A Common Phobia
There are many common phobias, but surprisingly, the most common
phobia is arachnophobia. Arachnophobia is a fear of
spiders, and indeed, it may seem possible that these creepy crawly creatures should,
indeed, scare us.
However, these creatures, for the most part, are not only harmless to humans, but they
keep our environment functioning for us. This is because they eat countless insects that would otherwise
overtake the planet, literally.
If spiders did not eat these insects and were not the natural
predators of them, these insects would simply overrun us in a relatively short period of
Of course, there are a few species of spiders to be truly afraid of, such as the black
widow spider, but for most humans, a spider bite will merely itch or perhaps give a slight
They are not much more harmful than a mosquito bite, for instance (and in fact, can
indeed be construed as less harmful than a mosquito bite because of the recent emergence of West Nile virus
as a public health threat).
For most spider bites, topical oral antihistamines will help with any itching or
For those with arachnophobia, generally, the most effective treatment is what is
called immersion therapy.
Immersion therapy gradually exposes arachnophobia sufferers to spiders, first at a distance and perhaps in a
glass box or enclosed aquarium so that the spider can be seen but can in no way to escape or touch the
sufferer, and progressing to more immediate exposure to spiders, such as using innocuous or tiny baby spiders
to expose arachnophobia sufferers to harmless spiders without a barrier.
There is a new therapy being touted as effective for arachnophobia sufferers called
“virtual reality” therapy.
This is also used for other phobias. Basically,
virtual reality therapy exposes the phobia sufferer to what they fear by virtual reality.
The sights, sounds, smells and sensations are so real that they provide exactly the
same therapy to the phobia sufferer as being exposed to the real
thing would, or nearly so.
This is touted to be just as effective as “real” immersion therapy, while being more cost
effective and less trouble for both the therapist and client. It means not having to bring real spiders into
the environment to provide the client with greater exposure.
It can also serve as “practice” for real immersion, such as using virtual reality to get the
arachnophobia sufferer used to spiders that he or she knows are not real, and then gradually exposing him or
her to the real thing.
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