In this blog we will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatment of Cnidophobia.
A fear of sting is called Cnidophobia. Sting is a small, needle-like organ at the end of the abdomens of bees, ants and or wasps. It is very sharp and with it’s help, these insects protect themselves from humans or other animals.
If one gets stinged, the feelings it produces are very unpleasant. One feels pain, a burning sensation and that part of the skin can even get swollen and red. Almost everyone fears getting stinged because of the consequences it can bring.
However, someone suffering from Cnidophobia is not just fearful of sting but he suffers from extremely high levels of anxiety when exposed to it or while thinking about getting stinged.
Cnidophobia is referred to as a specific phobia, which is a part of anxiety disorders in the DSM-V. In this specific phobia, the anxiety one feels is what persuades him to avoid his fear stimuli.
Avoidance might seem as an easy way out of anxiety and terror but it actually is very harmful. It affects one’s social relations and occupational functioning. Sufferers avoid living near gardens for the fear that a bee or wasp might sting them.
An individual will avoid keeping certain plants such as roses or cactus, which he fears will sting him.
One may also not leave his house at all because he fears he might stinged on his way to school or office. One’s academic and or professional life suffers because of this act of avoidance.
In Cnidophobia, one keeps on repeating his actions of avoiding getting stinged. This though makes one feel good initially, but in the long run can result in serious consequences.
A sufferer might develop Melissophobia (fear of bees) and or Spheksophobia (fear of wasps) because he fears they will sting him.
Avoiding your fear stimuli repeatedly can lead to the development of depression and or Obsessive-compulsive Disorder.
If at times, avoidance becomes impossible, an individual might undergo full-blown panic attacks because of the extremely high levels of anxiety.
Cnidophobia is an irrational fear of sting. The name of this specific phobia originates from the Greek word ‘cnido’ which means a nettle-a plant that stings and ‘phobos’ meaning fear.
Symptoms of Cnidophobia
All anxiety disorders, including specific phobias, have anxiety as their pivotal symptom. Therefore, someone suffering from Cnidophobia will experience extreme anxiety when exposed to their fear stimuli, sting.
Cnidophobia is not wholly irrational because of the fact that stings are painful and many fear them. However, someone suffering from this phobia is unable to rationalise his fear and ends up getting extremely anxious.
Avoidance as mentioned earlier is repetitive. These recurrent actions maintain one’s fear by producing feelings of security, which makes one believe that sting is to be feared. Therefore, their fear intensifies over time.
According to the DSM-V, to be diagnosed with Cnidophobia, one needs to experience anxiety lasting for at least 6 months and at least 3-5 symptoms (from the list mentioned below).
- Excessive anxiety when exposed to sting
- Excessive anxiety when thinking about getting stinged
- Inability to manage anxiety
- Full-blown panic attacks
- Avoiding getting stinged
- Increased heart beat
- Muscle tension
- Feelings of dizziness/fainting
- Fear of an impending doom
- Feeling depressed
- Excessive sweating
- Hot/cold flashes
- Butterflies in the stomach
- Drying up of mouth
Causes of Cnidophobia
All anxiety disorders, including specific phobias have no real/definite cause. They are caused by either a genetic predisposition and or environmental factors.
According to the genetic/biological model, specific phobias are developed due to a genetic predisposition. Someone who has a family history of anxiety disorders has a higher chance of developing Cnidophobia. This is because any alteration in the genes of his parents will be transferred to him.
An imbalance in the neurotransmitter levels of the brain can also be one of the many reasons as to why one develops Cnidophobia. These alterations are low dopamine levels and high serotonin levels.
This genetic tendency to develop a specific phobia is further explained by the Diathesis-stress relationship. This suggests that someone with a genetic predisposition will develop Cnidophobia only in the presence of the correct environmental trigger event.
This triggering event can be for example, being stung by bees in childhood. The sufferer might have developed fear of being sting since then because of the pain or unpleasant feelings it caused.
Another example of an environmental cause can be, learning to be afraid of stings by looking at parents. It is possible that someone whose parents are afraid of getting stinged or upon hearing an unpleasant experience of someone can induce fear in the person.
Therefore, it is evident that Cnidophobia is caused by genetics and environmental factors.
Treatment of Cnidophobia
Cnidophobia, like all other specific phobias, has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it. Like all the other specific phobias, Cnidophobia is treated by a number of different methods: Psychological treatment and Biological treatment.
- Psychological Treatment
• Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
It is one of the most frequently used treatments for patients with almost all kinds of mental disorders. Cnidophobia is defined as the irrational fear of sting. Thus, the therapist helps the patient in replacing these irrational thoughts with more rational ones.
The patients are helped out in analyzing and justifying the way they feel about their fear stimuli. Therapists assist them in uncovering the reasons behind their fear and later they provide them with alternate, pleasant thoughts.
The patient is told to maintain a thought diary (with ABCD column) which provides them a replacement for every irrational thought they have, when thinking about a particular situation. The ABCD stands for:
i. A (antecedents) a situation or triggering event.
ii. B (belief) the thought that comes to one’s mind when in that triggering situation.
iii. C (consequences) the symptoms/feelings caused by that event/thought
iv. D (dispute) alternate, rational thoughts provided by the therapist in an attempt to dispute/challenge those irrational beliefs.
This last section of the thought diary is what really plays a role in helping the person feel good/less anxious.
• Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR is a meditation therapy, used to manage stress or anxiety. It is an 8-week program which includes group sessions. Mindfulness meditation and Hatha yoga are practiced in these sessions. Lectures and group discussions are also done to talk about mental health and increase interactivity.
In mindfulness meditation the person is told to, for example, focus on the sensations felt while breathing or the rhythm of the chest rising and falling during the process. This distracts the person’s attention from something stressful to something which is neutral and soothing.
For quick and effective treatment, patients are also given a set of home works, for example 45 minutes of yoga and meditation sessions for 6 days a week and to record their results/feelings in a book or diary for 15 minutes a day.
• Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
This another form of treatment used with patients suffering from specific phobia or anxiety disorders. It is used with patients who know the cause of their phobia.
First, the therapist collects the patients’ history of different fears. They then identify the real cause of the particular fear/phobia the patient has.
They then discuss any new/latest event that triggered their anxiety and fear in the past few weeks. People coming with specific phobias are told to imagine their distress causing stimuli.
The therapist then works with the individual in order for them to overcome their fear. In the case of Cnidophobia, the patient will be advised on how to overcome his fear of sting. They do this by creating a positive imagery for the patients’ feared stimuli.
• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This is another effective therapy used to treat Cnidophobia. It is more commonly used with people suffering from personality disorders, but is also useful with patients suffering from this type of animal specific phobia. Coping skills are taught in the DBT group which lasts for about 6-months and can have a number of people (depending on how many join the group).
i.Half-smiling is the first module of DBT. It is a technique that is used with patients who are distressed because of their irrational thoughts. The technique is known as ‘Half-smiling’ because the person is first advised to think about the stimuli that fears or upsets them, and while doing so they are told to lift the corners of their mouths by subtly smiling. Smiling is not that will help one get rid of these unpleasant thoughts, it is the person’s ability to constrain itself from thinking about those thoughts while half smiling.
ii.Mindfulness, the second module, is another technique used in DBT groups which helps the individual in getting rid of those negative thoughts. Individuals are told to focus on the present and be attentive to what is going on around them at the moment. This helps in breaking the link between their mind and any negative thought that might come to them then. For example, a person is told to focus on his breath or on the sound of the wind around them, making use of their auditory sense.
iii.The third technique or module of the DBT is distress tolerance skills. This module teaches people to calm themselves down in healthy ways when they are distressed or emotionally overwhelmed. Individuals are allowed to make wise, rational decisions and take immediate action, rather than being captured by emotionally destructive thoughts that might make the situation worse. Reality acceptance skills are also learnt under this model so that people fully accept reality and later make plans on how to address the problem.
They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Cnidophobia, instead they are one of the most common ways of relaxation used by many people. Yoga tends to stimulate the meditative state of one’s mind while the person is in a particular yoga posture. Through yoga/meditation the mind is diverted towards something more productive and calm, allowing the person to escape the negative, distress causing thoughts.
Out of a number of yoga types, one can benefit from any yoga type/pose they like. Hatha yoga is one of the different types of yoga. The breathing techniques or the imagery one creates while in a yoga posture are the real factors that makes the person feel less anxious and diverts their mind, away from the thoughts about their fear stimuli.
- Biological Treatment
• Drug Therapy
Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Cnidophobia. Drugs are very quick in effectiveness, as they start showing progress in the patients’ health at least 2 weeks after the medicine is taken.
This type of biological treatment is usually more effective if the cause of the phobia is only genetic. However, these drugs/medicines are not to be taken without a doctor’s prescription or consultation.
Two types of drugs are used in the treatment of this phobia:
i. Antidepressant Drugs
These drugs, as the name suggests don’t only treat depression but are also very effective in treating phobias. Medicines like Paxil reduce the anxious feelings of a person and makes him feel calm. They need to be taken on a daily basis but not without a doctor’s advice.
Medicines like Klonopin are anti-anxiety drugs. They are most commonly used with patients who experience panic attacks and also lowers their anxiety by binding to receptor cells of the brain that cause these unpleasant symptoms.
Whether the cause of Cnidophobia, or any other type of specific phobia is genetics, environmental or both, the best and the most effective way of treating them is by using a combination of both biological treatments (drugs) with cognitive treatment (for example CBT/exposure therapy).
Titles to read
- Give Bees a Chance
by Bethany Barton
- Overcoming Animal and Insect Phobias: How to Conquer Fear of Dogs, Snakes, Rodents, Bees, Spiders, and More
by Martin M. Antony and Randi E. McCabe
- Triumph Over Fear: A Book of Help and Hope for People with Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Phobias
by Jerilyn Ross and Rosalynn Carter
- The A-Z of Phobias, Fears, and Anxieties (Facts on File Library of Health & Living)
by Ronald M Doctor, Ada P Kahn, et al.
- Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective
by Aaron Beck, Gary Emery, et al.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) what is Cnidophobia?
It is an irrational fear of sting.
Q2) Can bees sense fear?
Yes. Bees can sense fear by using their olfactory senses of smell. They are able to detect fear by pheromones (chemicals that an animal secrets, which changes the behavior of another animal) produced by humans.
Q3) How common is Cnidophobia?
Cnidophobia is a specific phobia and specific phobias are very common. According to research, around 12.5% of the adults have specific phobias.
Q4) What causes the fear of sting?
Cnidophobia, the phobia of sting can be inherited either genetically, from one’s parents who have an anxiety disorder. Or it can be caused due to an unpleasant past traumatic event that one might have gone through related to getting stinged.
Below is a complete list of all Phobias which we currently cover.