How can you work through a bug phobia?

I have a phobia of bugs thats affecting my life. I know its irrational but I can't help but be so afraid that I can't move. It doesn't matter if I know they won't hurt me or can't affect me in anyway, I'm still terrified, even after I've dealt with it I'm scared about the next encounter because there always is one. How can I get past this so I can walk around without being afraid.
Asked by D
Answered
11/29/2021

Good morning.  Phobias are common among humans and involve many behaviors, animals, and creatures of diverse types.  The category of "bugs" actually includes insects so throughout this answer, unless I indicate otherwise, the words insect and bug mean the same thing.  Entomophobia is also called insect phobia and acrophobia.  It is an extreme and persistent fear of bugs or insects themselves and is one of the most common types of phobias.  It causes significant distress, anxiety, and irrational fear.  It is more than dislike or fear.  The person with this specific phobia knows that it is not rational to fear the bug or insect but they fear it anyway.  The extent of the consequences of this distress, anxiety, and irrational fear seriously affect the person's quality of life and ability to go about their daily living activities.  Despite knowing that they are in no actual danger, being near an insect can cause the following mental and physical symptoms:  

  • immediate feelings of intense fear or anxiety when seeing or thinking about an insect
  • anxiety that worsens as an insect comes closer
  • inability to control the fears even though you’re aware they’re unreasonable
  • trouble functioning because of fear
  • doing anything possible to avoid insects, such as avoiding parks, basements, or activities where they may be present

Entomophobia can also cause additional physical symptoms, such as panic attacks, rapid heart rate, chest tightness, sweating, hyperventilating, dry mouth, shaking, crying (particularly with children). Initial reaction to bugs may be distaste but once it expands to fear it becomes overwhelming to the point of being consistently preoccupied with whether or not an insect or bug is near.  It takes over one's life.  There are certain insects that have their own specific phobias such as scorpions, centipedes, and cockroaches.  Some of the differentiation is due to the venom or the bite or sting of the insect.  Antianxiety medications are in the front line of treatment but by no means the only treatment. A family physician can manage the diagnosis and prescribing such medication.  If you are already seeing a psychiatrist he or she can prescribe as well.  Exposure is another method of treatment with one imagining the presence of the bug or insect that is feared.  One can do progressive exposure in which one is closer and closer to the insect or bg.  .  Any anxiety treatment may be useful as well.  There are also machines that encourage calm breathing which are helpful according to research and promotion by manufacturers.  Any of these methods can be utilized by a counselor to assist you in managing overwhelming anxiety.  A physician, as previously mentioned, is essential to prescribing unless you live in a state where counselors may prescribe medication.

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(Psy.D., LISW-CP/S, CACII)