Description, Causes and Risk Factors:
Arachnophobia, or fear of spiders, is one of the most common specific phobias. Those who are afraid of spiders will go to great lengths to ensure that they are not exposed to a spider. They may be unwilling to participate in activities, such as hiking or camping, that carry a heightened risk of exposure to spiders.
Different people suffer to different degrees, and to those who do not suffer them phobias seem irrational, the afflicted person reacts intensely to the merest sign of the phobia causing animal. It is often difficult, if not impossible, for those of us not suffering to make any sense of what they are experiencing. Phobias can be stimulated by many animals but spiders are the most common source. Phobias do not infer a cowardly or otherwise weak mind, Bowers of the Antarctic, an intrepid explorer of the most inhospitable places on earth was apparently terrified of spiders. People who suffer badly can not even enter a room without having someone else check it for spiders first.
Experts are still uncertain what causes arachnophobia. There a few theories, though. One of the most common theories was put forth by evolutionary psychologists. The most popular explanation is an evolutionary approach: spiders are poisonous and their bite is dangerous. Thus in our archaic parts of the brain is a kind of natural arachnophobia present. Other psychologists argue that many animals were more likely to pose a threat to ancient humans, from tigers to crocodiles. Yet phobias of those animals are not that common. Therefore, those psychologists feel that arachnophobia is more likely based on cultural beliefs about the nature of spiders.
A survey undertaken by a UK insurance company in 2007 found that 650,000 people blamed their car crashes on the fear of, or distraction by, an invertebrate - the most common of which were spiders. Some people are so scared they recoil from the mere mention of spiders. Many have undoubtedly already flipped this page to avoid the photographs.
Arachnophobic individuals develop an avoidance behavior for all contexts related to the animal. Many patients are so afraid of being confronted by the phobic object that they refuse to undergo any kind of therapy. Other symptoms include increased heart rate, respiration, agitation, and sweating.
Many providers of health care may help with the diagnosis of arachnephobia, including licensed mental-health therapists, family physicians, or other primary-care medical providers, specialists whom you see for a medical condition, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. If one of these professionals suspects that you may be suffering from a phobia, you will likely be asked a number of questions to understand all the symptoms you may be experiencing and you may need to submit to a Medical Interviewand physical examination. A phobia may be associated with a number of other mental-health conditions, including schizophrenia. These are particularly associated with other anxiety disordersincluding generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As anxiety disorders in general may be associated with a number of medical conditions or can be a side effect of various medications, routine laboratory tests are often performed during the initial evaluation to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms.
Existing therapies range from those that confront the patient with the real spider, such as "in vivo" exposure therapy to those that avoid this confrontation by requiring the patient to imagine situations involving spiders. In between, several therapies try to minimize the anxiety of the direct exposure by using computer simulations in which either the patient himself or a "virtual" person guided by the patient interacts with a "virtual" spider.
SLAT (spiderless arachnophobia therapy): SALT does not use any spider, neither real nor virtual or imaginary. It is specifically oriented to those patients with severe arachnophobia that would not undergo any kind of therapy involving a spider. This treatment makes use of the idea that aversive information does not need to be perceived consciously to trigger an emotional response. Non-conscious processing mechanisms of emotionally relevant stimuli are sufficient to activate the autonomic components of a phobic reaction. From the neural point of view, fearful information does not need to reach cortical levels to generate the typical fear response. Individuals with bilateral destruction of the visual cortices exhibit amygdala responses to emotional faces even when brain damage is recent so that cortical networks have had too short time to reorganize. In this case, the amygdala activation requires mediation by thalamic or tectal (superior colliculus) areas.
The thalamus and amygdala are, according to, responsible for recognizing fearful stimuli and triggering subsequent autonomic responses such as increased heart rate, respiration, and sweating. When an aversive stimulus arrives at the thalamus, it passes rough, almost archetypal information, directly to the amygdala, producing a rapid response to the possible danger.
NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.
DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.
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