DTY Spiders

Expert Opinion

'Arachno' What?

By Dr. Stuart Mitchell

Pest Management professionals must be aware of the distress that pests cause their clients. One pest that can rapidly change eustress to distress is the ubiquitous spider. Distress results from a phobia. An unceasing, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation leading to anxiety and a compelling desire to avoid the stimulus is termed a phobia. Fear and anxiety are usually not justified, but the feelings persist.

Innate fear protects from environmental danger. There are several phobias, but no real association with danger. In the U.S., over 19 million people have a phobia (some so extreme a sort of paralysis can result).

Phobias can be influenced and triggered by traumatic life events, but also run in families. An immediate family member of a person with a phobia is approximately three times more likely to have a phobia.

Altering the way some people conduct their daily lives, phobias precipitate avoidance of the feared stimulus. Daily lives are further affected by attempts to mask the phobia in everyday society (peer inappropriate issues with friends and family, failing behind in school, job loss, general coping challenges, etc.).

With large numbers being identified, phobias result from numerous stimuli. A type of anxiety disorder, phobias fall into three categories

  • Agoraphobia or an intense anxiety within open, public places where escape is arduous.
  • Social phobia or an avoidance of social situations.
  • Specific phobias or an irrational fear of specific objects or situations.

Zoophobia (fear of animals) is a more common specific phobia. Encompassing a group of phobias, Zoophobia involves specific animals and usually develops in childhood. Sometimes dissipating with maturation, Zoophobia can persist well into adulthood.

  • Phobophobia is the fear of phobias.
  • Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders.
  • Entomophobia is the fear of insects.
  • Apiphobia is the fear of bees.
  • Ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes.
  • Ornithophobia is the fear of birds.

Arachnophobes will go to great lengths to avoid exposure to a spider. They may be unwilling to participate in certain activities and go out of their way to ensure no contact with a spider. If a spider is within a structure with the Arachnophobe, screaming, running away, or freezing in place may result. The occupant may be unable to trap or kill the spider, relying on a friend or family member for situation rescue and resolve. If alone, the occupant may actually leave the structure versus risking any encounter with the spider. Any perceived, increased risk of exposure to spiders is avoided.

A 2008 study found that both children and adults could more quickly detect images of snakes or spiders amongst numerous non-threatening objects versus images of flowers, caterpillars, or frogs. In humans, research also suggests the widespread fear of spiders and snakes may be innate.

Evolutionary psychologists theorize that Arachnophobia originated as a survival technique for our ancestors. Although most spiders do not pose a threat to humans, a fear of spiders may have supported humans in survival and reproduction.

Treating Arachnophobia involves desensitization through a process of gradual exposure to circumstances that resemble the fear (immersion therapy--IT or cognitive-behavioral therapy--CBT). Gradually, the fear lessens and confidence builds.

Talk therapy often follows to reinforce changing the thought process as well as develop new patterns of response to stimuli that might trigger the emotions associated with a phobia. Treatment is 90% effective for those that stay the course of therapy.

From the PMP archive

Most wanted: American yellow sac spider
Arachnology is the study of spiders. As arachnologists, pest management professionals investigate envenomation. Spiders use venom consisting of cytotoxic, proteolytic and hemolytic components.

Did you know? Weird facts about spiders
Can you guess what the world's largest known spider is? The species is found in the coastal rainforests of Surinam, Guyana and French Guiana, but isolated specimens also have been reported from Venezuela and Brazil.

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