While it is true that snakes enjoy little fame among people, and stories about them have earned them a reputation as very dangerous animals, the reality is that rarely coinciding with a snake poses a real threat to the world. person’s life.
Despite this, ofidiophobia or phobia in snakes it is one of the most common specific phobias in the world. Throughout this article, we will see what it is and how it manifests itself, as well as its causes and the most effective possible treatments.
What is ophidophobia?
Ophidiophobia is a specific anxiety disorder in which the person experiences an exacerbated, irrational, and uncontrollable fear of snakes. Always feeling a certain degree of fear in the presence of one of these reptiles is quite natural, in ofidiophobia the fear must be unjustified and exaggerated compared to the real threat What is the situation.
Some keys that help us to be able to tell the difference between a normal, adaptive fear of snakes and a phobia are the behavior of the person in situations where the animal is not a danger. These situations can range from the fear felt upon seeing them in a zoo, to anxiety symptoms simply upon seeing a photo or reproduction of a toy.
Snake phobia or ophidophobia is part of another type of phobia that is a little more common: herpetophobia, which is part of zoophobia. Herpetophobia refers to the intense and exaggerated fear of any type of reptile.
What are the symptoms?
Like other specific phobias or anxiety disorders, ophidophobia exhibits a number of symptoms typical of this type of disorder. The symptomatology of these can be divided into three broad groups: physical symptoms, cognitive symptoms, and behavioral symptoms.
As usual in all kinds of conditions, there is no common, rigid pattern of symptomsBut these can vary both in their incidence and in their degree of intensity. These individual differences in the manifestation of symptoms will change depending on the intensity of the fear felt by the person.
1. Physical symptoms
When an ophidophobic person is in a situation where the appearance of any type of snake is involved, the hyperactivity of the autonomic nervous system will be automatically triggered.
This hyperactivity generates a reaction in the body which undergoes a large number of changes and alterations. In these changes we find the following.
- Increased heart rate.
- Feeling dizzy and dizzy.
- tremors uncontrollable.
- Feeling of suffocation.
- Increased sweating.
- Sensation of pressure in the chest.
Syncope or death.
- Gastrointestinal problems.
2. Cognitive symptoms
In order for physical symptoms to appear in the presence of a snake, the person must also have a number of previous cognitive symptoms. This cognitive symptomatology is given by an association of the phobic stimulus with a series of irrational ideas and beliefs about these reptiles.
These distorted beliefs promote the development of phobia, reflected as follows.
- Intrusive beliefs and thoughts, Unintentional and uncontrollable in relation to snakes.
- Unpleasant and aversive mental images.
- obsessive speculation associated with snakes.
- Fear of not being able to handle the situation properly and eventually losing control.
- Feeling unreal.
3. Behavioral symptoms
Finally, as in all conditions in which fear and anxiety overwhelm a person’s control, ophidophobia also includes a number of behavioral symptoms that appear in response to observing or perceiving the aversive stimulus.
These acts are performed with the intention of either directly avoiding the situation causing the discomfort or of escaping as quickly as possible once the aversive stimulus has arisen. these behaviors they are known as evacuation and avoidance ducts.
The behaviors known as avoidance behaviors are performed for the purpose of avoiding encountering any type of snake. In them the person performs all kinds of behaviors to escape the stimulating object of the phobia and thus not to be able to experience the feelings of anguish and anguish that it causes him.
For example, these avoidance behaviors may be reflected in the constant avoidance or refusal to visit zoos or any other type of facility in which these reptiles may appear; as well as to avoid traveling to exotic countries.
Finally, the exhaust ducts appear when the person could not avoid encountering the phobic stimulus, And once experienced, the feeling of discomfort will perform all kinds of behaviors that will allow you to escape from the current situation as quickly as possible.
What causes this phobia?
One of the main characteristics that characterize phobias is the inability, in most cases, to define the specific origin of a phobia. However, there are a number of factors that can facilitate the onset, development and maintenance of a phobia.
Someone with a genetic predisposition to suffer more from the effects of stress, Accompanied by the experience of a highly traumatic experience or with a very high emotional load in which the aversive stimulus (in this case snakes) plays a relevant role, can be much more vulnerable when it comes to developing a phobia.
However, in the specific case of snakes, some theories expose other factors, in addition to genetics and traumatic experience, that can justify the intense fear that a person feels towards them.
The first theory emphasizes the idea that ofidiophobia has an evolutionary basis that has not disappeared in some people. These hypotheses argue that in the past, the danger that snakes posed to the physical integrity of humans was much higher, so the sense of vigilance and danger towards this reptile was much more intense. This feeling would have lasted until today in some of these people who suffer from ophidophobia.
On the other hand, the mythology that surrounds this animal and the symbolism associated with it facilitate the development and maintenance of these fears and irrational and aversive beliefs about snakes.
Is there a treatment?
In the event that the person is suffering from actual ophidophobia and not from a normal fear of snakes, appropriate treatment can reduce, or even eliminate, the anxious response associated with the aversive stimulus.
The high effectiveness of psychological interventions in the treatment of phobias, they have made it the primary method of choice for relieving symptoms.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy in which, through cognitive restructuring, the patient’s distorted thoughts are altered as well as techniques such as systematic desensitization or live exposure, And training in relaxation techniques, is very effective and generally gives very satisfactory results on the patient.