The fear of spiders is one of the most common phobias and is also widespread in Germany, although there is no danger of falling victim to a wild poisonous spider. Rather, spiders are harmless and useful animals that make an important ecological contribution. In ancient myths, the spider appears again and again in connection with female deities, with spinners of magic and fate, and in the Middle Ages it was even associated with witches. Today women in particular are affected by the fear of spiders, which often arises in childhood.
The psychotherapeutic treatment is usually carried out by behavioral therapists and psychoanalysts, which is not least due to the reimbursement practice of the health insurance companies. However, alternative therapeutic methods are increasingly being used to expand the range of treatments against the fear of spiders, for example in the form of hypnotherapy, palm technique or tapping acupressure.
Table of Contents
- Scared of spiders; Spider phobia
- Symptoms of fear of spiders
- Trigger spider fear
- Therapy of spider phobia
- Behavioral therapy for fear of spiders
- Depth psychological procedures for spider phobia
- Therapy in hypnosis and fear of spiders
- Palm therapy for spider phobia
- Knock acupressure in anxiety therapy
Symptoms of fear of spiders
The physical symptoms that occur with fear of spiders are similar to those with other anxiety states. This includes trembling hands and legs, a dry mouth and sweating. Disgust, which is partly accompanied by nausea and vomiting , is also often described. A lump in the throat and tightness in the chest, which can be accompanied by shortness of breath and hyperventilation . dizziness, Feeling unreal, palpitations or even racing heart sometimes lead to panic attacks in addition to the other symptoms. Those affected report that fear-generating situations (thinking about, ideas, photos or real sight of spiders) make them feel helpless and uncontrollable. The fear of spiders only becomes problematic if it leads to avoidance behavior that has a restrictive effect on lifestyle. Professional help should be sought at the latest when certain places (rooms, places or cupboards) can no longer be visited or when it is impossible to stay in your own apartment without an accompanying person.
The sight of spiders creates panic in some people, which can also cause physical symptoms. (Image: butterfly-photos.org/fotolia.com)
Trigger spider fear
While the assumed causes vary depending on the psychological school, the triggers of spider fear are always associated with (supposed) encounters with the eight-legged animal. From real or imagined bites, encounters and contact with spiders to spider images and films, even a plastic spider or just the word “spider” can create fear with all known symptoms . Although the fear of spiders often begins in childhood, spider phobia can also arise in adults as a result of triggering events (e.g. spider settles on the shoulder).
Therapy of spider phobia
Spider phobia is usually treated psychotherapeutically based on the image of man and the assumption of the cause of the respective therapeutic focus. Because only behavioral therapy and deep psychological procedures are recognized and financed by health insurance companies in Germany to date, these methods are of course often used. Alternatively, however, other procedures have long since developed in the fields of naturopathy and energy medicine , which – due to their effectiveness – are no longer used only by advertised alternative therapists.
The fear of spiders is still widespread to this day, although the specimens native to Germany actually offer no reason to be afraid. (Image: lassedesignen / fotolia.com)
Behavioral therapy for fear of spiders
Systematic desensitization is one of the oldest and most effective forms of treatment for specific phobias and thus also for fear of spiders. It is carried out individually or building on one another in the imagination (in sensu) and in reality (in vivo). With this method, which comes from behavioral therapy, it is generally assumed that the fear of spiders has been learned and can therefore be forgotten again.
For this purpose, all anxiety-triggering moments are first set up in a so-called fear hierarchy by assigning them to a fear scale. For example, the number 0 can mean “no fear”, while the 100 represents the “greatest fear”. Such a list begins, for example, with the sight of a spider web as the weakest fear and ends in the panicky idea of letting a spider run over your arm. Furthermore, a relaxing picture of calm is developed.
The second step is to train a relaxation method, usually using the progressive muscle relaxation method. This easy-to-learn procedure is intended to regulate the entire organism by changing the relaxation and relaxation of muscles. The actual desensitization now begins with the presentation of the slightest hint of the list, for example a spider web in the garden. After a short time, this is replaced by a calm image and a feeling of relaxation, so that the fear is superimposed after several passes. Bit by bit, the therapist and client approach the ever stronger anxiety triggers until the fear of spiders is finally eliminated or reduced to a maximum. In parallel or afterwards, situations in reality are trained in the same way.
Depth psychological procedures for spider phobia
Psychoanalysis and psychotherapy based on depth psychology are the main psychological methods used in spider phobia. In both, fear of spiders is seen as an expression of fear-generating or pubic early childhood conflicts that have been pushed into the unconscious and – in the case of spider phobia – projected onto the animals. Awareness of internal conflicts is part of the therapy, the aim of which is to make spider fear superfluous. Free associations, dreams and the relationship with the therapist are often worked over several years without necessarily dealing explicitly with the triggering stimulus (spider).
Therapy in hypnosis and fear of spiders
Also in therapy in hypnosis , the therapists work with the client’s subconscious to treat the fear of spiders. Hypnotherapy as a rather inconsistent form of treatment in psychotherapy, medicine and dentistry relies on information input in each of its orientations, which is intended to change the inner evaluation and attitude in relation to the fear trigger. On the physical level, the new reactions and experiences that result from this can be consolidated in the form of changed neuronal structures. The state of consciousness hypnosis is used, which forms the basis for pure suggestion or relaxation therapy, frames the systematic desensitization or provides access to unconscious causal relationships from the life history of the spider-frightened.
In hypnotherapy, the symptom, here the fear of spiders, is also examined for its actual function, which originally made sense for the person concerned. For this purpose – directly or indirectly – a connection to unconscious knowledge is established and communicated and negotiated with body signals, in internal dialogues, symbolically and figuratively or through targeted stories and metaphors with the part that produces and maintains the symptom. In addition to the ability to develop the (cognitively unjustifiable) fear of spiders, this also assumes the knowledge and the competence to resolve them.
Palm therapy for spider phobia
Based on the “Palm Therapy”, which was developed by the natural doctor Moshé Zwang in America, the Swiss hypnotherapist Hans-Peter Zimmermann describes his palm therapy, which can be used against spider phobia and all other specific phobias. Similar to systematic desensitization, the spider-frightened person first imagines in detail a fear-generating situation, which should, however, push up the values on the previously introduced fear scale. If the symptoms are clearly noticeable, two specific points on the hand lines of one hand of the client are held down by the therapist with the thumbnails for a few seconds. In distracting conversations, the points are pressed for a few minutes and then the success is checked again with the spider image and fear scale. Only sometimes should several passes be necessary, then the procedure is repeated on the other hand. The acceptance of this therapy method described as effective certainly suffers from the simple and quick feasibility and mode of action, which contradicts the common picture of cause-related disorder development and treatment.
Knock acupressure in anxiety therapy
Knocking acupressure, which has been attracting attention under various names for some years now – not least as fear therapy – is based on the Chinese model of the energy pathways (meridians), which – networked with one another – run through the body. Only a free flow of energy guarantees health, while blocked energy usually results in mental or physical disorders. Along the meridians there are still important energy points (acupuncture points) under the skin that can be easily localized. By tapping or rubbing such points, the free flow of energy is to be restored and the symptoms are to be reduced or eliminated. In order to achieve the desired energy balance, relevant points are located by kinesiological muscle testing or tensor testing, which are then treated with tapping techniques and other specific techniques. The tapping technique is the content of various methods of energetic psychology, of which EdxTM, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Meridian Energy Techniques (MET) are among the best known. The techniques enrich the conventional psychotherapeutic offerDepression , addiction problems and anxiety disorders, which include fear of spiders