In this blog we will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatment of Spheksophobia.
What is Spheksophobia?
An intense fear of wasps is known as Spheksophobia.
It is a common type of ‘animal’ specific phobia, which comes under the category of anxiety disorders in the DSM-V.
Anxiety is the focal symptom for all specific phobias. Someone suffering from Spheksophobia will feel extreme anxiety when exposed to wasps.
Their anxiety will be so intense that they might even experience full-blown panic attacks, if the condition worsens.
Phobias are irrational fears.
However, in Spheksophobia, the fear is not wholly irrational because of the fact that wasps can sting a person.
They are dangerous for someone who suffers from wasp stings, because the person might require immediate hospitalization, if stung by it.
Though, when this fear turns into a phobia, it brings along with it intense anxiety.
This intense anxiety is the reason why people with Spheksophobia get traumatized when they see wasps, which can even lead to panic attacks.
This overwhelming response to the presence or site of wasps is confined to this type of specific phobia because someone who doesn’t have Spheksophobia, might be afraid of wasps but won’t be terrified upon just seeing them.
Sufferers are not just fearful of seeing or encountering a wasp, but they show symptoms of extreme anxiety by just thinking about them.
On the other hand, they take painstaking actions in an attempt to avoid their fear stimuli (wasps).
This avoidance produces pleasant feelings in the person, however short term.
This is so, because this repetitive action of avoidance maintains their fear.
It proves to the sufferer that wasps are to be fearful of and that only avoiding them can lead to a feel-good sensation.
One can develop Obsessive-compulsive Disorder in the future, as a result of this act of avoidance.
As the DSM-V suggests, someone with Spheksophobia will experience anxiety lasting for at least 6-months, affecting their social and occupational functioning.
Their fear encourages them to avoid wasps. For example, an individual might not leave his house because of the fear of seeing a wasp.
They might not be able to go to their jobs, earn money and thus end up losing contact with people of the outside world and be in debt.
Someone might get divorced or their children might abandon them due to their inability to make a living for them or taking unfavorable decisions in the light of their fear.
Such as, choosing to live in a city, crowded area as compared to a rural or open area and not visiting family or friends.
This social and occupational dysfunction can lead to one develop depression in the long run.
Spheksophobia sufferers don not develop Melissophobia (fear of bees).
However, due to the lack of irrationality one might experience, an individual is very likely to get anxious or terrified by misinterpreting a bee as a wasp.
Spheksophobia is the irrational fear of wasps. The word originates from the Greek word ‘spheco’ meaning wasps and ‘phobos’ meaning phobia.
In this type of ‘animal’ specific phobia, one experiences extreme anxiety, leading to panic attacks by encountering a wasp or even by the thought of it.
People with Spheksophobia, like in all other specific phobias experience intense anxiety on having an encounter with wasps.
They’re unable to control this anxiety and thus end up feeling more anxious.
This anxiousness, in extreme cases can give rise to full-blown panic attacks.
Sufferer goes into flight or fight mode because of an adrenaline rush.
In this state, the body’s physiological responses help one make decisions when in fear causing situations.
They either decide to escape the situation (flight) or stay and combat their fear (fight).
In the case of Spheksophobia or any other type of specific phobia, the physiological symptoms that are produced when exposed to wasps (including extreme anxiety) cause the person to escape or avoid that situation.
Sufferers don’t have the courage to fight with their fear because of the unpleasant, terrifying experience the body goes through.
Apart from anxiety, Spheksophobia has a number of other physiological symptoms which include:
- Extreme anxiety upon an encounter with wasps
- Extreme anxiety by just thinking about wasps
- Avoiding wasps
- Full-blown panic attacks
- Inability to handle anxiety
- Muscle tension/tremors
- Increased heartrate
- Inability to breathe properly/increased breathing rate
- Feeling dizzy
- Hot/cold flashes when in a flight or fight mode (A hot flash refers to the temporary heating up of the body when in a state of fear. And a cold flash means when the body suddenly starts to shiver or cool down, when encountered by a fear stimulus).
- Butterflies in the stomach
Out of these, one should have at least 3-5 symptoms (including anxiety) to be diagnosed with Spheksophobia.
Like every other specific phobia, Spheksophobia is a result of either genetics or a past traumatic experience.
Someone who has a family history of anxiety disorders or specific phobias has a higher chance of developing Spheksophobia than someone who doesn’t.
This is because they are genetically predisposed to develop it.
This genetic tendency to develop a mental disorder/specific phobia can also be referred to as a Diathesis-stress relationship.
According to this, one with a genetic predisposition will not develop symptoms of Spheksophobia until and unless there is some trigger event, instigating anxiety or fear of wasps.
