The false widow spider, Britain’s most venomous spider, is spreading across the UK and is cause for concern for those who suffer from arachnophobia, or fear of spiders. But spider phobia can be treated with hypnotherapy.
Arachnaphobia is one of the most common specific phobias. Those who are afraid of spiders will go to great lengths to ensure that they are not exposed to a spider. They may be unwilling to participate in activities, such as hiking or camping, that carry a heightened risk of exposure to spiders.
Exposure to the ‘phobic stimulus’ usually provokes an immediate ‘anxiety response’, which may take the form of physical symptoms (like shaking, sweaty palms, and increased heartbeat) and irrational thoughts, such as thinking you are going to die. Sometimes this can induce a ‘panic attack’.
Hypnotherapy can help to identify the root cause of a fear of spiders and enable individuals to react to the particular object or situation they once feared in a calmer manner when encountering it in the future. Phobias are displaced fears and because they are not rational, they can be dealt with.
The National Council for Hypnotherapy, with more than 1,800 members, has trained hypnotherapists who can effectively treat phobias like arachnaphobia.
Paul Howard, marketing director for the NCH, said: “It is more than possible to treat spider phobia with hypnotherapy. Arachnophobia can be created by a specific event in childhood or a learnt behaviour from peers or siblings. Both causes can be effectively treated using hypnotherapy.
“If it has been created by an sensitising event it can often be removed with just 1 or 2 sessions whereas learnt behaviours can take a little longer.
“Hypnotherapy can also help with relaxation and visualisation techniques for desensitisation and forming new habits such as being more calm and relaxed.”
Mark Champion from the Wildlife Trust in Lancaster told BBC Breakfast that there had been an increase in the number of sightings of the false widow spider and more reports of people being bitten. He said the bite was venomous but not fatal and could result in pain and a lump ‘as big as a tennis ball’.
Conservationists believe that changes in the climate could be encouraging the spider to make itself at home in new areas.
Research suggests that 50% of all women and 10% of men suffer from arachnaphobia to some degree.
So real are some phobias that finding the smallest of spiders can lead to panic.
But a recent scientific study found that some adults with a fear of spiders could hold a hairy tarantula after just a few hours of therapy.
Scientists from Northwest Medicine carried out a study on 12 adults and, on completion of the therapy sessions, an fMRI scan showed that the brain regions associated with fear decreased in activity when confronted with a spider – even six months later.