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Main article: Phobias

Arachnophobia is a specific phobia, an abnormal fear of spiders. With an estimated half of all women, and a quarter of all men in the United States[How to reference and link to summary or text], it is among the most common of phobias. The reactions of arachnophobics often seem irrational to others (and sometimes to the sufferers themselves). People with arachnophobia tend to feel uneasy in any area they believe could harbor spiders or that has visible signs of their presence, such as webs. If they see a spider they may not enter the general vicinity until they have overcome the panic attack that is often associated with their phobia. They may feel humiliated if such episodes happen in the presence of peers or family members.

The fear of spiders can be treated by any of the general techniques suggested for specific phobias.

Arachnophobia is, in many cases, the result of a traumatizing encounter with spiders in one's early childhood, though the experience may not be remembered [How to reference and link to summary or text]. An evolutionary reason for the phobias, such as arachnophobia, claustrophobia, fear of snakes or mice, etc. remains unresolved. One view, especially held in evolutionary psychology, is that sufferers might gain some survival edge, by avoiding the dangers. Spiders, for instance, being relatively small, don’t fit the usual criteria for a threat in the animal kingdom where size is a key factor, but most species are venomous, and some are lethal. Arachnophobes will spare no effort to make sure that their whereabouts are spider-free, hence reducing sharply the risk of being bitten.

The alternative view is that the dangers, such as from spiders, are overrated and not sufficient to influence evolution. Instead, inheriting phobias would have restrictive and debilitating effects upon survival, rather than being an aid. For example, there are no deadly spiders native to central and northern Europe that could exert an evolutionary pressure, yet that is where the strongest fear for spiders began, suggesting cultural learning. In contrast, many non-European cultures generally do not fear spiders, and for some communities such as in Papua New Guinea and South America, spiders are included in traditional foods.


  • Stiemerling D. Analysis of a spider and monster phobia, Z. Psychosom Med Psychoanal. 1973 Oct-Dec;19(4):327-45. (in German)

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