How do I Overcome a Fear of Spiders?

Jacob Queen

Overcoming a fear of spiders usually starts with an education about the nature of spiders. People often have false beliefs driving their fears, and learning a little about something can help rectify that problem. A second step will often involve a gradual exposure to the creatures, allowing the frightened person to become more comfortable with closer contact. During this process, doctors may also use anti-anxiety drugs to help the person deal with her fear more easily. These techniques aren’t always 100% effective, but people are usually able to greatly reduce their fear, even if they can’t completely squash it.

Part of the process of overcoming a fear of spiders might be watching someone let a tarantula crawl on his hand.
Part of the process of overcoming a fear of spiders might be watching someone let a tarantula crawl on his hand.

The exposure aspect of the therapy is the real key to conquering a fear of spiders. This may start very small by showing the person a picture of a spider until it doesn’t make them nervous and then maybe asking them to hold a realistic-looking fake spider. Eventually, the person may be asked to stand in the same room as a very small spider or watch someone else allowing a tarantula to crawl on his hand. Towards the end of the process, the patient may be asked to touch a living spider or allow one to crawl on him. Patients don’t always advance through all the stages of exposure, but the ultimate goal is usually to develop enough tolerance so that the fear isn’t debilitating.

A spider.
A spider.

For some people, the fear of spiders can be a huge problem that affects every aspect of their lives. They might actually check a room in advance before sitting down to make sure there are no spiders present, and exposure to a spider might be so frightening that they are completely unable to control their behavior. Some of these people have their entire life routine built around avoiding spiders at all costs. For people in this situation, any alleviation of the fear, even if it isn’t total, can be hugely beneficial and life-changing.

The fear of spiders usually comes from some kind of occurrence in a person’s background. A spider may have bitten them or they might have some other traumatic experience from childhood. Some experts think there might be a genetic component, at least in terms of increasing a person’s susceptibility to fear of spiders. There is also evidence to suggest that a normal healthy fear of spiders and snakes is actually an inborn instinct in people, but this is still disputed.

Discussion Comments


Considering that only about 2% of some 63,000 species spiders are poisonous, the prevalence of arachnophobia is interesting. Although some studies have shown fear of spiders to be genetic and in Western culture, more females fear spiders than males, could it be that the phobia is also cultural?

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