What is Entomophobia or Fear of Bugs & Insects?

Entomophobia comes from two Greek words. The first word is 'entomos' which means insects and the second word is 'phobos' which means fear. Thus entomophobia refers to the irrational fear of any and all kinds of insects and bugs. This fear arises in a person when the person is disgusted of bugs and insects. The fear is also known as Acarophobia where 'Acaro' means Mites. Insects and bugs can cause irritation in some people due to their shapes, colour and also because they spread a lot of diseases.
This fear when grows in a person, it makes his or her life very uncomfortable. The patient of entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects might choose even not the leave the house in fear of noticing any kind of bug or insect on his or her way. The fear also gives birth to 'delusional parasitosis' where the patient starts feeling sensations like pricking, itching, creeping, crawling or burrowing on his or her skin and reacts to these sensation but scratching severely leading to kin infection and injuries. OCD or obsessive compulsive disorder can also arise in the patient where he or she goes on cleaning the living space and hamper his or her mental and physical health.

What is Entomophobia or Fear of Bugs & Insects?

Causes of Entomophobia or Fear of Bugs & Insects

There are many causes which might give rise to entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects in a person. According to categories, the causes are:

  • Environmental factors can cause entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects. The patient might feel that a bug is crawling on his or her body due to several skin irritations caused by static electricity, settled down pollen and allergens on the skin pores or acidic products like formaldehyde impregnated products.
  • Another cause of entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects is trauma and other medical conditions. If you are undergoing a traumatic experience in your personal life due to losing someone or due to a divorce, the stress level might build out his kind of fear in you. Also weak mental health, mental retardation and anxiety problems or weak physically due to hyperthyroidism, having deficiency of folate and thiamine may build the fear in you. Illnesses like syphilis, meningitis, cirrhosis and insufficiency of adrenaline may build the phobia in you.
  • Getting isolated socially can also cause entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects. If you have a fear of bugs and insects you might stop interacting with people because you would not leave the house. Your health decline and you develop the feeling or itchiness and irritation all over your skin and then cause skin diseases. These skin infections will make you think of insects and you will develop the phobia.
  • When you are undergoing a phase of depression you lose your self-esteem and start feeling low and guilty. You cut off all contacts with people and these actions can give rise to entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects. Being schizophrenic is another strong reason for developing the phobia.
  • Entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects often develops in elderly women and younger men but it can happen to anyone of any age at the same time.

Signs and Symptoms of Entomophobia or Fear of Bugs & Insects

The symptoms which can confirm the fear to be entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects are:

  • Complaining constantly about insect bites is a primary symptom of entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects.
  • Not leaving the house.
  • Reading about insects to make believe that the fear is rational.
  • Obesity.
  • Visiting doctors frequently for skin problems.
  • Undergoing physical tensions like shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting at the thought of the insect.
  • Going into a panic attack if encountering any bug is also a sign of entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects.
  • Isolating from others.
  • Opting for any way to avoid going out in order to avoid noticing a bug.

The symptoms are so common that you might often not realise that you are developing a phobia. The basic symptoms of any kind of phobia are:

  • Starting to panic if you are exposed to the object of fear or even at the thought of the source of fear.
  • Choosing not to leave the house and adopting any kind of method to avoid encountering the source of the far.
  • Feeling powerless for not being able to control the fear even after knowing that it is irrational.
  • Children start crying.
  • Developing physical weaknesses like being unable to breathe, sweating and vomiting.

Tests to Diagnose Entomophobia or Fear of Bugs & Insects

Though there are no proper tests for identifying a specific phobia and the doctors take help of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which was published by the American Psychiatric Association to verify the various criteria for identifying entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects. The manual also suggest the type of treatments that can be applied on the patient. In the therapy sessions you will be asked various questions and your reaction shall be observed to determine the phobia. Your medical and psychological history and the same of the family will help the doctors in the identification process too.

