ARACHNOPHOBIA: DON’T LOOK UP

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THE FEAR OF SPIDERS LIVES FOREVER WITHIN US

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They are not big and majestic but they are still powerful to turn our thoughts into the fears. The spiders as creepy arthropods cause one of the worst phobias ever, arachnophobia, that affects more than one in ten people in the US, according to the American Psychiatric Association. The phobia itself share the destiny of many other phobias, as an expression of irrational and persistent fear of animals, things or simply situations. The targeted person has no clue why the fear is there and cannot fight it because when the fear reaches the dimensions of phobia, the borders between rational and fictional are broken. The symptoms vary from sweating and increased heartbeat to the dry mouth, breathing difficulties, nausea and increased urination. There is no real explanation how the phobia is occurring but the scientists believe there are a set of factors, which could be potentially responsible for the fear to get the extreme colors.

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One of the researcher, Graham Davey at City University London started one study to elaborate the whole range of arachnophobia. He was trying to understand why people have almost illogical fear from spiders. For many of them, fear is grounded within family but for some, it is simply based on personal attitude or the complete human evolution:” Psychologists believe that one reason why people fear spiders is because of some direct experience with the arachnids instilled that fear in them. This is known as the ‘conditioning’ view of arachnophobia. So what makes spiders so terrifying? Surely, it must be the threat of being bitten. Davey looked at that issue too. It turns out that it is not so much a fear of being bitten, but rather the seemingly erratic movements of spiders, and their ‘legginess’.Animal fears may represent a functionally distinct set of adaptive responses, which have been selected for during the evolutionary history of the human species.” The spiders make us feeling uncomfortable because of their sudden movement, speediness, hairiness, crawliness and skin contact. No matter how mature or realistic we are, the idea of hairy spider that crawls on our skin, close to the mouth, in the middle of night, sounds disturbing.

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The numerous books and movies do not help to the people who face up with the panic attack when the spiders are around. Why? Because Hollywood has made its own horror history on producing the scary movies with the giants, evil spiders that eat up alive. I am not sure if there is any other animal that is portrayed so negatively without reasons. The spiders are always dark, demonic and hateful in spite of fact that poor creatures do not do anything wrong to the humankind. They are only interested in their own peace, far away from people and noise. The problem is when people cross their roads with spiders and spiders feel themselves endangered. Sometimes, they will retreat and sometimes they will bite. If we are allergic, then the spider bite is not a joke. However, the same applies on many other insects and animals at all. They do not live on the Earth to attack and hurt people; they do live on the Earth because they have evolutionary rights to share the habitat.

The first traces of arachnophobia could be found in early childhood since so many children develop the fear of spiders because the parents do not break up the chain of fears but rather feed it up with their own. There was one statistic in the USA that has shown that majority of children have fear of spiders and then come the fear from being kidnapped, alone in dark or being attacked by some monster. In other words, children express the fear of real creature instead of shaping the fictional fears. At the end of the day, this phobia is also an illusion. The child psychology recognizes the ultimate fears as those that have not been denied by parents and children have not been encouraged to get into the rational level and to develop logical mechanism of reaction.

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I am fascinated about the origins of the name arachnophobia. It brings us back so many years, into the golden Greek mythology: „In Greco-Roman mythology, Arachne was a Greek maiden and an excellent weaver. Having learned her craftsmanship from Athena (goddess of craft), her tapestry work was incredible. She then refused to acknowledge the origin of her skills, which angered Athena. So much so, in fact, that Athena challenged her to a tapestry contest. They both finished their work at the same speed but Arachne’s work was so beautiful that she won the contest. Athena was so angered at being defeated by a mere mortal that she destroyed Arachne’s work and struck her around the head. It was only when Arachne killed herself in grief that Athena realised what she had done and brought her back to life as a spider, so that she could continue with her lovely weaving.  “

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Aside from beautiful Arachne, the spiders have not been considered beautiful. They experienced so many problems during their long coexistence with people. Beginning with the Middle Ages, spiders were believed to be source of disease. Before the medicine has stated that, the rats and fleas are directly responsible for the most of diseases and plagues in Europe of dark time, the primitive homo sapiens blamed spiders. In spite of fact that their bite could be unpleasant or painful, they did not spread infections and outbreaks. The mind without knowledge plotted that stories and created the roots of something we will know later as fear of spiders, arachnophobia. The arachnophobia has two categories: monitors and blunters:“A monitor will search the entire environment (the room, the car, even clothes) for a spider. When he finds one, he monitors it knowing its movements at all times. A blunter will do exactly the opposite: he will do everything to keep from seeing a spider wherever he goes, trying to distract himself to avoid encountering one.”

