In the 1999 hit movie “The Mummy”, one of the frightening scenes that would make you squirm in your seat is a scene involving scarabs. Thousands of them swarmed and devoured those that disturb the Pharaoh’s tomb, by eating their flesh.
While in reality scarabs, which are part of the beetle species, are plant-eating insects, their portrayal as flesh-eating insects only adds to some people’s great fear of bugs.
The fear of bugs or entomophobia, is the irrational fear of insects. “Entomos” is a Greek word which means insects, and "Phobos", in Greek means to fear.
So what are the signs that a person is suffering from entomophobia?
Signs and Symptoms of Entomophobia
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), classifies entomophobia as a phobia of one or more classes of insects.
Here are the symptoms of a person who suffers from entomophobia:
- Excessive cleaning
- Skin scratching
- Increased heart rate or palpitation
- Dizziness, hot or cold flashes
- Chest pains
- Sweating/Excessive Perspiration
- Stomach pain
Causes and Common Triggers of Entomophobia
Many causes are known to cause or trigger entomophobia. The following are known to cause people to have the irrational fear of insects:
- Skin irritations or unexplained dermatitis which may be caused by pollen, dust or presence of mold in the house, may lead the person that an insect is responsible for his skin condition.
- Medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism, meningitis, anxiety disorders, are just some that are often linked to entomophobia.
- A traumatic incident, loss of a loved one or pet, financial difficulties, personal relationship problems are triggers that result in the irrational fear of insects.
- Being alone is one cause that leads them to obsess about their health. They then start focusing on their skin irritations constantly thinking about bugs or insects as the cause of their condition. These constant conscious thoughts are responsible for their entomophobia.
- Depression is also a cause that triggers the phobia. They often think of themselves as worthless, and they start losing interest in life.
- Females are known to suffer more than men and it goes in all age groups and demographics.
- Being stung by an insect such as a wasp or a bee can also result in a traumatic experience leading to entomophobia.
- Children whose parents act fearful around insects learn to fear them as well, thus learning the phobia from them.
Treatments of Entomophobia
Most phobias do not require treatment especially if it’s in its mild form, and the person is still able to function normally in life. The person can adjust to his or her phobia and keep it under control.
A treatment is advised if the phobia affects his way of life, whether personally or at work, and his relationship with friends, family, and colleagues suffer. Psychotherapy is the recommended treatment on these types of situations to help him or her overcome the fear of death.
There is no specific drug to treat entomophobia or phobias in general. Anxiolytic drugs may be used to relieve the anxiety resulting from the person having to confront the object of his or her fear.
Here are the acceptable treatments for people with entomophobia. Studies have shown that these treatments have helped lessen the fear in most patients:
For most phobias, exposure therapy is said to be the most successful. There are several studies conducted about treatments of phobias using imaginal exposure. This means for people with Entomophobia, they will be gradually exposed to images of insects or bugs. Based on the same studies, 90% of subjected to the treatment exhibited a considerable fear reduction. And around 65% no longer experienced any symptoms of their phobias.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This is another form of treatment for persons with phobias. It is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health. What it does is it helps the patient to challenge or change their thoughts or beliefs in addressing their problems. This treatment was originally meant to treat depression, but has since been expanded to treat other conditions including anxiety, which is common and exhibited by most or all phobic people.
Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT)
In this type of therapy, the patient is given a simulated experience using computer programs and artificially created environments. They use Virtual Reality gadgets to provide the patient a controlled stimuli as part of the treatment. They then monitor the patient’s reaction. It’s a series of VR-based treatment where it involves adjusting the virtual environment. Sometimes smell or adding vibrations allow the clinician to determine the level of the patient's reaction to the stimuli. The specific insect that the person is most fearful of, maybe gradually put in the virtual environment. Replaying virtual scenes multiple times with or without adjustment depending on the patient's reaction.
Societal and Cultural Impact of Entomophobia
People with severe cases of entomophobia tend to become recluse and shuns social interaction. The fear of being embarrassed with their friends and family adds to the stress that they already have as a result of their phobia
How Common Is Entomophobia?
No available data on how many percent of the population suffers from entomophobia. But common household insects such cockroaches bring fear to a lot of people in both male and female, although more on the latter.
What Should You Do If You Have Entomophobia?
As with any type of phobia, the best thing to do is seek medical or professional help. Psychotherapy is one way to help you, as the psychotherapist will find out the root cause of your fear. Joining online support groups related to your phobia may also help, as you will be able to find other people that are experiencing the same fears as you.
Entomophobia as with any type of phobia is a mental condition that can be treated. As we tend to be more exposed to insects in our daily lives, this is the phobia that should be given more consideration for treatment. The therapy we've listed above can help individuals suffering from entomophobia to minimize or even successfully relieve them of their irrational fear.