Happy Halloween! Do You Have a Fear of Spiders?

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19recluse_enlAre you afraid of spiders? If so, you’re not alone. According to an article on PsychologyToday.com, arachnophobia is one of the most common of the specific phobias. It’s estimated that 1 in 3 people have a fear of spiders. For some people, looking at a photograph or hearing the word “spider”causes fear.

So, why are people so afraid of spiders? There are more than 43,000 different species of spiders in the world, and only a small number of those species are considered dangerous. Less than 30 (less than one-tenth of one percent) have been responsible for human deaths (Encyclopaedia Britannica).

What is it that people fear about spiders? The list includes their hairiness, their legs, the fact that they move quickly and their “staring” eyes.

People who fear spiders are also more likely to fear a whole group of other animals that psychologists call “fear relevant.” Other animals in this group include rats and mice, amphibians, snakes, lizards and insects and invertebrates such as slugs, snails, cockroaches and other “creepy-crawlies.”

Psychologists link the fear of spiders to what they call “disgust emotion,” a response they say evolved to prevent the spread of disease and illness. Many things that we find gross or disgusting also spread disease. We react by avoiding touching them, feeling nauseous, not eating them and making certain facial expressions. People who fear “fear-relevant animals, react more strongly to disgusting things.

While most household spiders are typically harmless, certain spiders can pose a danger to humans such as the Brown Recluse Spider and the Widow Spider, due to their poisonous bites.

This time of year, we’re more likely to see extremely large “spiders” and their “webs” along with the skeletons, monsters and graveyards decorating the yards of our friends and neighbors. If the eight-legged creatures that you see cause you to fear, remember, it’s more likely the result of disgust rather than danger.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!