Entomophobia (Fear of Insects)
What is entomophobia?
People with entomophobia have a fear of insects. Someone with entomophobia may have extreme anxiety or fear when seeing or thinking about insects. They may avoid walking or exercising outside and may stay away from outdoor events. Some people may stop leaving their house to reduce their chances of seeing insects.
What are other names for entomophobia?
Entomophobia is also known by other names. You might hear this phobia called:
What is a phobia?
Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder. They involve an overwhelming fear of an object, event or situation. The fear is out of proportion to the likely real-life harm from an event or situation. There are hundreds of specific phobia disorders like entomophobia. In entomophobia, a particular object (insects) leads to a fearful reaction.
How common is entomophobia?
It’s hard to know exactly how many people have a specific phobia like entomophobia. Many people may keep this fear to themselves or may not recognize they have it. We do know that about 1 in 10 American adults and 1 in 5 teenagers will deal with a specific phobia disorder at some point in their lives.
What does a person with entomophobia fear?
Someone with entomophobia may be afraid of:
- Being stung or bitten by an insect, like a bee, wasp or tick.
- Coming across insects, either outdoors or indoors.
- Getting a disease from an insect, like a fly or mosquito.
- Having a bug infestation in their house or in their body.
- Seeing images of insects in TV shows, movies, books or online.
Symptoms and Causes
Who is at risk for entomophobia?
You’re more likely to develop entomophobia or a different type of specific phobia disorder if you already have:
What other phobias are associated with entomophobia?
Other phobias linked to entomophobia include:
- Apiphobia or melissaphobia (fear of bees).
- Arachnophobia (fear of spiders).
- Helminthrophobia, scoleciphobia or vermiphobia (fear of worms).
- Katsaridaphobia (fear of roaches).
- Myrmecophobia (fear of ants).
- Pteronarcophobia (fear of flies).
- Spheksophobia (fear of wasps).
What are the causes of entomophobia?
Possible causes of entomophobia include:
- Past traumatic experiences: People who have had a traumatic experience related to insects may develop entomophobia. For example, you or someone you know may have had a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting.
- Environmental irritations: Some people have itchy skin caused by pollen, mold or household allergens. Persistent irritated skin may lead someone to blame insects.
- Family history: Your risk of entomophobia increases if you have a close relative or parent with a phobic disorder or anxiety disorder. You may be more anxious than other people if you have a certain gene mutation (change).
- Modeling: Seeing a person with entomophobia or hearing someone talk about their fear of insects can cause you to have the same phobia.
What are entomophobia triggers?
Anything related to insects may bring on entomophobia. Entomophobia triggers include seeing or thinking about insects:
- In public spaces like parks, playgrounds or sidewalks.
- Inside your or someone else’s house.
- In TV shows, movies, books or online.
- While walking outside to your car.
What are entomophobia symptoms?
Entomophobia symptoms can range from mild to extreme. The most common symptom is extreme anxiety when you think about insects or see them. Other emotional symptoms include:
- Excessive thinking about how to avoid insects.
- Fear and avoidance of places where you might see an insect.
People may also experience physical symptoms such as severe itchiness or a crawling sensation on their body. Other symptoms include:
Diagnosis and Tests
How is entomophobia diagnosed?
If entomophobia affects your life, your healthcare provider may suggest that you see a mental health professional like a psychologist. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) doesn’t recognize entomophobia as a phobic disorder. But a psychologist may diagnose you after asking about your symptoms.
You may have a specific phobic disorder if the fear of insects:
- Occurs when you think about or see insects.
- Leads you to skip situations like going to a park or for a hike.
- Causes you to miss out on social events.
- Affects your ability to enjoy life.
- Triggers symptoms of anxiety or fear that don’t match the actual danger.
- Lasts at least six months.
Management and Treatment
What are entomophobia treatments?
Exposure therapy is one of the main treatments for entomophobia. During exposure therapy, a mental health professional introduces you to situations and images that may trigger your symptoms. They gradually help you manage your response. Most people with specific phobias see their symptoms improve after getting this type of psychotherapy (talk therapy).
During exposure therapy, your provider helps you:
- Learn relaxation and breathing techniques to use before and during an exposure.
- Talk about your fear of insects.
- View pictures or videos of insects.
- See live insects in a controlled setting, such as at your healthcare provider’s office.
- Gradually progress to a situation where you may see insects, such as a park or forest.
What are other entomophobia solutions?
Other techniques to overcome entomophobia include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps you change how you see and react to objects and situations that trigger symptoms. Many healthcare providers use CBT along with exposure therapy.
- Hypnotherapy: Providers use guided relaxation techniques and focused attention to help alter your perception of insects. Providers can also use hypnotherapy to find the underlying cause of your insect fear.
- Medications: Drugs that help with physical symptoms of anxiety may temporarily lessen entomophobia symptoms in certain situations. Antidepressants can also help reduce overall anxiety.
- Yoga and meditation: A regular yoga practice can help you relax and reduce your stress levels. Meditation helps you focus on your breathing and calm your body to lessen panic attacks.
What are the complications of entomophobia?
Severe entomophobia can have a huge impact on your day-to-day life. You may not want to walk outside, meet friends in a park or take your kids to a playground. Just thinking about seeing an insect when you leave your house can cause extreme anxiety. You may decide to stop going out of your house at all.
Some people with entomophobia have panic attacks. These attacks can lead to a racing heart rate and noncardiac chest pain or heart attack symptoms. Uncontrolled panic attacks and constant worry can lead to a panic disorder.
When should I call the doctor?
You should call your healthcare provider if you have:
- Panic attacks.
- Persistent anxiety that causes problems with daily life or sleeping.
What questions should I ask my doctor?
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- How long will I need therapy?
- Should I look for signs of complications?
- What is causing this phobia?
- What is the most effective treatment for me?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Specific phobias like entomophobia can impact your quality of life. You may avoid outdoor activities and events or spend less time with family and friends. Healthcare providers can help you overcome your anxiety about insects. Talk to your provider about treatments like exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy or medications. These treatments can help you feel better about coming across insects in your daily life.
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