Why am I so paranoid about spiders? (Arachnophobia)

Why am I so paranoid about spiders? (Arachnophobia)

In this article, we will answer the following question: Why am I so paranoid about spiders? We want to explain what it is and give you some indications to overcome this phobia that can interfere with the normal development of your life.

Why am I so paranoid about spiders?

The reason why you feel paranoid around spiders is most likely because you have a phobia. A phobia is an irrational fear of something, be it an object, an animal, an insect, etc. It is irrational in that the danger it represents to us is disproportionate to its actual danger. One of the best-known phobias is arachnophobia.

Why am I so paranoid about spiders? (Arachnophobia)

What is arachnophobia?

Arachnophobia is a specific phobia consisting of an irrational fear of spiders and other similar arthropods. It is one of the most common phobias, however, we must distinguish between the phobia and the fact that you do not like spiders or disgust you. 

When we talk about the phobia, it is likely that it limits some areas of your life such as going out to the field or avoiding activities and places in places with vegetation where you are likely to find insects in general and spiders in particular.

Arachnophobia: a specific phobia

Arachnophobia is the extreme phobia and/or repulsion towards all arachnids and especially spiders. This disorder is classified as a specific animal-generated phobia. It can generate a high level of discomfort or a certain deterioration in the functionality of the subject.

Among the specific phobias, this is one of the most common and generally tends to be more prevalent in the female sex. As a phobia, it is an intense and disproportionate fear regarding the level of threat that the feared stimulus in question may pose, a disproportion that is recognized as irrational by the person who suffers from it. 

The presence of this causes high levels of anxiety (the fear suffered can lead to an anxiety crisis), which tends to avoid or flee the stimulus at the behavioural level (this is the specific case of arachnophobia, of spiders).

Why am I so paranoid about spiders? (Arachnophobia)

Symptoms of arachnophobia

Symptoms of arachnophobia include nausea, anxiety, sweating, tachycardia, escape behaviours and avoidance or paralysis, anxiety attacks or crying spells, among others, due to the sight or evocation of an arachnid.

In very extreme cases, there may even be perceptual disturbances. Fear can also appear in advance in situations where the insect in question is likely to appear or towards the products of its performance, such as cobwebs.

When a person suffering from arachnophobia encounters a spider, it is very likely that they will have a situationally predisposed anxiety crisis or panic attack. Let’s remember the symptoms of panic attack:

  • Palpitations
  • Elevation of the heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Choking or shortness of breath
  • Choking sensation
  • Chest tightness or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal discomfort
  • Instability, dizziness, or fainting
  • Derealization (feeling of unreality)
  • Depersonalization (being separated from oneself)
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Fear to die
  • Paresthesia (feeling numb or tingling)
  • Chills or suffocations.

Other symptoms of arachnophobia are:

  • Chest pain caused by fear
  • Pain in the stomach
  • Heavy breathing
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Sweating
  • Instant temporary body paralysis upon seeing the spider or even knowing it is nearby.
Why am I so paranoid about spiders? (Arachnophobia)

How to know if you have arachnophobia

If thinking about spiders or seeing them causes changes in your body. If you become anxious and scared and avoid situations where a spider may appear, you may have a spider phobia. To be safe or safer go to a professional who will assess whether your fear is disproportionate or irrational (phobia) or not. In addition, it will help you overcome it in both cases with the appropriate techniques.

But why am I so paranoid about spiders?

Fear of spiders has an adaptive component in that, throughout our evolution, avoiding contact with certain dangerous insects has allowed our survival. Our ancestors already avoided them and according to Seligman’s theory of readiness: we would have inherited a natural tendency to avoid them because they are potentially dangerous for our survival.

Another reason that may be linked to spider phobia is having a bad previous experience. We ourselves or someone else we know may have suffered an arthropod bite and this has generated a rejection that has ended up becoming irrational.

We can even associate images that we have not actually experienced but have read or seen on television or in the cinema, with spiders and their potential danger, thus developing the phobia.

How to overcome arachnophobia

The therapy that has been shown to obtain the highest success rate in the treatment of arachnophobia is exposure therapy. The exhibition can be in imagination or live, with the second one obtaining the best results. Halfway between one and the other is virtual reality exposure therapy, which is used in cases where exposure can be difficult and/or dangerous, such as aeroplane phobia (aerophobia) or phobia to drive (amaxophobia).

