Commenting on the recent media coverage of False Widow Spiders, Worthing Daily’s guest piece today is by Elaine Iljon Foreman BA MSc AFBPSs. Elaine is a Chartered Clinical Psychologist and HCPC Registered Practioner Psycholgist.
There have been a few reports in the press lately about people being bitten by False Widow spiders and needing hospital treatment. The headlines were somewhat alarming, giving the impression that those spider bites were potentially deadly. It’s important to remember that to date, there has never been a fatal spider bite in the UK. It does appear that as a result of being bitten, some people suffered a very unpleasant, but rare allergic reaction to what would for most people be nothing serious. A conservation officer at the Kent Wildlife Trust said that for most people, a bite from a false widow spider is ‘no more dangerous than eating a peanut’.
News reports can potentially feed into a person’s pre-existing fears – of spiders, or indeed of anything else. So someone who is scared of flying, but considering getting help, could well reconsider whether to go ahead, if they read of a fatal crash, anywhere in the world. Many of us have a fear of something. It can sometimes become extreme to the point of being a phobia, where the person is absolutely terrified and will avoid whatever it is at all costs, even though they are fully aware that their level of fear is out of proportion to the actual danger. So while many people may be uneasy about flying, around 15% of the UK population will worry to the extent that they either refuse to fly, or limit the number of trips they take, and how far afield they will go. Instead of looking forward to a well-earned break, they’ll often dread the approaching holiday, and frequently spend the latter part of their holiday panicking about the flight home.
But returning to those 8 legged creepy crawlies, spider phobia, or arachnophobia, is estimated to be the most common phobia in the UK despite the fact that none of our native spiders are able to kill or even harm us. Studies suggest up to 55% of women and 18% of men in the UK have some level of arachnophobia. For some, this fear can be debilitating. In my work as a Clinical Psychologist specialising in helping people deal with phobias, I’ve seen people who won’t go near the bath if there’s a spider in it. They’re frequently unable to fall asleep if they’ve seen a spider in the house, are too scared to do the garden in case they encounter a spider, won’t go into a cellar or garage where spiders may dwell, and often will refuse travel opportunities to countries with large, dangerous spiders. One lady was about to sell her dream home in the country, (where spiders seemed to her more common than in town), as she was too scared to be alone in the house in case a spider was there too. Arachnophobia can be life limiting.
It can be possible to overcome this fear. A treatment that has been shown to be effective is called Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, or CBT. CBT looks at how what we think affects what we feel and what we do – i.e. the way in which thoughts, feelings and behaviour are linked. If a person can identify their thoughts and learn to deal with them differently, they can then change their behaviour. So using spiders as an example, a s a result of learning to approach spiders and discovering nothing terrible actually happens, the person is able over time to feel differently about them, and the fear can diminish. If fear is taking over your life, whether it be fear of spiders, fear of flying, or indeed fear of anything, there is help available. Elaine Iljon Foreman, Clinical Psychologist, has considerable experience in helping people face and overcome their fears. She basis her treatment on cognitive behaviour therapy, an approach that has been effective for many phobias and anxiety problems. Elaine has recently opened Consulting Rooms in West Sussex. If you would like to discuss how Elaine may be able to help, then please contact her at Freedom to Fly on 020 8459 3428, or via the website : www.freedomtofly.biz, or by email on : Elaine@freedomtofly.biz.
And incidentally, the lady was able to overcome her fear, and share her dream home with the countryside spiders!
Picture courtesy of the Natural History Museum