliu, M. (2014). Anxiety disorders in the DSM-5. Notebooks of psychosomatic medicine and psychiatry. Ibero-American Journal of Psychosomatics, 110: 62-69.

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