Phobias Types What Is Arachnophobia? 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 April 22, 2021 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 Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Cultura RM / Charles Gullung / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents What Is Arachnophobia? Symptoms Diagnosis Causes Treatment Coping What Is Arachnophobia? Arachnophobia, otherwise known as spider phobia, is the intense fear of spiders and other arachnids. Classified as a specific phobia, arachnophobia causes clinically significant distress that can impact an individual's quality of life. When in contact with, or thinking about arachnids, individuals will likely feel fear and experience symptoms of anxiety almost immediately. Around the world, between 3% and 15% of individuals have been diagnosed with specific phobias, with the fear of animals and heights being the most prevalent. Keep in mind that while the fear of spiders is common, not every person who feels afraid or on edge around them has arachnophobia. Symptoms If you have arachnophobia you may experience a variety of specific phobia-related symptoms whether you are in the presence of a spider or are just thinking about one. Symptoms of arachnophobia may include: Immediate fear and anxiety when you see or think about a spiderFear or anxiety that is out of proportion to the danger the spider poses to youAvoidance of spidersPanic and/or anxiety responses, such as difficulty breathing, rapid heart beat, nausea, sweating, trembling, and a need to escape The effects of arachnophobia can significantly impact your quality of life. For example, you may experience panic symptoms and not feel comfortable in your home knowing that a spider is in there. You may also avoid engaging in outdoor activities where spiders may be present, such as hiking or having a picnic in the park. Remember that being afraid of something is not the same thing as having a specific phobia. In order to receive a diagnosis for a specific phobia, certain criteria must be met, including disruption to acts of daily living and a decrease in your quality of life due to the intensity of the fear. Diagnosis Specific phobias are differentiated from fears using diagnostic criteria found in the current edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. A doctor or mental health clinician will use these criteria to better understand your symptoms and determine if you have a specific phobia. A diagnosis of a specific phobia requires that the symptoms be present for at least six months and cause significant distress or a disruption to your life and well-being. Your doctor or mental health clinician may ask you questions about your symptoms, their intensity, and their duration. They may also take a medical history, ask about your current coping skills, and find out what your treatment goals are. Causes Arachnophobia may be caused by experiencing one or multiple traumatic encounters with spiders. Arachnophobia may also be caused by: An evolutionary response: Research suggests that arachnophobia or a general aversion to spiders is hard-wired as an ancestral survival technique. Cultural and/or religious beliefs: Some individuals within certain cultural or religious groups seem to have phobias that stem from these influences. These particular phobias differ from phobias that are common in the general population, making culture and religion potential factors in phobia development. Genetic or family influences: Researchers believe that there may be a genetic component linked to phobias. Family environmental factors may also influence the development of phobias. For example, if a parent has a specific phobia to something, a child may pick up on that fear and develop a phobic response to it. Specific phobias are more prevalent in females than males in both adolescents and adults. You may be more at risk for developing arachnophobia if you've had a previous traumatic experience with a spider, if you have another mental health condition, and/or have a family history of phobias. Treatment Like other specific phobias, arachnophobia is most commonly treated with therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral techniques. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on stopping the negative automatic thoughts that are associated with the feared object or situation and replacing them with more rational thoughts. Techniques used may include: Cognitive reframing: This method helps you shift the way you look at something so you no longer perceive it as dangerous or stressful. This may eventually change your physical reaction to a triggering stimulus, such as seeing a spider. Systematic desensitization: In this method, you employ relaxation techniques and then confront your fears from the least fear-producing to the most. Research has shown that virtual reality therapy, in which the person with the phobia is exposed to virtual representations of spiders, may be an effective treatment method for arachnophobia. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) may be a helpful therapeutic technique if your specific phobia developed because of a traumatic experience. In some cases, medications may also be used to treat arachnophobia. Coping If you are experiencing symptoms of arachnophobia, there are ways you can cope. Relaxation techniques: Relaxation methods such as deep breathing, mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation may help reduce the symptoms associated with arachnophobia. Self-care: Prioritizing your self-care may help reduce your overall levels of stress and anxiety. Self-care may include practicing good sleep hygiene, exercising, and connecting with supportive friends and family. Gradual self-exposure: If you are comfortable doing so, you may consider gradually exposing yourself to spiders, while simultaneously practicing relaxation techniques. If you or a loved one are experiencing difficulty with acts of daily living, reach out to your doctor or therapist for support and resources for coping with phobias. If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. A Word From Verywell Specific phobias, such as arachnophobia, can be incredibly distressing and may have a significant impact on an individual's overall quality of life. If you are having a difficult time enjoying your life because of arachnophobia, consider reaching out to a doctor or mental health professional for appropriate treatment and support. 5 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. Eaton WW, Bienvenu OJ, Miloyan B. Specific phobias. The Lancet Psychiatry. 2018;5(8):678-686. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(18)30169-X Hoehl S, Hellmer K, Johansson M, Gredebäck G. Itsy bitsy spider…: Infants react with increased arousal to spiders and snakes. Front Psychol. 2017;8:1710. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01710 National Institute of Mental Health. Specific phobia. Trumpf J, Margraf J, Vriends N, Meyer AH, Becker ES. Specific phobia predicts psychopathology in young women. Soc Psychiat Epidemiol. 2010;45(12):1161-1166. doi:10.1007/s00127-009-0159-5 Botella C, Fernández-Álvarez J, Guillén V, García-Palacios A, Baños R. Recent progress in virtual reality exposure therapy for phobias: A systematic review. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2017;19(7):42. doi:10.1007/s11920-017-0788-4 Additional Reading American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Ed). Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association; 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.