What To Know About Fear of Spiders

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on July 19, 2023
3 min read

‌Are you afraid of spiders? Many people are. Some people speculate that this is an evolutionary reaction. 

Being fearful of spiders is entirely different than having a phobia of spiders or arachnophobia. Arachnophobia is an anxiety disorder that can be crippling and pervasive in a way that simple aversion is not. 

If you are worried that your fear of spiders is more than just a fear, you may want to seek special treatment for your phobia. Ways to tell if you have a phobia is that, around spiders, you feel the following:

Commonly, fear of spiders and arachnophobia start in childhood, and get less intense with time. Often arachnophobia doesn’t need to be treated because spiders aren’t a common part of daily life. 

‌Being afraid of spiders does not affect the way your body functions.  But if you feel that your fear of spiders is extreme, making it a phobia, it can affect your mental health. Some people’s phobias change their daily lives and prevent them from functioning at their full capacity.

‌The best and only treatment for fear of spiders or arachnophobia involves therapy. This could be regular talk therapy, group therapy, exposure therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy.

Exposure therapy is specifically designed for people who have phobias or are otherwise debilitated by fear. It involves slowly exposing the person to the thing they fear.

The evolution of this process usually looks like this:‌‌

  1. You first start to get comfortable with just the idea of a spider with your therapist. 
  2. Your therapist will then show you a cartoon or drawn image of a spider until you feel ready to progress to the next step. 
  3. Then, your therapist will show you a very realistic image of a spider, and only after you no longer panic will you move on to the next step. 
  4. Finally, your therapist will show you a picture of a spider until you are comfortable. 
  5. At this point, you are ready to go into a room with a spider in a cage. 
  6. Once you are comfortable with this, the next step is to hold a spider. 

‌This process can take more or less time for whatever level of phobia or fear you may have. Also, individual experiences with this type of therapy vary significantly from person to person. 

Exposure therapy is used to treat very severe fear of spiders. Most people who are afraid of spiders do not need to take exposure therapy. In fact, having a small amount of fear for spiders might be a good thing as there are many types of poisonous spiders. 

If you have a substantial fear but not necessarily a phobia, you may just want to talk it over with a therapist. Traditional talk therapy can do a lot to help you understand and navigate this fear.

Most of the time, fears of this kind stem from bad experiences earlier on in your life. Understanding them helps you put those experiences in perspective so they don’t hold you back now.