Phobias Types Ophidiophobia and the Fear of Snakes By Lisa Fritscher Lisa Fritscher Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics. Learn about our editorial process Updated on November 26, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Daniel B. Block, MD Medically reviewed by Daniel B. Block, MD LinkedIn Twitter Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Panache Productions/Oxford Scientific/Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Symptoms Effects Diagnosis Treatment Ophidiophobia or ophiophobia is the fear of snakes. It is possibly the most common subcategory of herpetophobia, the fear of reptiles. Some researchers believe phobias related to reptiles (and snakes specifically) may be evolutionary, developed by our ancestors as a survival mechanism. However, this theory would not explain why snake phobias are relatively common, while fears of predatory animals, such as tigers, are rare. Some research shows that while the tendency to pay close attention to snakes may be evolutionary, the actual fear is learned rather than innate. Symptoms The fear of snakes can be tricky to diagnose, as symptoms can vary widely between people. If you have mild ophidiophobia, you may fear only encounters with large or venomous snakes. If your phobia is more severe, you may be afraid of smaller snakes as well. You may even be unable to look at photographs or videos in which snakes appear. If you are also afraid of lizards, from small geckos to six-foot Komodo dragons, then your phobia is more properly termed herpetophobia. Your symptoms may include, but are not limited to, shaking, crying, or running away from snakes. You may experience heart palpitations or have difficulty breathing. You may find it difficult or even impossible to remain in the same room as a snake. Effects Ophidiophobia can be insidious. Over time, you may begin to fear things that are not directly related to snakes themselves. For example, you may become afraid of pet stores that offer snakes for sale. You may avoid camping or hiking trips, or even zoos and nature preserves. You may also develop a secondary fear of other reptiles. Diagnosis It is normal to be nervous or unsure around unfamiliar animals. In addition, there are a number of common myths about snakes. If you have never handled one, you may be nervous that it will be slimy or disgusting or afraid that you will be crushed by a constrictor. These fears are common and can be dispelled simply by gaining more personal knowledge about animals. The symptoms listed above, on the other hand, are out of proportion to normal nervousness and may indicate an actual phobia. Only a mental health professional can make that determination. Treatment The most common treatments for snake phobia are based on cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques. You may be encouraged to talk about your fear and taught new messages to replace your fearful self-talk. You may also be slowly exposed to snakes, beginning with photographs and gradually building up to a live encounter with a small snake in a controlled environment. Hypnosis is sometimes used to assist in relaxation. Fortunately, ophidiophobia has an excellent chance for successful treatment. It is important, though, to choose a therapist that you feel you can trust to help you through this process. Different treatments work for different people, so don't be afraid to try something out of the ordinary should a normal course of treatment prove ineffective. If you diligently treat your condition, things can gradually get better. Understanding Phobias and How to Manage Them 4 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Van Strien JW, Franken IH, Huijding J. Testing the snake-detection hypothesis: larger early posterior negativity in humans to pictures of snakes than to pictures of other reptiles, spiders and slugs. Front Hum Neurosci. 2014;8:691. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00691 Rádlová S, Janovcová M, Sedláčková K, et al. Snakes represent emotionally salient stimuli that may evoke both fear and disgust. Front Psychol. 2019;10:1085. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01085 Harvard Medical School. Coping with anxiety and phobias. Pennsylvania State University. Ophidiophobia. Additional Reading American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Ed). Washington DC: Author; 2013. By Lisa Fritscher Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Phobias Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.