Next, let’s see what exposure therapy consists of, which has shown great efficacy in phobias. Whether for the imagination or live exhibition, the first part of the treatment consists of elaborating a subjective anxiety scale. We will expose situations related to the phobia and we will score them with the SUDs (subjective units of anxiety) giving them a value of 0 to 10 or 0 to 100 and then order them. Let’s see it with an example:

  • Reading the word spider in a book – 20 SUDs
  • Talk to someone about spiders 30 SUDs
  • See a spider in a movie 40 SUDs
  • Go for a walk in the field 60 SUDs
  • Know there is a spider near 75 SUDs
  • See a spider from afar 80 SUDs
  • See a spider a meter from us 95 SUDs
  • Holding a spider in hand 100. SUDs

Once we have our hierarchy complete and ordered (it is recommended that there be many scenes to be able to go little by little), we will start with the exposure. We can do it in imagination with the help of a therapist, or live equally with a therapist or a co-therapist (family, friend …).

We will start with the scene that has the lowest score. When we expose ourselves we will notice anxiety, but we must remain on the scene until the anxiety drops and / or disappears. We will go from scene to scene in the expected order and we will not consider a scene to be over until we notice that our subjective anxiety is reduced to around 20 SUDs.

The treatment ends when we finish the exposure to all the scenes in our hierarchy. The duration will be determined by the patient.

If you see a spider and are in great distress because of it but can’t go to a doctor, you can learn ways of calming yourself down before you sleep at night.

Why am I so paranoid about spiders? (Arachnophobia)

FAQ on Why am I so paranoid about spiders?

How do I stop being paranoid about spiders?

To stop being paranoid about spiders, thus experiencing extreme fear and/or disgust when you see a spider, you can try exposure therapy, different relaxation techniques and CBT. 

Why am I so afraid of spiders?

You are afraid of spiders because you probably had one (or more) negative experiences related to these insects.  We ourselves or someone else we know may have suffered an arthropod bite and this has generated a rejection that has ended up becoming irrational.

We can even associate images that we have not actually experienced but have read or seen on television or in the cinema, with spiders and their potential danger, thus developing the phobia.

Can Arachnophobia be cured?

Yes, Arachnophobia can be cured. The therapy that has been shown to obtain the highest success rate in the treatment of arachnophobia is exposure therapy. The exhibition can be in imagination or live, with the second one obtaining the best results. 

Is Arachnophobia a mental illness?

Arachnophobia is not a mental illness, but it is the intense fear of spiders. This disorder is classified as a specific animal-generated phobia. It can generate a high level of discomfort or a certain deterioration in the functionality of the subject.

Why do I cry when I see a spider?

The reason why you cry when you see a spider is probably fear and the anticipation that something bad is going to happen. When a person suffering from arachnophobia encounters a spider, it is very likely that they will have a situationally predisposed anxiety crisis or panic attack.

Conclusions

In this article, we answered the following question: Why am I so paranoid about spiders? We explained what arachnophobia is and gave you some indications to overcome this phobia that can interfere with the normal development of your life.

Among the specific phobias, this is one of the most common and generally tends to be more prevalent in the female sex. As a phobia, it is an intense and disproportionate fear regarding the level of threat that the feared stimulus in question may pose, a disproportion that is recognized as irrational by the person who suffers from it. 

The therapy that has been shown to obtain the highest success rate in the treatment of arachnophobia is exposure therapy. The exhibition can be in imagination or live, with the second one obtaining the best results. 

If you have more questions or comments about the content, please let us know!

Further Reading

Anxiety and Phobia Workbook (New Harbinger Self Help Workbook), by Edmund J. Bourne 

A Practical Guide to Overcoming Phobias: Stand Up to Your Fears (Practical Guide Series), by Patricia Furness-Smith

Phobia Relief: From Fear to Freedom (Building Your Best Series Book 1), by Kalliope Barlis Barlis

Treating Affect Phobia: A Manual for Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy, by Leigh McCullough 

Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective, by Aaron Beck 

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth edition. DSM-V. Masson, Barcelona.

psycom.net – Arachnophobia: Fear of Spiders and How to Overcome It

Verywellmind.com – Understanding Arachnophobia or the Fear of Spiders

Medicinenet.com -Medical Definition of Arachnophobia

Sciencefocus.com – Is arachnophobia learned or an inbuilt instinct?

Nadejda Romanciuc

Nadejda Romanciuc holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a diploma in Addiction studies. She is part of the Romanian Association of Integrative Psychotherapy as a psychotherapist under supervision. She's practicing online counselling for over two years and is a strong advocate for mental health.