An Arachnophobic’s blog to living in a world full of the creepy creatures

Hi, my name is Becci and I am an arachnophobic.

For as long as I can remember I have lived my life in deep fear of the nasty little eight-legged creatures, I have no idea where it came from, which is partly why therapy can be so tricky. I have no memory there being something from childhood that triggered this. In fact, as a child, I would happily watch the cartoon version of Charlotte’s Web and sing Incy Wincy Spider without it causing any distress. My parents haven’t passed this phobia down to me. My mum doesn’t like spiders, but she is nowhere near to what you would call “phobia level”. It also didn’t develop because I’d heard some horrible information about spiders on TV, or in a book, that caused me to fear for my health and wellbeing. It has just always been there. 

I am, what you would call, the “on paper” stereotype of a person with a spider phobia, even my self-help book says so. I bought this self-help book over a decade ago when I was feeling very brave and thought “I’m going to beat this”. Over a decade later and I still haven’t read past chapter two, which pretty much makes me a massive failure as far as engaging in self-help goes. Anyway, chapter one of the book defines traits of an animal/ insect phobia as follows:

  • Sudden and severe panic and fear when faced with the animalTICK! As soon as I see a spider anywhere near me, I suddenly feel a sudden and sharp jolt of bad butterflies in my stomach and chest, followed by a feeling of becoming very hot and dizzy and losing control of all logic and reason. Depending on how close and surprising the spider is, the event can also result in: shaking, heart palpitations, sweating, crying, hyperventilating, talking to myself and shouting at those around me.
  • Avoiding the feared animal- TICK! As much as I can, I will avoid all risk of meeting a spider. Have I jumped out of a moving vehicle because I have seen a spider? Yes. Have I refused to sit on a park bench in fear of one of those little red spiders touching me? Yes. Have I spent hundreds of pounds trying to spider proof my house? Yes. Will I ever go on holiday to Australia? Absolutely not!
  • Focusing attention on the source of the threat- TICK! As soon as I walk into a room I will scan all walls and floors for spiders. I’ve been late for work because there’s been a spider in my hallway, and I have been unable to leave until someone has removed it from my house. Every night when I get into bed, I will pull back my covers and pillows and check there are no spiders in my bed. If there is a spider in the room you can be sure I will find it, even if no one else has spotted it.

So what is the impact of living with arachnophobia?

The reality is that it affects not only me, but also those close to me. I’ve left my then-boyfriend’s (now-husband’s), house in the early hours of the morning because he was unable to find and remove a spider that had crawled up the bedsheets. I’ve woken him up countless times during the night while I check the bed for spiders.

My poor parents don’t get away from this either; when I lived with them, I once made them drive home from Liverpool in the middle of the night, mid-way through watching The Killers, because there was a large spider in the living room. I’ve also walked into their house in such a state from being faced with a spider, that they thought I’d been attacked. I can’t count how many times I’ve shouted at my husband and my parents for not reacting quickly enough in coming to my aid; or when they’ve tried to catch one, and the little critter has gotten away. I feel very sorry for my poor, poor family for having to put up with my behaviour.

They’ve told me countless times that I should seek professional help to combat my phobia. The annoying thing for me is that when not directly faced with my fear, I understand that it’s completely irrational and I will often beat myself up that I should stop being a coward. I know that spiders can’t really harm me, and I am aware that they are probably more scared of me than I am of them. I am hopeful that one day I will finally break free from the grasp of those eight legs that are currently holding onto me.

I am very lucky in the sense that my close family do take my phobia seriously and they are willing to help me. However, often this is not the case with others: it’s common to witness people tutting, rolling their eyes, and staring at me if I’m in public and become distressed by a spider. Many people still won’t even consider that a phobia is a mental health condition (FYI, it falls under anxiety disorder for you sceptics). It’s unfortunate, but it’s true that society still doesn’t take phobias all that seriously, especially animal or insect phobias. The general response I get when I reveal that I have arachnophobia is for people to laugh and say, “oh yeah, I don’t like spiders either”, which is one of the most unhelpful things a person can say to someone with a phobia, as it dismisses the severity of what us phobics go through and experience as part of everyday life.

How do you help someone with an animal/ insect phobia you ask? I suppose that depends on the person. For me, it helps to remove the trigger, or move me away from the trigger. After this reassure me, listen to me if I want to talk about the incident; if I don’t then give me something else to focus on, try to make me laugh or play me a song that is uplifting or makes me happy. If you know someone living with a phobia, have a conversation with them. Take some interest and ask them what works for them, then do whatever that is if they become triggered.

I suppose what I wanted from this blog was to educate everyone that there is a big difference between a dislike and a phobia, and that it isn’t something that should be taken lightly. So next time you see somebody in distress or having a panic attack in response to their trigger, instead of mocking the person, be a human being and help them!

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