Who’s afraid of the big bad spider? If you are, you’re not alone.
Many people are afraid of spiders and most of us don’t really like them. So what’s that all about? And why does it feel as if there is an invasion of these eight legged “friends” at this time of year?
Here are the facts
An instinctive fear of spiders and snakes seems to be a left over survival instinct that evolved in our distant ancestors who encountered dangerous spiders and snakes. Even though there are no dangerous spiders in the UK today, our reactions to them can range from slight dislike or disgust to anxiety or even outright terror. Research by Dr. Stefanie Hoehl at the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences found that even babies as young as 6 months react fearfully to spiders and snakes. You can read more about it here https://www.cbs.mpg.de/Fear-of-spiders-and-snakes-is-deeply-embedded-in-us . Trigger alert, it has a picture of a large spider in the article.
You’re in luck because I’m going to give you six strategies for surviving spider season.
I’m sure you’re wondering why it seems like your home is being invaded by spiders recently.
Here’s the answer, from the end of August until the start of October is spider mating season.
The females pick a cosy place to hide up and prepare to lay their eggs, perhaps in your home or around doors and windows. The lovelorn males who normally live outdoors, maybe in a garden, garage or shed come scuttling indoors searching for the ‘spider woman’ of their dreams. If the very idea gives you the creeps here are some simple steps you can take.
Here’s the deal!
Although it’s impossible to keep spiders out of your home completely these simple tips can help keep them at bay. Seal cracks and crevices around your home where they could get in. Clean, dust and remove any clutter to deprive female spiders of cosy hiding places. Vacuum high and low; don’t forget under sofas and behind cupboards. The insects that spiders like to eat are drawn to light, so turn off outside lights, especially near doors or windows.
Use pleasant pongs. Spiders don’t like citrus smells like lemon, they tend to avoid eucalyptus, tea tree and peppermint smells too, so try spraying or rubbing these around doors and windows to deter entry.
Let me spill the beans here. There are many clever devices in shops and online that can catch spiders humanely and without you needing to get too close. One of the most popular at the moment is a long plastic vacuum tube that can trap the spider allowing you to release it again outdoors, preferably not too close to your home.
What’s the bottom line?
Here are some top tips to ward off anxiety if you come across a scary spider scuttling, creeping or just hanging around. Breathe- Deliberately slow your breathing down. Breathe in for a count of four, hold for a second, and then breathe slowly all the way out.
Recognise the panic response –Try to remind yourself that this is temporary, it will pass, and that you’re OK. The spider can’t harm you in any way.
Find a focus object- Some people find it helpful to find a single object to focus all of their attention on, obviously not the spider itself. Choose an object in clear sight and consciously note everything about it, the colour, the shape the size of it, what texture it has. As you focus all of your attention on this object the panic may subside. Use muscle relaxation techniques-Muscle relaxation techniques can also help stop the panic in its tracks by controlling your body’s response. Try to consciously relax one muscle at a time, starting with something simple like the fingers in your hand.
Re-train your brain and reduce the fear
Practice mental imagery and visualisation to help you reframe your thoughts and feelings about spiders. Repeatedly imagine yourself dealing with a spider situation with confidence and calm, really make the image vivid and use all of your senses. You can use an everyday action such as switching on the kettle as a prompt that reminds you to practice this visualisation at least once a day. Play an imaginary mental movie in which you are calmly handling a spider situation. The more you practice this visualisation the better the results are likely to be. Positive self –talk and affirmations can help too. These are phrases you say to yourself, either in your mind or out loud such as “Spiders are harmless; I am calm and relaxed when dealing with them.” Repetition is key to changing your habits of thinking and therefore your feelings about spiders (or anything else).
What if it’s terror, not just discomfort?
A phobia is an extreme form of fear or anxiety triggered by a particular situation (such as flying, or public speaking) or object (such as spiders), even when there is no actual danger.
Phobias aren’t logical and even though you know that the spider in your bath (in this country) isn’t poisonous and won’t harm you, this still doesn’t reduce your anxiety. For some people even seeing a picture or talking about spiders brings on extreme anxiety.
It’s natural to have fears about certain objects or situations, for example driving on icy roads or bungee jumping off a cliff. A fear becomes a phobia when the fear is out of proportion to the danger.
It’s not just a passing thing, it lasts for more than six months and has a significant impact on how you live your day-to-day life.
How it can limit your life
You may go to great lengths to avoid being exposed to spiders such as avoiding gardening or going into a basement or shed. Hiking or camping trips or even visits to the zoo might be impossible for you. Reactions to encountering a spider can include screaming, running or freezing. I knew someone who started using their neighbours’ bins because their own had a spider’s web which they were terrified to go near. A friend’s sister posted a photo of a large spider in her house on social media with a plea for any friend to come over and remove it, despite it being very late at night.
If you have children they may also learn to fear spiders from observing your reactions to them.
So what’s the good news?
Hypnotherapy, emotional freedom therapy and aspects of neuro-linguistic programming can all be very effective in overcoming phobias, allowing you to take back control of this aspect of your life.
In fact sometimes it only takes one or two sessions to achieve this. This case study on netdoctor website is a good example https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-living/mental-health/a28486/spider-fear-hypnotherapy-arachnophobia/ (just scroll past the photo at the start).
From personal experience, hypnotherapy helped me lose not one, but two, life limiting phobias.