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Arachnophobia Causing Great Stress

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Okay, so I have arachnophobia. It's not been diagnosed because I've never been allowed to see anyone during my childhood, but trust me, growing up with a sibling who has a diagnosed phobia gives me enough information for me to understand the difference between discomfort and terror.


I have been terrified of spiders for as long as I can remember, and no matter what I cannot figure out why. It might be because ever since I was a kid I was always exposed to the idea of "spooky creepy-crawly spiders", but my mind also goes to other places when someone asks "Why are you afraid of spiders?". For some reason when I try to think of the beginning of my phobia, I remember being a kid running my hand along a little stone wall as I walked. I remember those tiny little red insects - the kind you'll often find in the UK - just crawling along, but then I remember seeing a big house spider which was bright red. I feel like this was probably just a nightmare I had when I was very young (about four years old, I reckon), but this is what I remember. I also go back to remembering when I used to play on the swings at the bottom of my garden. I used to ask my parents to get rid of all the spider webs first, and if my uncle was ever there he would lecture me about my fear. In fact, he used to catch spiders in his hands and would try to make me hold them. Other adults, such as parents of my friends, used to find my pickiness with spiders irritating. If I saw one on the ceiling I would tremble in fright and refuse to walk beneath it, causing the parents to drag me by the arm and give me the "I like spiders because they catch flies" talk. I still get that talk to this day and it really frustrates me.


I'm eighteen now and I am not lying when I say I have literally burst into tears and cried for my parents when seeing a spider. I have cried so much that I curl up into my knees and my face goes red. If I even think about the possibility of a spider being on me, my heart rate gets faster. I have even been later to school before simply because a spider has either been in my room or on me. Yet when my parents see me screaming and crying, they just think I'm a "young" eighteen year old who has a childish mental age. It's so hard to explain to them that I don't hate spiders, I'm afraid of them. I don't want to hate them. I'm an animal lover, but for some reason spiders make me twitch and panic.


Currently, I feel that my life is actually greatly affected by this. I actually hide it pretty well. However, the truth is that I actually limit myself to where I go. I will not go in my attic (it's not a typical box-stuffed dusty attic, it's a nice room with the PS3 and PS4). I will not go in my utility or laundry room. Heck, I won't even go outside in areas with a lot of vegetation unless it's Autumn or Winter. I don't shove this fact in everyone's faces; I just come up with excuses as to why I don't like going into certain rooms. And if I have to go into those rooms/areas, I will have this strange little door-opening ritual. I flick the handle, push or kick the door open, peep my head into the room and look up and down and all around before finally hopping as far away from the walls and corners as possible as I enter and double-check. When this happens, it is very noticeable. Even if I go into my bathroom, I have to check to make sure there are no spiders near my toilet or in my shower. In fact, any room I go in gets a discreet little check. I do it so often that I actually forget that it's not normal. If I do find a spider, I tend to find any way to get off the floor or leave the room. If it's my bedroom, I will usually jump onto my bed and stare at the spider. If it twitches its leg I will shudder and let out a yelp of groan of fear. The more it moves, the more my heart rate picks up. Then I will call for my parents. If the spider is on the floor, I will try to catch it under a cup, but I am so scared of missing the spider that I hesitate. If I really panic I will resort to throwing something at the spider to crush it, but I hate doing that.


My anxiety over spiders seemed to be getting better a couple of years ago. I tried to expose myself to them. I felt less panicked. But for no reason I have lost all that progress, probably after seeing a large house spider on my floor and panicking at the sight of it. I have also had a recent experience involving a baby-sitting incident where I was looking after two young children (I did not want to, I was just in my house when this woman turns up to pick me up and it turned out that my mum told her I was going to baby-sit - thanks, mum!) - I knew the youngest child from school since he was in the junior department, but never saw his slightly older sister. I always thought the boy was the nightmare child, but I was so wrong. The girl already made her attitude quite clear when she said to me "You're the devil" the second her mother closed the door after leaving (didn't help that she was watching a series called "My baby-sitter is a vampire" since my appearance is ironically quite dark and deathly), but I almost had a pure anxiety attack with the stress this kid put me under when she grabbed a daddy-long-legs spider and chased me before putting it on me somehow. I had to call my mum and tell her to help with baby-sitting, and she seemed to blame me for being "hysterical". I had tried my best to keep my cool in that situation and even tried to reason with the kid (she actually had a phobia of dogs, so I thought I could try to make her understand but... kids don't), but in the end I just couldn't This long-legged freak was on me. Just typing that made me shudder and look around in paranoia. And she kept grabbing them from these webs around the house. I saw on which had been crushed on the floor but its eight long legs were frantically twitching as it tried to get itself up. The memory is awful. Thankfully, though, my mum came with my pet dog. That kept the girl away from me.


I also had a bad experience a few years ago when on holiday with my friend in the country. We stayed in a cosy log cabin. Yeah. Cosy until I found that my room was infested with all kinds of spiders. Small ones, daddy-long-legs, and huge house spiders. I woke up one morning and saw that under by duvet, by my feet, there was a huge black house spider. Huge. I had to get my friend's mum to cover my room in essential oils, but even then I was too afraid to be alone. I ended up spending a couple of nights in my friend's bed beside her, and even during the evening when we watched TV there would be spiders dangling above my head from the ceiling fan.


What I find strange is that spiders are always around me. I'm not sure if that's my arachnophobia making me really paranoid and aware, but everyone who knows me well seems to say the same thing. My bedroom, no matter which house I live in, seems to be the one with the spider problem. That might be because I'm untidy, and tidying seems to help, but that holiday story is an example of me travelling away and having the same issue. My bedroom was infested with spiders, but the others were nowhere near as bad. I started writing this now because I just found a little house spider in my current bedroom - which, I will say now, previously had no spider problem until I moved in.


One last thing people around me don't understand is that size does not matter. People assume the bigger the spider then the more I'll freak out, but that is not it. I actually find bigger spiders like tarantulas a little more bearable. When I was a kid I actually wanted a pet one to get me a little closer to spiders. For me it's really the legs. I don't like any long-legged insects, anyway. The longer the legs on a spider, the more freaked out I get. So when I complain to my parents about a daddy-long-legs spider, they will just say "but they're so pathetic; they're hardly visible". This doesn't mean I'm not afraid of small spiders, though; even money spiders make me flap by hands and shake like a wet dog. I don't even see size. Spiders seem so much bigger to me compared to how other people see them.


Right now it is almost four in the morning. I am trying to stay awake all night simply because I'm afraid this spider is going to crawl on me in my sleep. I used to try documenting my reactions to spiders in a notebook but I've since given up because I react to so many in similar ways. But I do wonder: what will my future be like? When I go to university and share a flat with people, what will they think when I scream and cry for help? Will this be an unattractive quality in me which will make any potential partners back away? I want to go into doing archaeology, but could I really dig around when panicking that a spider will crawl out from somewhere? Or worse; if I was in a foreign country like Egypt would I be even more on-edge about spiders I have never prepared for? Then again, Indiana Jones feared snakes and his father feared rats so... I guess it's somehow relevant?


But in all seriousness I do panic about all this. I feel so tied. I want to visit Australia one day; having gotten over my petty fear of flights, I think I can manage a plane trip, or maybe even a few hop flights and travelling, but my one major issue besides the long journey is the fact that Australia has huge spiders. I am being limited by my fear, and I am losing sleep because I genuinely cannot sleep knowing I have just seen a spider in my room. I literally become a scared little kid when I see a spider. And because there are so many people out there who are "afraid of spiders", people just roll their eyes and see me as a wuss when I really do try. I have tried for years. I have tried to expose myself to spiders. I have watched videos. I have taken advice. But nothing is working. I'm an animal lover who has a policy against killing any animal or creature. I don't want to hate spiders, I actually want to like them just how I like other unpopular animals like snakes. I LOVE snakes (another thing people don't understand - they think arachnophobia means spiders and snakes), but spiders... they just get me.


