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How do I Overcome a Fear of Insects?

By R. Stamm
Updated May 17, 2024
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Insectophobia, or fear of insects, is an anxiety disorder which occurs when a person develops an irrational fear of either a specific kind of insect or various types of bugs. One of the most common methods of treating insectophobia is continuous exposure to the type if insect a person fears. The other method, usually used in combination with the first, involves coping with the disturbing thoughts and anxiety associated with that insect. A person may try to treat the phobia using the methods mentioned, but in extreme cases, the help of a licensed therapist may be necessary.

A person must be accurately diagnosed with the phobia in order to treat the fear of insects effectively. First, an individual must demonstrate an excessive or unreasonable reaction to an insect given the reality of the threat posed by the insect. The phobia may interfere with the ability to perform everyday tasks accompanied by extreme physical symptoms while in the presence of bugs. It can also cause significant distress and inhibit necessary actions towards completing goals and interfere with a person’s ability to live a normal life. These conditions indicate a phobic response in an individual which requires treatment.

Since phobic reactions are learned responses, therapists commonly use the method of systematic desensitization to eliminate or reduce the fear of insects. The therapist asks the patient to relax and imagine a series of increasingly frightening situations involving bugs. After a period of practicing the imagery technique, the feared insect is placed in the patient’s presence, and exposure is gradually increased until the reaction is no longer excessive. The phobic person may be asked to read about the insect, look at pictures of it, and touch it. A patient learns to control the fear of insects, and the fear may be reduced or eliminated altogether.

Sometimes the fear of insects is closely related to a traumatic experience a person believes will occur again in the future. In this instance, it is necessary for a person to control the thoughts associated with the experience and the insects. The patient begins therapy by examining negative thoughts associated with the insect and writes those thoughts down. After completion of this task, the therapist asks the person to find arguments against the negative thoughts and reminds the patient that nothing bad can happen. This method usually works best along with exposure to insects, but the technique can work on its own.

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Discussion Comments
By SarahSon — On Sep 29, 2012

How does someone know what is considered a phobia of insects vs an intense dislike for them? I am curious at what point does someone realize they might need professional treatment to overcome this fear?

By myharley — On Sep 28, 2012

If someone has a fear of bugs, this may seem irrational to someone who is not afraid of them, but this is certainly not irrational to the person who has a phobia of them. People can have fears of just about anything imaginable, and this is a very real fear for quite a few people.

My sister doesn't like bugs but I don't remember anything traumatic happening to her that would cause this. If I were to intentionally put a bug in front of her she would scream and run away. I don't know if this is considered a phobia or not.

As far as I know she hasn't done anything to try and overcome this fear, she just avoids them at all costs.

By andee — On Sep 28, 2012

@John57-- I look at exposing people who have a fear of insects to that insect on a repeated basis much like I would someone who is afraid of dogs. If you know someone who is scared of dogs, it is usually because they had a bad experience with one in the past.

If they are gradually introduced to dogs who are calm and have a gentle nature, their fear can subside and sometimes completely go away.

Of course every situation is different, but if a true phobia is indeed a learned response, I can see how this would work for some people when it comes to insects too.

By John57 — On Sep 28, 2012

I have a friend who has a fear of spiders but I don't know if I would go so far as to say she needs treatment for it. I also have a hard time understanding how continually exposing her to spiders would make her feel more comfortable with them.

I don't know very many people who really like insects, but she is much more afraid of them than a lot of people. She doesn't even like spending a lot of time outdoors because there are too many bugs, and she has the exterminator come to her house once every quarter.

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