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Is it Arachnophobia or "pholideaphobia?" - Printable Version

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Is it Arachnophobia or "pholideaphobia?" - Stinkpot Koopa - 04-30-2009 06:16 AM

Hello, I have a wierd and frustrating fear of spiders.
I am petrified of Cellar Spiders - the only spider I seriously fear.
Some spiders like the Garden Spider give me chills, but so far only the Cellar Spider makes me scream.
Pictures and videos of them give me the shudders but don't make me fall out of my chair. I actually thought looking at pictures of them might help me get over my fear.
Taranchulas and other big furry spiders do not scare me at all. But my fear of cellar spiders are starting to
frustrate other people aswell. I just started working(and it happens to be at a ware house) and yesterday I yelped and dropped
a bunch of stuff I was carrying because a cellar spider was crawling on all of it. Everyone there quickly came to me and circled around me and thought that I hurt myself - so I pretended and said I did hurt myself to prevent being fired for such a silly reason. My parents and friends think I'm so ridiculous, being so scared over such a tiny spider. One of my friends actually teased me by putting a cellar spider in my hair.

But the strange thing is how I read other people's fear of arachnids and they seem petrified of all spiders, but only 1 species scares me. And it happens to be small and completely harmless.

Here's a mouth full of my actual love for spiders you'l find really kooky when I was young.
Throughout my child hood, I loved collecting bugs, snakes, turtles, frogs, and spiders since I was about 3. Around age of 3-5 I didn't know spiders were "dangerous" and I used to collect them. Black Widows, Wood Spiders, and Brown Recluses were my fave, and I would cry when my mom would flush them down the toilet. Lucky I was never bit!
Is that strange or what? I never ran into a cellar spider though.
My first incounter with cellar spiders was when I was about 8 or 9 years of age. They were quitely hanging upside down under a shelf in the shed. I thought they were daddy long legs, but they weren't. For some reason I felt a surge of fear go down my spine and wouldn't dare touch it. Ever since that, I started to become more fearfull of spiders - esp. the cellar spider.

When I lived in an apartment, they were all over the place! I had to sleep, eat, and basically suffer a terrible year with them! They have destroyed my life and have started to invade my shed.

Is there anyway to explain why I'm so scared of them and why the phobia is so off-wacked? Any cure or atleast therapy?
Thanks.


Re: Is it Arachnophobia or "pholideaphobia?" - Mr Ian - 04-30-2009 10:40 AM

Hi SK

I wouldn't say your phobia was so 'off whack' - there is evidence of cystomary patterns in your phobia.

How you ended up phobic to only cellar spiders is almost clear -

The simple explanation being of that time in the shed where you saw them and had the anxiety reaction - thus sowing the seed of association of cellar spiders and anxiety/fear. So when you see them again you remember the emotion of the last time you encountered them - and have it again.... and again.... and again....
This is a wholly normal pattern.

Now it is only "almost clear" because it's not possible to tell from your recall as to how you became fearful when you first saw them. Can you suggest any reasons yourself as to why you might have become randomly fearful on that initial occasion?


Re: Is it Arachnophobia or "pholideaphobia?" - Stinkpot Koopa - 05-01-2009 12:16 AM

Thanks for the info!
I don't recall anything that would strike fear at that time. I just remember me and a few friends were drawing pictures in the shed on a table with a shelf above, where the cellar spiders were hanging out at under. Just a weird cold jolt when I spotted them.


Re: Is it Arachnophobia or "pholideaphobia?" - Mr Ian - 05-03-2009 01:51 AM

So what were you drawing?

The spider appearing unexpectedly might have simply been a 'surprise' - and such things evoke a physical reaction in our body that has now become associated with the event.

So it may not have been the spider itself that you were afraid of - but the fact that you were surprised and it happened to be a spider that caused the initial shock has just sat with you has left you with an association that cellar spiders cause you fear.

Where we are designed to react to surprise in a self-defensive way - there was probably nothing abnormal in your inital response - but the association is now that 'cellar spiders' cause you to think of self-defense.

Putting it in sequence:

Happily playing.
Have fearful surprise.
Body reacts - releasing 'anti-surprise' chemicals.
Mind recognises 'cellar spider'.
Memory associates the experience of "fearful surprise" and release of anti-surprise' chemicals with appearance of cellar spider.
Seeing cellar spider now evokes the same fearful response - without having to be surprised.

The memory sticks with the spider rather than the feeling of 'surprise' because objects are easier to recall than emotions.

