Arachnophobia means a pathological fear of spiders. It ranks among psychiatric anxiety disorders that belong to group of phobias.


The causes are not entirely clear. The fear can be caused by an old and often forgotten scary memory which includes spiders or other similar arthropods. On the other side fear of spiders is so widespread that it may be also a result of evolutionary genetic memory. Our species evolves in close contact with spiders for ages and because they are often poisonous, our dislike towards them seems to be quite logical.


In closer contact with a spider uncomfortable feelings of aversion and fear appear, sometimes there occurs a completely uncontrollable state of acute panic. Sometimes even an image of a spider can bother or thought of being in an environment where spiders may occur. Fear usually can not be specified precisely, it relates to a spider itself. The patient often sees the irrationality of his or her fear but despite that is unable to control it.


Treatment is psychiatric, should be long-term and usually involves psychotherapy which helps the patient to understand his fear and overcome it. An effective method is a gradual exposure to object of patient’s fear (in this case a spider) that slowly helps to overcome it. This process has to be gradual and always requires the patient’s consent. Showing spiders’ pictures may be an example. Even pharmacological means exist, doctors use drugs from group of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications (anxiolytics).

Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources