Fear Of Snakes: 3 Ways You Can Cope

Updated September 14, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Fear is something that biological creatures developed to help them survive in nature. It is an emotional response that helps you determine if an action is likely to result in actual danger or significant consequences. Everyone feels afraid, but sometimes we experience fear when our well-being is not in jeopardy. Perhaps the most common fear among adult humans-- something we have inherited from eons of evolution—is the fear of snakes.

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Understanding Fear Of Snakes: Ophidiophobia

The fear of snakes is prevalent and is believed to be one of the most common specific phobias. A study found in the National Institute of Health's Library of Medicine states that half of the population feels anxious around stakes, with a further 2-3% meeting the criteria for a snake phobia. There is an ongoing debate over whether snake phobia is a learned fear or one formed biologically over millions of years of evolution that can be passed through a person’s family history.

Neurobiological evidence and research suggest that common specific phobias, like a fear of snakes, develop in two stages. The first stage involves a neutral stimulus being paired with an aversive event, which creates a conditioned fear response. The second stage occurs when the person discovers that fear responses to that stimulus can be reduced by avoiding the stimulus. 

Regardless of its root cause, for some, an intense fear of snakes can override the ability to think rationally. For example, someone who fears snakes might be afraid to enter pet stores that contain caged snakes, or they may scream when they witness videos of snakes (whether it be a video of real snakes or a cartoon snake). It's also possible for someone with a snake phobia to feel fear at the mere mention of snakes.

In cases where the suggestion or image of a snake can cause an extreme reaction, the person may develop ophidiophobia or already be living with it. Even mild Ophidiophobia may interrupt the flow of a person’s life, with some experiencing the condition displaying symptoms and traits such as:

  • A fear of snakes that is intense and more extreme than an average degree of fear
  • Crying and screaming when viewing a video or picture or coming into contact with a snake
  • A panic attack, which may include trembling, sweating hands, or a fast heart rate
  • Avoiding places where snakes are known to be 
  • Abstaining from enjoyed activities in order to avoid snakes

You don't need to be diagnosed with ophidiophobia to overcome your fear of snakes. There are many ways to cope with this fear and move forward healthily. 

Three Ways To Cope With Your Fear Of Snakes

Coping with fear in your daily life can be stressful and may seem counterproductive if it initially increases your fears. However, many people succeed in these processes. Consider the following three coping methods if you want to reduce your fear of snakes.  

Express Your Fear On Paper

How you deal with your fear can be personal and may require you to delve deeply into your thoughts and feelings. For many, it can be helpful to use a journal to record their thoughts, and research shows that journaling can also have mental health benefits.

Journaling may aid you in understanding the causes of your fear and what might incite it. Try not to worry about the purpose behind what you are writing at first. Use writing to get everything out of your head. After writing, you might notice the benefits or realize why your fear of snakes manifests in the specific way it does. 

Research Snakes 

Many people fear the unknown. You might fill in the blanks with your imagination, which might be prompted by intense anxiety. Though imagination may have been helpful when avoiding predators in the evolutionary past, it can also cause people to turn a small creature into a terrifying monster. Misinformation can inform many phobias. By better understanding the reality of snakes, you may quell much of this discomfort and worry. If you're interested, you might consider visiting a reptile center to learn more about the temperament and behavior of snakes. 

Reach Out For Professional Support 

For many people, having someone to talk to about a phobia can be crucial. You might consider talking to mental health professionals to work through exposure or desensitization or to receive guidance on coping with distressing emotions.

In the safety of a therapy session, you can express your fear and be open to treatment possibilities. You don't have to have a mental illness or diagnosis to see a therapist, and over 41.7 million Americans see a mental healthcare provider each year. 

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Are You Ready To Overcome Your Fears?

Professional Treatment For Ophidiophobia

With the help of a professional, you may be able to overcome your fear of snakes. Although every therapist may have a slightly different approach, some methods are commonly used in treating phobias, including the following.                 

Cognitive Reconstructing

In the cognitive restructuring process, a therapist can help you look at your beliefs about snakes and attempt to evaluate them objectively. This method is based on the assumption that false beliefs and the unknown are at the root of many fears. 

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is based on the premise of "facing your fears," and it has been found to be one of the most effective forms of treatment for specific phobias. In an exposure session, your therapist will start by identifying your fears related to your specific phobia and assign a level to them. You may then begin with your lowest fears that cause you the least amount of distress and expose yourself to them. For example, you could start by watching snake videos or looking at a toy snake. You might visit a reptile center or hold a snake at the end of your exposure treatment. You can start slowly and build yourself up to your fears. All that's often required for exposure therapy is the willingness to try. 

Relaxation Techniques 

With the resolution of the most extreme aspects of ophidiophobia, many individuals find that they can bring their fear to a manageable level. The rest of the work may be done through emotional control and relaxation exercises. For example, you might work on diaphragmatic breathing or listen to soothing music while looking at images of snakes. In time, your fear responses may be replaced by relaxation responses.

Alternative Counseling Options 

For many, learning to talk about and better understand their fears is the first step toward coping with them. If you cannot find a therapist within your budget or struggle to find appointment availability, you might try online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp. Many of the same types of therapy offered in person can be done online, and therapists have the same credentials as face-to-face providers. Through an online platform, you can address your phobia in a controlled environment where you feel safe by having the option to choose between phone, video, or chat session formats. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people reframe negative thoughts into positive ones, potentially leading to healthier behaviors. CBT is considered a front-line treatment for anxiety, and research shows that online CBT (iCBT) can treat an anxiety disorder as effectively as in-person talk therapy. Not only is online CBT as effective as face-to-face therapy for anxiety disorders, including phobias, but online treatment is both cost-effective and successful, with treatment effects maintained at one-year follow-up.


Looking for solutions and exploring options can be one step toward facing fears. You're not alone if you're experiencing fear or a phobia of snakes. Consider reaching out to a therapist in your area or online to learn more about the therapeutic modalities effective in treating phobias.

It is possible to overcome phobias

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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