How the hell am I going to cope with this for the rest of my life?

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Well, the reason you see so many spiders is that there's about 30 in the average home. Like you've been told, they hunt out insects (spiders aren't insects themselves) and they do keep the house a bit cleaner. A lot of them take up a position by a door so they can grab insects as they sneak in.


The way to deal with a fear is to learn all you can about spiders and maybe even keep a pet spider yourself. If you know a lot about them, there's the theory that you will feel less afraid of them. For example, the average spider can't really bite you because their fangs aren't strong enough to pierce your skin. I'm not saying you'll get to the point where you can let them crawl all over you, but you could get to the point where you just carry them outside on a piece of paper and let them visit your garden. That's my best suggestion. You could start by identifying the species of spiders in your home, and if you know they can't bite you or bother them, then you might not be afraid of them. Give it a go.

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I live in Australia so I do deal with spiders regularly lol. The vast majority are completely harmless and will do their best to avoid you. As with most animals, they are more afraid of you than you are of them.


I'd be going to see a therapist about this. Most people don't particularly enjoy being around spiders, but your fear is infringing on your life and you do sound a little paranoid. You might be able to find a therapist who deals with phobias and can assist you with some sort of exposure therapy. I know you've said you've kinda done this yourself, but for your level of phobia it probably requires a professional to work with you on this.


I think it's pointless trying to rid your house completely of spiders. As weird as it sounds, having a small number in your house other more spiders (and insects) taking up residence in your home. Whenever I've cleared a spider and its' web out of my house, another spider tends to appear there shortly after.


I also think educating yourself more on spiders would help too. Humans tend to ascribe actions and an intelligence to animals they are afraid of which in reality are untrue. People often say things like "the spider ran towards me!", which is not true because the majority of spiders have appalling eyesight. It would have no idea that a person is there. The spider was not running at *you*, it was just trying to escape and running *somewhere*.

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I also think educating yourself more on spiders would help too. Humans tend to ascribe actions and an intelligence to animals they are afraid of which in reality are untrue. People often say things like "the spider ran towards me!", which is not true because the majority of spiders have appalling eyesight. It would have no idea that a person is there. The spider was not running at *you*, it was just trying to escape and running *somewhere*.


Tell that to the Funnel Web.


I do, however, miss the Huntsmen around my house in QLD.

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You have the whole Internet at your fingertips to search on 'spider deterrents' and find everything from ultrasonic devices you can plug into your room outlets to essential oil blends and pouches (for instance, citronella/lemongrass/rosemary) that you can apply to your skin and/or bed at night or when traveling.


Sometimes taking reasonable precautions can alleviate the stresses. The key word being 'reasonable,' because most people regard spider bites or walking into webs as something reasonable to want to prevent, regardless of whether they are all that preoccupied by the concern themselves.


I share your dislike of spiders and have had my share of instances that have enforced this concern at various times. I do run ultrasonic plugins where possible in my home, and while my concerns lessen sometimes, they can be easily revived by any given red spot on my skin or a sighting.


Key thing I'd avoid is labeling this fear as unreasonable, because that only positions you for a double whammy: a fear and then a layering of more fear about the fear, which is unnecessary and counterproductive.


Precautions are helpful whenever they enable you to talk yourself down from mind spins, while beating yourself up for a desire to take those precautions is a waste of energy. My family is aware of my spider dislike, and I've met any teasing about it with good natured agreement, which tends to remove any interest in teasing.


If your family is irritated whenever your concerns are amplified by a sighting, then so be it--trade them the favor of indulging you in spider removal for something of equal value to them. Few people would turn down an offer of a shoulder rub, bed making for a week or extra dish or meal duty in exchange for such a favor. Consider this more about developing good negotiation skills along with a sense of humor rather than some debilitating fear, and you'll benefit yourself rather than cater to feeling lousy for zero payoff.


Not everyone needs to enjoy the same aspects of nature in order to feel valid about their private dislikes.


Head high.

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