Are you afraid of a particular animal? Did you know that one of the most common fears is the fear of animals or Zophobia? Animal phobia is one of the most common types of specific phobias. A specific phobia is an anxiety disorder in which a person has an intense and exaggerated fear of something like an animal, object, or situation. Most of the time this fear is of a certain type of animal. However, a person with zoophobia may be afraid of all or many types of animals. In this article, we will talk about animal fear, its symptoms, types and treatment methods.
What scares animals?
The exact cause of Zophobia is unknown. Several factors may play a role in causing this type of phobia. Common causes of this type of fear are:
- Negative experiences: Having a bad or scary experience with an animal may make you afraid of it. For example, a person who has been attacked by a dog may be very scared of the dog after this incident.
- Learned behaviors: Sometimes the fear of animals is due to the behavior of a parent or a loved one. For example, if your parents are afraid of spiders, you may also be afraid of spiders.
- Genetics: It is possible that genetics also play a role in certain phobias.
- Fear processing: We process fear and anxiety in different ways. Some people may be more anxious than others, and this can lead to certain phobias.
All kinds of fears of animals
1. Fear of predators
Animals such as dogs and sharks are usually scary and generally fall into the category of predators. We can probably blame evolutionary psychology for the fear of predators. Fear of predators has been an essential skill for the survival of our ancient ancestors. Large and powerful animals or those that were poisonous could easily overcome humans. Our ancestors competed with these animals for food, water, and shelter without the facilities we now have.
۲. Fear of multicultural animals
In the past, snakes and spiders were classified as predators. However, research conducted at the University of Queensland (Australia) in 2008 rejects this concept. Animals like tigers and lions are certainly predators, but people’s fear of snakes, spiders and mice is much more common. According to Queensland researchers, this may be because we tend to focus on creatures that we think are multiples. Just as we may release butterflies and crush beetles, we are more afraid of snakes and spiders than animals that are really dangerous.
3. Superstitious fears
Some types of animal phobia go back to the myths and stories we heard. For example, snakes can be in the category of superstitious fears. Throughout history, various animals have been present in myths as well as in religious beliefs.
Symptoms of fear of animals or zophobia
One of the main symptoms of certain phobias is extreme fear. Fear of animals When a person stands next to an animal, he feels intense fear. A person with zophobia may also feel fear in the following cases:
- Thinking about that animal;
- Talking about that animal;
- Hear something about that animal;
- See photos or videos of that animal.
A person with zoophobia may also avoid activities that put them next to animals, for example, they may avoid watching wildlife documentaries, going to the zoo, or even going to a pet-friendly family home.
In addition, some physical symptoms are associated with certain phobias, for example, a person with zophobia may experience the following symptoms when standing next to an animal:
- increase of heart rate;
- Increased body sweating;
- Shortness of breath;
- Feeling light-headed or weak;
Symptoms of Zophobia in Children
Children with zoophobia may have other symptoms, such as:
- to cry;
- Bad temper and stubbornness;
- Trying to hide behind people or objects.
The most common animal phobias
Some animal phobias are more common than others, including:
- Ailorophobia (fear of cats);
- Arachnophobia (fear of spiders);
- Cryptaphobia (fear of bats);
- Synophobia (fear of dogs);
- Entomophobia (fear of insects);
- Helminthophobia (fear of worms);
- Herptophobia (fear of reptiles);
- Ichthyophobia (fear of fish);
- Melisophobia (fear of bees);
- Musophobia (fear of mice);
- Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes);
- Ornithophobia (fear of birds);
- Ranidaphobia (fear of frogs and toads).
How to deal with fear of animals?
If you have Zophobia, here are some things you can do to help it:
- Try to limit the avoidance of certain activities. Avoiding activities that animals may be involved in can exacerbate your fears.
- Keep yourself healthy. Taking care of yourself with a healthy diet, regular exercise and ensuring adequate sleep can help reduce the symptoms of animal phobia.
- Try stress reduction techniques. Try to find a way to reduce stress that works for you. Yoga, meditation and breathing techniques can be helpful.
- Connect with others. Talk about how you feel about other people, such as family and friends. Joining a support group can also be helpful.
When to see a specialist?
If you find that the physical symptoms of this type of fear have disrupted your daily life, it may be best to see a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.
Some areas of your life that a particular phobia can disrupt include:
- Relationships with friends and loved ones;
- Work or school;
- Social interactions;
- daily activities.
Treat animal fears
Let’s look at the different treatment options available for animal fears.
1. Exposure therapy
In exposure therapy, you will gradually become exposed to the subject of your fear. The first sessions include encounters with the least amount of anxiety. As you work with your therapist, you will gradually experience more anxious situations.
Take the fear of birds as an example to better understand the subject. We start with the initial scenario and then move on to the most anxious position:
- Thinking of birds;
- Talking about birds;
- Looking at a photo of a bird;
- Listen to the birds;
- Watch video of different types of birds;
- Going to the zoo to watch the birds;
- Touching or stroking a bird;
- Allowing the bird to sit on the arm or shoulder.
Part of exposure therapy is that the therapist teaches you skills to control the anxious feelings caused by the phobia. These skills can include breathing techniques as well as relaxation techniques.
Initiation of the treatment process is not always associated with the physical presence of the animal. A small study in 2016 showed that virtual reality may be used as part of exposure therapy.
۲. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
CBT is often combined with exposure therapy. In this method, with the help of your therapist, you will eliminate the negative thoughts and feelings that lead to phobias, then you will rebuild the beliefs and feelings with the aim of reducing your fear.
3. taking medication
Medications are usually used only for specific phobias and for a short time. In some cases, they may be helpful in helping to deal with anxiety during treatment. Two examples of drugs that may be prescribed are beta-blockers (beta-blockers) and benzodiazepines. Remember to always consult your doctor before taking any medication.
Are you afraid of a particular animal? Have you ever looked for a way to cure this fear? Share your opinions about fear of animals and ways to deal with this fear with us and other dear users in the comments section.