Fear is one of the basic emotions available to most of the animals that inhabit the planet, including humans. Thanks to him we warn that certain stimuli are potentially life-threatening, and we prepare a response according to the threat.
Thus, it is not a dangerous affection, nor is it “negative” as is traditionally thought. It is rather a useful and effective phenomenon to guarantee the survival of a species , since it keeps us safe in a sometimes tremendously hostile world.
However, sometimes such emotion can be extended where it should not be, or acquire a disproportionate intensity for the objective characteristics of the stimulus to which it is triggered. In this case we refer to phobias, disorders that fall into the general category of anxiety.
In this article we will talk about a fear that is more common than people usually think and that can limit the quality of life of those who suffer from it. It is about ranidaphobia . Let’s see what it is, why it happens and how it is treated.
- Related article: ” Types of phobias: exploring fear disorders“
What is ranidaphobia?
Ranidaphobia is the particular label with which atrocious and disabling fear of frogs is described . The term comes from two classical languages, whose etymology is rooted in Latin (“ranae” or frog) and Greek (“phobia” or fear). It is a specific phobia of the animal subtype, a form of aversion much more common in childhood than in adulthood, although it can affect anyone throughout their life cycle (regardless of sex).
The frog is attributed a succession of qualities that many people find unpleasant. These include extremely mobile eyes, which stand as the most visible anatomical region when they are submerged underwater, and also have both eyelids and nictitating membranes that cover their eyeballs and give them a bright and shiny appearance. “attentive”. Its skin is slightly viscous, and its legs are tremendously strong in response to its weight and size.
People suffering from ranidaphobia judge these traits as extremely aversive and extend such assessment to the “non-physical” characteristics of the animal, such as its unmistakable croaking form, which also requires the action of fine membranes located under the skin of its throat ( whose movement tends to be “horrifying” for those who fear them). As time passes, if appropriate treatments are not applied, the fear worsens and extends even to the simple viewing of a frog on television or other media (internet, eg).
During exposure to a stimulus associated with a frog, the person suffering from ranidaphobia experiences body sensations similar to those of a panic attack : hyperventilation, heart rate acceleration, pupil mydriasis (which can reduce visual acuity and hinder the vision in too bright spaces), sweating and feeling that the body itself is about to collapse. In more severe cases symptoms of depersonalization and de-realization may arise.
In addition to this, there are also cognitive-type symptoms that occur before exposure to the stimulus itself (anxious anticipation of encountering a frog for being in a space where they are usually found) or during it (thoughts of not “can stand” or mental images in which this animal moves, stalks, jumps or comes into contact with the person). In addition to this, motor behaviors that contribute to maintaining the problem over time (escape or escape) are also presented.
This fear, which is valued as irresistible, is usually also extended to those places that frogs populate , which are numerous and varied (as they are widely distributed throughout the geography). For this reason, spaces where there is excess vegetation or humidity are often avoided, as well as locations too close to rivers or swamps. In addition, fear intensifies in the hours of the night or close to it, because they are periods of low visibility and in which the sound of these batracios is more evident.
What are the causes of this disorder?
The causes for which ranidaphobia can manifest are very diverse; and relate to psychic, social and biological variables. The last of these refer directly to genetics, since it has been shown that vulnerability to the development of anxiety problems is associated with family inheritance , so that approximately 50% of this phenomenon is attributable to it (although not it is always easy to dissociate it from specific parenting patterns that stimulate the onset of this disorder).
The personal experience of a real and adverse situation in which a frog was involved is also very common, as well as having witnessed how a person reacted with atrocious fear when interacting with this animal. In the same way, the use of frogs or other animals as deterrents strategies to avoid undesirable behaviors of the infant (“a dog will come and eat you”, eg), also refer very frequently when reconstructing the story of how the problem was created.
The truth is that frogs have traditionally been considered as ungrateful, or even unpleasant and unworthy beings of being loved, which has been successfully transferred to folk tales and stories that are transmitted for generations to children from almost the entire planet ( “kiss frogs until one of them becomes a prince”). In fact, there are areas in the world that are considered an animal bearing bad omen (when related to witchcraft), and there are even phrases in the proverb that refer to them in a derogatory way (“I have left frog” ).
Some children also learn to fear them by having knowledge that many frogs are poisonous, especially those that show colors that could be a priori striking. On the other hand, in many countries frogs are used as a “means” through which children acquire the basic notions of anatomy ; what for many supposes a traumatic, disgusting or cruel experience (evisceration, dismemberment, dissection, etc.) from which the subsequent irresistible fear is erected.
Finally, it is also possible that the fear of frogs arises secondarily, that is, as part of a more “broad” stimulus that the child fears . Thus, for example, the croaking of frogs in the middle of a dark and / or cold place (in which fear arises in a natural and adaptive way) can make this sound go from being a neutral stimulus to another conditioned one, and of There the emotion is generalized to the rest of what the frog is (including its physical presence in places very different from those in which this association was originally acquired).
It should also be borne in mind that sometimes frogs appear unexpectedly or suddenly, jumping from behind a bush or simply perching on a stone or a plant without anything to notice this fact. This way of acting can trigger the emotion of surprise in the child, affection that is considered neutral (neither positive nor negative) for most people, but with adverse nuances for those living with an anxiety disorder.
- You may be interested: ” Types of Anxiety Disorders and their characteristics“
Psychological treatment is a very effective tool for addressing phobias , and this in particular is no exception. The program incorporates a set of cognitive and behavioral strategies that have a high degree of evidence, and are selected according to the particularities of the case and the history of the problem. The use of drugs for anxiety (such as benzodiazepines) is not considered a priority, and there are even studies that indicate that it could interfere with some of the psychotherapeutic procedures.
As noted above, avoiding the feared stimulus (the frog on this occasion) becomes counterproductive , as it exacerbates the problem through a negative reinforcement mechanism. It is important, for this reason, to schedule exposure sessions that can mitigate the fear response by habituation to the stimulus. In addition, with the passage of time they will improve self-efficacy and modify negative expectations about what happens when interacting with the animal (which at first are usually very dark).
Since it is not always possible to develop a live exhibition from the beginning of therapy, it can be started only in imagination using a progressive format. This modality is a good prelude and allows the therapist and the patient to build a hierarchy of situations (according to the levels of anxiety they generate), which the latter must face through “induction” by the professional. The technique is combined with diaphragmatic breathing or other relaxation modalities, and increases confidence in the ability to deal with fear. In addition, it can be enriched with audiovisual details (audio tracks in which a frog’s croaking is heard, eg).
Certain cognitive techniques have also demonstrated their effectiveness in this problem , especially those aimed at reflecting on how mental contents (thoughts) can condition our emotions, articulating a proactive debate through which we will explore whether the beliefs we have about frogs adapt or not to objective and rational parameters. For this occasion the therapist and the patient dialogue and / or explore together, through a diversity of logical resources based on collaborative empiricism.
Finally, psychoeducation is key throughout the process. This should focus both on what anxiety is and why it happens, as on the characteristics of frogs. For this you can resort to reading books about them, including those that delve into their habits and their anatomy. In this way it is intended to know better what the object of fears is, and reduce the usual uncertainty that burdens phobic stimuli.