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How to Overcome Ophidiophobia (Fear of Snakes)

Faiq Shaikh, M.D.
How to Overcome Ophidiophobia (Fear of Snakes)

Studies have shown that 1/3 of human adults suffer from ophidiophobia, or the fear of snakes, making it the most common of known phobias. In many cultures, snakes are associated with evil, death, and the end of the world.

This article will provide information about how ophidiophobia is diagnosed, discuss the theories as to the causes of the phobia, and describe classic therapeutic techniques for treating phobias that you can perform yourself.

Symptoms of the Snake Phobia

Even though 1/3rd of the US fears snakes, that number is exacerbated by those that fear them only a little. It's a severe fear that requires treatment. 

The American Psychiatric Association’s most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines a phobia as having the following symptoms, paraphrased here and explained regarding the fear of snakes.

What Causes Ophidiophobia?

Ophidiophobia is an anxiety disorder known as a specific phobia. Specific phobias, particularly animal phobias, are thought to develop largely during childhood and may be caused by three separate possible issues: personal, witnessed, or impersonal/learned.

In addition to these experiences as factors in ophidiophobia, evolutionary psychologists have theorized that the phobia may also be a partially genetic trait. They believe that fear and a careful avoidance of snakes – which could be poisonous (historically there would be no records or teachers or research to help humans tell the difference between poisonous and non-poisonous) - would have helped humans to survive long enough to reproduce.

How Ophidiophobia Is Treated

If you are someone who finds that ophidiophobia interferes with your life in ways you would rather not have to deal with, you may want to look into cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. CBT is the type of therapy most commonly used to treat specific phobias such as snake phobia. It involves several different types of treatment for overcoming phobic reactions, each of which can be reproduced in your own home. CBT treatments and ways in which you can replicate them are detailed below.

Even if snakes are not a big part of your life, overcoming your ophidiophobia will allow you to enjoy and appreciate the creature that has fascinated and terrified the world for centuries, without allowing it to terrify you any longer.

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