This triggering event can be for example, being stung by a wasp in the childhood. The sufferer might have developed this fear since then because of the pain or unpleasant feelings it caused.
Also, he might have a skin allergy which can flair up and cause other health problems.
Another example of an environmental cause can be, learning to be afraid of wasps by looking at parents.
It is possible that someone whose parents are afraid of wasps, or upon hearing an unpleasant experience of an individual’s encounter with wasps can induce fear in the person.
Also, watching documentaries on wasps or knowing the figures of the number of people affected by a wasp stung can be the reason for one to develop Spheksophobia.
Therefore, it is evident that there is no one cause for specific phobias to develop.
Genetics with environmental factors, together will cause one to have Spheksophobia.
Spheksophobia like all other specific phobias has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it.
Like all the other specific phobias, Spheksophobia is treated by a number of different therapies including, Exposure Therapy, Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT) and or medications that lower downs the anxiety or other physical symptoms.
• Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
It is one of the most frequently used treatment for patients with almost all kinds of mental disorders.
Spheksophobia is defined as the irrational fear of wasps.
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 being exposed to wasps.
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:
- A (antecedents) a situation or triggering event.
- B (belief) the thought that comes to one’s mind when in that triggering situation.
- C (consequences) the symptoms/feelings caused by that event/thought
- 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.
• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This is another effective therapy used to treat Spheksophobia.
It is more commonly used with people suffering from personality disorders, but is also useful with patients of this ‘animal’ specific phobia.
Coping skills are taught in the DBT group which lasts for about 6months 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 blowing wind, 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/fearful aspects to it.
• Exposure Therapy
It is one of the most frequently used ways of treating patients with Spheksophobia (or any other kind of specific phobia).
In this therapy, the patient is exposed to the source of his fear over a certain span of time.
To begin with the therapy, the therapist exposes the patient to the least triggering stimuli, a picture of a wasp for example.
As the therapy progresses and the patient is able to control his anxious feelings, imagery can be used to take the treatment a step further.
In this part of the treatment the patient is asked to visualize/imagine a situation in which he is around wasps.
During this process of imagery, one actually feels being in that particular situation or place, experiencing various senses.
Once the person successfully, without feeling anxious clears this step of the therapy, he is then exposed to real wasps, in a garden for example.
While the patient is being exposed to different intensities of stimuli during the various stages of therapy, the therapist simultaneously teaches them coping exercises.
These include, breathing techniques or muscle relaxation methods to lower their anxiety, when in an actual fear/anxiety causing situation.
This teaches them how to remain calm when exposed to the fear stimuli.
Before actually starting the exposure therapy, the therapist needs to figure out the intensity of the patients fear, as to deduce whether they will be able to undergo this treatment, without any physical or psychological harm caused to them during the exposure processes.
However, these steps desensitize one to their fear of wasps, by exposing them to that stimuli repeatedly, until they learn to undergo the situation without anxiety/panic attacks.
• Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR is a meditation therapy, is 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 to 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, 6 days a week and to record their results/feelings in a book or diary for 15minutes a day.
• Drug Therapy
Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Spheksophobia.
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. Anti-anxiety Drugs
Medicines like Valium 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.
ii. Antidepressant Drugs
These drugs, as the name suggest don’t only treat depression but are also very effective in treating phobias.
Medicines like Lexapro 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.
They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Spheksophobia, 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 a 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 wasps.
Whether the cause of Spheksophobia, 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).
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Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
What we recommend for Phobias
- If you are suffering from Phobias then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you address the fears you are facing.
Weighted Blankets may help you sleep better if your phobias are affecting your quality of sleep. Weighted blankets apply enough weight on you that they make you feel much more relaxed and calm at night.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) How do I get over my fear of wasps?
Fear of wasps is known as Spheksophobia.
It is treated by the help of a therapist/doctor by a number of therapies.
For example, CBT, exposure therapy and r medicinal drugs.
Q2) Can wasps smell fear?
This statement is not scientifically proven yet but like bees, wasps can also sense fear.
They do so by making use of their olfactory senses, detecting one’s fear through the chemicals the body releases when in the state of fear.
Q3) Should you be scared of wasps?
Many people are scared of wasps because of the fear of being stung by them.
However, unlike other animals, wasps are really small.
They only sting if they are instigated to do so, either by humans or other animals.
And secondly, they are an essential part of our ecosystem.
Q4) What are the symptoms of Spheksophobia?
Spheksophobia is the fear of wasps. One feels extreme anxiety when they see a wasp.
They can also suffer from panic attacks in severe cases and or other physiological responses of the body such as nausea or breathlessness.