A while ago I wrote a post about overcoming my arachnophobia (fear of spiders). I noticed many people commented about being freaked out by spiders, or having another phobia, on the post and on my social media channels. So I decided to share in detail how exactly I got over my arachnophobia. I’m sure most of the tips will work for irrational fears as well. But depending on the severity of your phobia you might want to see a therapist on the side as well.
These four steps are mainly about overcoming arachnophobia (fear of spiders), but with some minor adjustments they can work for other phobias as well.
Step 1: Get Educated
Find out why you are afraid
Depending on the phobia, this can be the easiest or the hardest part. For me, finding out why I was afraid of spiders was pretty easy. They don’t look huggable, move in weird ways, are easy to lose track of and have a bad reputation. This was an important step for me, and it’s what helped me figure out what the next steps had to be.
Learn more about different spiders
I used to think that every spider bite was painful and deadly. Wrong. I also though that cross spiders were as dangerous as black widows. Wrong. Or that every black widow bite would result in an instant death. Wrong again.
In fact, very few spiders are venomous enough to make you sick, let alone kill you. And if you happen to be bitten by a dangerous one, a trip to the ER or doctor will most likely prevent any damage. Learning all these things definitely made me feel much safer around spiders.
No matter what your phobia is, I’m sure there are plenty of sources online or in your local library where you can find tons of info about it.
Step 2: Come up with a plan
Find out which spiders live in your area, and how to deal with them
I read a lot about the spiders that are common where I live, and what to do in case of a spider bite. Knowing how to identify dangerous spiders, how to clean the wound, when to contact a doctor, etc. made me feel in control.
Similarly, if you’re scared of flying, reading the safety information on the plane can be a huge comfort. Where are the emergency exits? How do I use the oxygen masks? What if we land on water? Will they announce it if something goes wrong? What do the different sounds and lights mean?
Step 3: Exposure
Look at pictures and observe spiders in real life
It’s the most important and effective step, but it’s also important not to rush this. For a long time, just looking at spider pictures would have actually made my arachnophobia worse. It was only after I had read a lot about them that I started being ok with seeing them. And even then, I had to start with pictures, and move on to videos, before starting to look for spiders around the house.
For other phobias, for example fear of heights, you could start by looking at pictures taken from the air or even make use of virtual reality. You could also try to find a tall building in your city, and look down through the window from different floors.
Step 4: Handle a spider
Face your fears. It’s ok if you feel that you need some time for this, don’t rush it. Again, if I had rushed this, I would have made my arachnophobia worse. But after completing the previous steps, and when feeling ready for it, I went to a reptile/arachnids convention and asked a seller if I could handle one of his spiders.
You could also go to a zoo or pet store, or even just try to handle a spider you find in your house or backyard. When going to a store or an animal park, they will most likely give you a tarantula to handle. While they look big and scary, I preferred it over a house spider for a couple of reasons:
- You know for sure what type of spider you’re handling. Which also means you can be sure what you’re doing is safe, and what to do in case the spider ends up biting you.
- You’re in the hands of professionals. Those people handle their spiders on a regular basis, they know what they’re getting into and they will be able to guide and comfort you.
- They’re big, so they can’t get lost. This was important for me. If you have arachnophobia (or just don’t like spiders) you probably hate the idea of knowing there is a spider in the room, but not knowing where it is. Tarantulas are very slow and rather big, so you can be sure you won’t lose track of them.
Extra: Talk to a therapist
It’s not always necessary, but if you feel like your phobia is very complex or severe, or if you’re suffering from multiple phobias, talking to a therapist is probably a good idea. Together with a therapist, you’ll probably try to find out where your phobia comes from, what triggers it and how you can either reduce the symptoms or overcome it entirely.
Do you suffer from arachnophobia? Have you tried to overcome your fears? Let me know about your experiences in the comments and don’t forget to share the article if you found it helpful.