Putting this back in order is your key to getting over it.
When you see a cellar spider - you're likely to get the fear response too - but remind yourself it's not the spider that causes the fear - but the element of 'surprise' associated with that first experience.


RE: Is it Arachnophobia or "pholideaphobia?" - thereaverofdarkness - 07-13-2011 12:47 PM

I just wanted to point out that cellar spiders ARE daddy long-legs. Many people believe that the harvestman is a daddy long-legs, but those are actually harvestmen and not spiders. True cellar spiders (pholcidae) are also known correctly as the daddy long-legs spider.

I'm curious, are you afraid of Tenegarians? (hobo spiders, house spiders/barn funnel weavers, giant house spiders, cardinal spiders) These are long-legged, fast moving, aggressive spiders. I believe they are similar to the daddy long-legs spider in that respect. Or perhaps you're afraid of harvestmen?

Being afraid of these could indicate that your fear is specific to spiders with particular features. It might be similar to my general fear of arthropods, with my odd lack of fear toward yellow jackets and paper wasps which always confounded me.

Furthermore, I think the previous poster may be partly right, but they're missing a key aspect. Associating something with a fear never leads to an escalating phobia unless the phobia always existed in the first place. You may have a buried fear of spiders that you just never associated in such a way as to make you afraid, until something (perhaps very minor) set you off with the cellar spider/daddy long-legs. I'm no expert on these things, but I think that makes sense.


RE: Is it Arachnophobia or "pholideaphobia?" - gracec - 06-08-2018 11:58 AM

I have the EXACT same fear!
Other spiders can startle me but it is a totally unique feeling when I see Cellar spiders. They horrify me to my core. I have a totally uncontrollable fear reaction and will either scream and jump back/drop whatever I was holding or I will completely freeze. It is SOOOOO frustrating because every time I tell someone about it they just say "but they're harmless!!"

Since they are EVERYWHERE it makes it really is impacting my life, I can't go on my patio right now because there are two cellar spiders hanging in the corner there. I am even too scared to kill them by whacking them with something, I get close to them and just freeze. I stood on my patio today for 15 minutes with a fly swatter like a crazy person just staring at them trying to muster up the ability to do it but I couldn't move. If they aren't moving they are still they are tolerable, as in I can go around them, but when they start moving, something about the way they move just terrifies me. I don't feel like I can control it or fix it because the reaction happens so fast, before I can even think about it. I am also terrified of fixing it because that probably means exposure therapy and the thought of having to be near them makes me feel physically sick.

I actually used to like them as a child and loved bugs in general and collected them as well (though none of the poisonous ones appealed to me fortunately). I used to cry when my dad would hose the spiders down from the patio roof. I think the event that happened that started this phobia was when I was 6 and a friend of mine brought over a white plastic butter container and told me not to look in it (which of course I did). I put it right up to my eye and peeled the corner open and inside was a cellar spider that had laid eggs that had hatched, so there was one giant one and then hundreds of little ones filling the container and when i opened it they all started crawling towards my eye trying to get out. s

Anyways, just wanted to let you know that you're NOT alone in your weird, specific cellar-spider phobia. I have the same thing.
Mr Ian- this makes so much sense. The first time I see one unexpectedly, I freak out. But then when i see it again in the same place, I have much less fear, and over and over until I am *almost* okay with it being there- as long as it never ever moves lol. The surprise part is definitely key for me.


(05-03-2009 01:51 AM)Mr Ian Wrote:  So what were you drawing?

The spider appearing unexpectedly might have simply been a 'surprise' - and such things evoke a physical reaction in our body that has now become associated with the event.

So it may not have been the spider itself that you were afraid of - but the fact that you were surprised and it happened to be a spider that caused the initial shock has just sat with you has left you with an association that cellar spiders cause you fear.

Where we are designed to react to surprise in a self-defensive way - there was probably nothing abnormal in your inital response - but the association is now that 'cellar spiders' cause you to think of self-defense.

Putting it in sequence:

Happily playing.
Have fearful surprise.
Body reacts - releasing 'anti-surprise' chemicals.
Mind recognises 'cellar spider'.
Memory associates the experience of "fearful surprise" and release of anti-surprise' chemicals with appearance of cellar spider.
Seeing cellar spider now evokes the same fearful response - without having to be surprised.

The memory sticks with the spider rather than the feeling of 'surprise' because objects are easier to recall than emotions.

Putting this back in order is your key to getting over it.
When you see a cellar spider - you're likely to get the fear response too - but remind yourself it's not the spider that causes the fear - but the element of 'surprise' associated with that first experience.