The basic criteria which help to diagnose the entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects are:

  • The feeling of intense fear and irritation when the patient notices an insect or a bug or even sees a picture of the same.
  • Getting scared even at the thought of the insect.
  • Avoiding encounters with any kind of bugs or even avoiding looking at pictures of insect.
  • Avoiding all kind of social activities that takes place outside so that the patient can avoid noticing any insect. When the bug comes near the patient, he or she gets very distressed while trying to tolerate the exposure
  • The symptoms of the phobia are continuing for more than 6 months.

Treatment for Entomophobia or Fear of Bugs & Insects

Entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects is often mistreated for a kind of mental illness. Since this phobia is not very well registered in the list of the phobias often doctors miss to identify it. Long term passes by without the patient being treated properly and correctly. Thus diagnosing the phobia is highly important and multi-disciplinary approaches should be taken.

Certain therapeutic ways are there to treat the fear along with prescribed drugs to keep the patient calm and in control. Often an Entomologist is consulted during psychotherapy to help the patient believe that his or her fear is irrational.

  1. Desensitization or Exposure Therapy for Treating Entomophobia or Fear of Bugs & Insects

    The therapy of desensitization or exposure therapy for treating entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects helps is getting over the fear by exposing the patient to the object of fear. For example first images of insects are shown so that the patient can work on his or her anxiety level and bring it down. Slowly as the patient starts believing that not all insects are harmful, he or she is exposed to a garden where he or she can come in contact with flies or bugs.

  2. Another way to Treat entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects is by using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT

    Here the patient with entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects is exposed to insects or bugs under controlled conditions. The cognitive behavioural therapy also helps the patient to learn that the fear is irrational and he or she can control the fear. Also negative thoughts are changes unto positive ones.

  3. Medications for Entomophobia or Fear of Bugs & Insects

    Medication though cannot bring down entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects in you but will help you to control your physical anxieties that develop due to the phobia.

    • Antidepressants for entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects are called as serotonin reuptake inhibitors which control your mood by working as neurotransmitters in your brain. Anti-depressants are prescribed according to your conditions.
    • Sedatives for entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects are those medicines are also known as benzodiazepines and help to calm down your nerves and make you less anxious. But at the same time you should be careful while taking these pills as you may get addicted and it can have adverse effects if taken with alcohol.
    • Beta blocker medicines block the stimulating sensations that arises in you due to entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects. The medication also brings down heart beat rate caused due to anxiety. A small amount of it can improve your performance some time.

Prevention of Entomophobia or Fear of Bugs & Insects

Once you realise that you are developing entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects in you it is the best to consult a doctor. Allowing the fear to grow in you will not only disturb your life abut also the life of your children. Undergoing proper therapies in the beginning help you to prevent passing down the fear into the children of your family.

Risk Factors for Entomophobia or Fear of Bugs & Insects

The several factors that might come under risk due to the entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects are:

  • If you notice that any close person of yours like your father or mother or sibling is having entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects you risk developing the fear too.
  • If you have experienced a traumatic incident in the past, you might develop the fear for the source so the incident later.
  • Specific phobias develop even at the age of 10 so you grow up unsocial and become unable to interact with people.

Complications of Entomophobia or Fear of Bugs & Insects

The phobia which is troubling someone and causing serious disturbances in his or her life may not appear as a matter of concern for others. The patient who is suffering from entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects may give into many complications like:

  • Avoiding any kind of social interaction and thinking that people might laugh at him or her. This action may create a distance form his or her closed ones and he or she gets lonely.
  • A complication of entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects is going into a clinical depression or developing anxiety disorders.
  • Choosing options like substance abuse to deal with the stress caused by the fear.

Recovery from Entomophobia or Fear of Bugs & Insects

The time that you will need to recover from entomophobia or fear of bugs & insects depends on the type of treatment or therapy you are going under. The doctor will be able to help you answer to your queries like how long will the treatment take and if there are any chances of reoccurrences of the phobia.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: May 16, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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