Do you have a fear of dogs, bugs, snakes, rats, spiders, or worms?
An animal type phobia refers to extreme anxiety triggered by creatures, such as dogs, insects, mice, and snakes. The emotional reaction is unrealistic or excessive but causes intense anxiety. You may feel heart palpitations, increased sweating, muscle tension, confusion, dizziness, and shakiness. Nightmares are common as well.
Just thinking about an anticipated encounter with a living creature often triggers anxiety. This anticipatory anxiety frequently leads to avoidance. You may avoid any situation that could lead to an encounter with a creature. Fear is the emotion that occurs when you directly encounter the creature, while anxiety is the worry and distress that arises related to future encounters.
Humans evolved the fear of insects, snakes, spiders, and certain animals as a way to protect us from potentially dangerous interactions. The emotional trigger was evolutionary-based and then culturally reinforced. Combined with a negative experience involving the creature, this formed a phobic response in the brain.
If your fear of insects or animals negatively impacts your life, Dr. Mazzei is here to help. She is a phobia specialist and has years of experience providing tailored phobia treatment.
Dr. Mazzei treats the following phobias:
- Fear of all insects: insectphobia
- Fear of all animals: zoophobia
- Spider phobia: arachnophobia
- Mice phobia: musophobia
- Snake phobia: ophidiophobia
- Worm phobia: scoleciphobia
- Dog phobia: cynophobia
Phobia avoidance examples:
- Avoid a favorite hobby, such as gardening, because of a fear of seeing a worm.
- Avoid going to a park because of a fear of running into a dog.
- Avoid hiking because of the fear of encountering a snake.
- Avoid going into a basement or closet because of fear of a spider.
- Avoid traveling to a family member’s home in the country because of fear of mice.
Although the avoidance may seem only limited to specific instances, this behavior can negatively impact social relationships, goals, aspirations, and your overall confidence to handle life.
Comorbid Disorders with Phobias
Individuals who suffer from phobias often experience other mental health issues, including a different anxiety disorder, PTSD, addiction, panic disorder, and depression. Additionally, phobias are associated with higher levels of gastrointestinal distress, cardiovascular disease, and migraines. Dr. Mazzei will work with you to addess all the psyhological issues that you are experiencing.
Animal Type Phobia Treatment
Phobias can cause many problems in one’s personal and professional life. Fortunately, psychological treatments are available that can effectively treat this phobia. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and hypnotherapy have all been successfully utilized to help people overcome animal type phobias.
CBT and ACT: Behavioral and cognitive therapies are the treatment of choice for specific phobias. Systematic desensitization through controlled exposure to the feared stimulus can eliminate phobias. The brain eventually relearns and reprocesses negative associations with the feared response.
CBT incorporates cognitive restructuring, in vivo exposure therapy, and interoceptive exposure.
- Cognitive restructuring facilitates helpful and rational thinking patterns. You will learn how to improve the way you think about your feared animal so that you can retrain your brain.
- In vivo exposure is used to gradually expose a person to anxiety-provoking stimuli, such as vomit, within a safe environment. A CBT specialist will work with you to develop practical coping skills anticipating the exposures. Together, you will develop a hierarchy of exposures from least to most challenging. For instance, you might start looking at words on a card, then cartoon illustrations, and then move up to watching videos of people interacting with creatures. You are guided and supported along each step so that you are successful along the way.
- Interoceptive exposure refers to CBT technique of deliberately inducing physical sensations that are safe but feared. For example, you may be guided to twirl around in circles to feel nauseous to learn that this sensation is normal and safe. Mindfulness and cognitive reframing are tools that can facilitate this learning. With mindfulness, you learn to accept your present state without judgment. Cognitive reframing helps you identify unwanted thinking and change your thoughts into more helpful ones. For example, instead of thinking, “I can’t handle this sensation”, a more helpful thought is, “Although it is not comfortable, I can handle this and I will be fine.”
- Mindfulness training provides a profound way to alleviate the negative impact of thoughts, emotions, and sensations. Being more present, non-judgmental, and accepting of your experience can lessen internal strife.
- Values exploration refers to identifying and committing to your values as a helpful way to focus on behavior change and improve your quality of life. Even though your work may be challenging, you can reflect on your values to facilitate motivation and positive, long-lasting change.
EMDR: Traumatic memories when encountering a creature can trigger a phobia. In earlier experiences, a person who encounters intense fear can induce a phobic response. For example, an individual bitten by a dog in childhood may generalize this fear to all dogs.
The maladaptive storage of phobic memories linked to the emotional part of the brain created subsequent emotional distress and negative thought patterns. EMDR therapy is a well-known therapy used for trauma processing. EMDR involves an 8-phase protocol focused on resolving disturbing life events.
This therapy relies on bilateral stimulation (BLS) to facilitate the resolution of dysfunctional memories that become activated in the present. BLS can take the form of eye movements, tapping, or audio stimulation. BLS is used while the person recalls distressing events and the negative beliefs associated with the memories, such as “I can’t handle it” or “I am powerless.” Once the distressing memories are processed, positive beliefs are then internalized, such as “I am safe” or “I am in control.” In addition, phobias frequently encompass somatic complaints, such as nausea, muscle tension, heart racing, sweating, and shakiness. EMDR therapy addresses these complaints as well.
Hypnotherapy: Hypnosis for animal type phobias relies on using suggestions targeted to facilitate behavior change. Hypnotherapy suggestions are tailored to your specific fears. For example, you may be guided into a trance in which you imagine a pleasant emotional reaction when you see a spider. These suggestions are given to you while you are in a trance or deep state of relaxation. You will also learn relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, that you can use anytime to reduce anxiety.
How Dr. Mazzei Can Help
If you are suffering from a animla type phobia and would like to talk to Dr. Mazzei about how she can help you, follow these simple steps:
- Text today at (480) 448-6755 or e-mail us for a free consultation
- Or, you can book directly online with Dr. Mazzei
- Begin your journey towards a fulfilling and healthier life
Dr. Mazzei offers both in-person counseling in Chandler, AZ, and online phobia counseling if you live in Arizona, Illinois, Tennessee, or a PSYPACT state. Her private practice is located at 3377 S. Price Rd. Suite 2104, Chandler, AZ.