Fear of animals refers to an illogical fear or even simply dislikes any kind of animals; whether it's ferocious or timid. It is scientifically known as "Zoophobia". Zoophobia is regarded as one of the most common specific phobias. Many researchers have researched this phobia and they have found that human beings usually develop a biological tendency to be fearful towards certain types of animals.
Signs and Symptoms
According to the Mayo Clinic, zoophobia can present its symptoms not only when you have to deal with an animal face to face, but also when you start to think about it. The common physical and emotional symptoms of this phobia are listed below:
- Feeling dizzy
- Evaluation of the heart rate
- Feeling like choking, dying
- Rapid and shallow breathing
- Attempts of fleeing
- Experiences an imagination of getting attacked by an animal
This phobia can be naturally a draining state to live with, as any kind of animal or even thoughts about them can generate a lot of stress in the sufferer's mind. In fact, some zoophobics even go to the extent of refusing to leave their house because of their fear of confronting an animal.
Causes of the Fear of Animals
Zoophobia is quite common and it exists all around the world. It usually derives from a negative, unhealthy childhood experience involving an animal. In some cases, this phobia can perish on its own, without any treatments. However, in most cases, it persists lifelong.
One of the most common reasons for achieving zoophobia is the rise of anxiety or stress level in the mind. This emotion can bury itself deep into the brain. As a result, whenever you’re placed in a stressful situation, you can develop a tendency to recall it every time.
Moreover, it’s believed that human evolution might have played a role in developing this fear. Since the beginning of life, animals are always considered a dangerous threat to our lives. Fear is a defense mechanism that had developed within us to ensure our survival. Despite mastering them, the fear of animals hasn’t completely eradicated itself and still remaining in our genes. When it exaggerates itself, then a person starts to suffer from zoophobia.
A previous trauma linked with animals can also precipitate this phobia. If a person ever got attacked or hurt by an animal or saw someone else in this situation, then the person is most likely to develop this phobia.
How to treat the Fear of Animals?
If you're suffering from zoophobia then you must understand that you aren’t the only one who's dealing with this situation and there’re millions around the whole world who are going through this type of condition. Luckily, there are many available options for treating this phobia.
Gradual desensitization is one method that is highly effective in treating zoophobia. In this method, you'll be subjected to pictures or images of an animal. Most of the time, this process is done in a controlled, regulated environment. Therefore, you'll be to handle your extreme anxiety or stress.
Meditation and positive visualization are also good long term solutions. If you talk about your fears with someone whom you're very close with or write them down in a notepad, then you'll be able to overcome your zoophobia easily.
You can also try CBT. In this therapy session, you'll be under the guidance of a counselor who will try to understand the inner thoughts that are responsible for the fear, help you try to understand your fear, help you release the stress and anxiety that you're withholding and instill more confidence within you so that you can face your fears without being hesitant and stressed.
But, if your case is really severe, then you can try using anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs. They'll be able to balance your brain chemicals in controlling fear and anxiety. However, you should use them as a last resort and make sure that they are prescribed by your physician.
Societal and Cultural Impact of the Fear of Animals
Those who are suffering from zoophobia can't experience a normal, stress-free life. Whenever they see an animal, they don't think about whether it’s harmful or not. Instead, they feel scared and sometimes, they get so scared that they could even faint at the sight of them. They also start vomiting at the sight of them.
Therefore, they can't get themselves a pet. They can't go to the zoo for a family outing. In fact, they even refuse to leave their home. Moreover, they can't even read a book if it involves pictures of an animal. As a result, their daily life gets heavily affected.
Moreover, many people think that those who have zoophobias are mental or weird and end up labeling them as "psycho". Some people bully them. As a result, their condition deteriorates and they sink into depression.
How common is the Fear of Animals?
Specific phobia is one of the most common types of anxiety disorders that can affect 13% of the women population and 4% of the men population, within 1 year. Since zoophobia is one of the most common specific phobias, so it can be said that it’s quite common in the human population.
What should you do if you have the Fear of Animals?
Zoophobia is no pleasure and, untreated phobias often have the tendency to worsen over time. However, with a little bit of help and medication, there's no reason to let zoophobia affect your life.
If your phobia is proportionately moderate, then you can take some self-help measures like guided visualization and purposeful breathing, as they can help soothe your stress responses. You can also talk to a supportive friend or a relative.
However, if your fear starts to obstruct your daily activities or if you think you're going to experience feelings of panic, then you should start consulting a mental health professional.