What is Suriphobia? (An Overview)
In this blog we will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatment of Suriphobia.
Fear of mice is called Suriphobia. Mice are rodents. They are not threatening to one until and unless someone mishandles them or causes harm.
Unlike sharks or dogs they don’t act aggressively towards humans (if not instigated).
Though it is true that coming in contact with them is not safe for one in terms of the number of diseases they carry.
If a mouse is instigated, it may bite one, transmitting diseases.
Though they bite very rarely, coming in contact with their saliva or droppings can also transmit certain viruses.
However, unlike other wild animals, they don’t pose a potential threat.
But, someone suffering from Suriphobia will be terrified at the site of a mouse.
Suriphobia is a type of ‘animal’ specific phobia, which comes under the category of anxiety disorders in the DSM-V.
A sufferer will experience extreme anxiety not only when exposed to mice, but at the mere thought of them.
The exaggerated levels of anxiety one suffers from in Suriphobia are what affects one’s social and occupational functioning.
This is because one tends to avoid their fear stimuli (mice), which causes hindrances in a sufferer’s daily life.
For example, a sufferer will avoid going out of the house for the fear of getting exposed to mice. They will prefer not to live near a garden.
One will isolate themselves in their rooms if he sees a mouse in his house.
An individual will clean his house with anti-rodent medicines and take all the precautionary measures they feel can protect them.
These excessive acts to avoid mice can lead to bigger consequences in the future. One can develop depression and or OCD as a result.
Because one feels safe when avoiding mice, if avoidance becomes impossible, they will experience great misery.
One will undergo full-blown panic attacks as a result of his excess anxiety.
Suriphobia is an irrational fear of mice. It is a type of animal specific phobia which is related to Musophobia (fear of mice and rats).
Symptoms of Suriphobia
All anxiety disorders, including specific phobias, have anxiety as their pivotal symptom.
Therefore, someone suffering from Suriphobia will experience extreme anxiety when exposed to their fear stimuli, mice.
Specific phobias are irrational fears.
However, Suriphobia is not wholly irrational because of the fact that mice, though are not very harmful, can transmit certain viruses or diseases if they bite someone (when instigated).
Though, someone suffering from this phobia is unable to rationalise his fear and ends up getting anxious.
Avoidance as mentioned earlier is repetitive.
These recurrent actions maintain one’s fear by producing feelings of security, which makes one believe that mice are to be feared of.
According to the DSM-V, to be diagnosed with Suriphobia, 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 mice
- Excessive anxiety when thinking about mice
- Inability to manage anxiety
- Full-blown panic attacks
- Avoiding lice
- 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 the mouth
Causes of Suriphobia
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 Suriphobia.
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 Suriphoia.
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 Suriphobia only in the presence of the correct environmental trigger event.
People who suffer from Zoophobia (fear of animals) and or Musophobia (fear of rats and mice) are very likely to develop Suriphobia.
Also, someone who has been bitten by a mouse in his childhood or heard someone else get attacked can also suffer from it.
Additionally, news or documentaries on mice and or the unpleasant physical appearance of it can also instigate Suriphobia.
Therefore, Suriphobia is caused by a number of environmental factors and a genetic predisposition.
Treatment of Suriphobia
Suriphobia, like all other specific phobias, has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it.
Like all the other specific phobias, Suriphobia 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.
Suriphobia is defined as the irrational fear of mice. 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.
• Exposure Therapy
It is one of the most frequently used ways of treating patients with Suriphobia (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 mice 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 encounters mice.
During this process of imagery, one actually feels that he’s 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 mice.
While the patient is being exposed to different levels of fear 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 causing situation.
This teaches them how to remain calm when exposed to their fear stimuli.
Before actually starting the exposure therapy, the therapist needs to figure out the intensity of the patient’s 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 mice, by exposing them to that stimuli repeatedly, until they learn to undergo the situation without anxiety/panic attacks.
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 Suriphobia, the patient will be advised on how to overcome his fear of mice. 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 Suriphobia.
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 Suriphobia, 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 Suriphobia. 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 Suriphobia, 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
by Barry McDonagh and BMD Publishing
- The American Psychiatric Association Publishing Textbook of Anxiety, Trauma, and Ocd-related Disorders
by Edited by Naomi M. Simon, M.D., et al.
- Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective
by Aaron Beck, Gary Emery, et al.
by David H. Barlow
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) What is Suriphobia?
Suriphobia is an irrational fear of mice.
Q2) How is Suriphobia diagnosed?
By the help of the criteria mentioned in the DSM-V for specific phobias, one can be diagnosed with Suriphobia. The criteria mentions, one should have anxiety lasting for at least 6-months, accompanied by other physiological symptoms.
Q3) What causes Suriphobia?
Suriphobia is caused by a genetic predisposition (family history) and or environmental factors (past traumatic experiences).
Q4) How do you overcome Suriphobia?
Like all other specific phobias, Suriphobia too is treated by a number of effective psychotherapies and or medicinal drugs.
Below is a complete list of all Phobias which we currently cover.
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