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Now we know that the fear of spider is combination of genetic, social and psychological motives. It is generated in the childhood and if it is not treated properly in the early stage, it could cause the serious mental problems and disorders.

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The phobias are not something that should be ignored. They are the beginning of the hell for the affected and the end of peace for all around those who suffer. The fear of spider is just one more phobia on the long list of people’s ancient scares. Nothing more, nothing less…but somewhere in the middle of nowhere, each of us should embrace the own weakness and see it through the eyes of common sense. The only thing we should be afraid of is our own self, the unknown part of us, capable to shame the devil. In such comparison, spiders have no chance. They will never be able to do to us what we could do to each other’s. The human monstrosity has no competition on this world.

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “ARACHNOPHOBIA: DON’T LOOK UP

  1. Sarah’s elucidating and insightful article brought to mind the positive attributes of spiders on planet Earth. For example, the noun ‘spider’ derives from the Old English verb ‘spithra’ (i.e. to spin); which is a pragmatic and simple definition of a creature and not negative in any manner.

    Spider-like arachnids with silk-producing spigots appeared in The Devonian Epoch about 386 million years ago; although, these animals lacked spinnerets. True spiders have been found in Carboniferous rocks from 318 to 299 million years ago, and are very similar to the most primitive surviving suborder, the Mesothelae. The main groups of modern spiders, Mygalomorphae and Araneomorphae, first appeared in The Triassic Epoch, before 200 million years ago.

    A herbivorous species, Bagheera kiplingi, was described in 2008, but all other known species are predators; mostly, preying on insects and on other spiders. It is estimated that the planet’s 25 million tons of spiders kill 400–800 million tons of prey per year. This contributes to the balance of biodiversity on the surface of the Earth.

    While the venom of a few species is dangerous to humans, scientists are now researching the use of spider venom in medicine and as non-polluting pesticides. Spider silk provides a combination of lightness, strength and elasticity that is superior to that of synthetic materials, and spider silk genes have been inserted into mammals and plants to see if these can be used as silk factories.

    Spider venoms may be a less polluting alternative to conventional pesticides, as they are deadly to insects but the great majority are harmless to vertebrates. Australian funnel web spiders are a promising source, as most of the planet’s insect pests have had no opportunity to develop any immunity to their venom, and funnel web spiders thrive in captivity and are easy to milk. It may be possible to target specific pests by engineering genes for the production of spider toxins into viruses that infect species such as cotton bollworms.

    The Ch’ol Maya (indigenous people of south-western Mexico) use a beverage created from the tarantula species Brachypelma vagans for the treatment of a condition they term ‘tarantula wind’; the symptoms of which include chest pain, asthma and coughing.

    Possible medical uses for spider venoms are being investigated for the treatment of cardiac arrhythmia, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes and erectile dysfunction. The peptide GsMtx-4, found in the venom of Brachypelma vagans, is being researched to determine whether or not it could effectively be used for the treatment of cardiac arrhythmia, muscular dystrophy or glioma.

    Because spider silk is both light and very strong, attempts are being made to produce it in goats’ milk and in the leaves of plants, by means of genetic engineering.

    As Sarah mentions in the conclusion of her article, spiders are more or less at the mercy of human asininity (e.g. biodiversity loss and habitat loss through industrialisation, etc.), as opposed to humans being victims of spiders.

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  2. Thank you, Sarah, for this educational article!

    I totally concur with the fact that a large part of arachnophobia is instilled in little children by their parents ! This, sadly, sets the stage henceforth and the children become adults who are, in turn, arachnophobic !

    On my part, over the years, I have made sure to instill in children the understanding that spiders are harmless if we do not touch them, and that they are more afraid of us than we are of them due to the difference in size !

    I can only imagine how terrified those poor spiders are of humans ! All humans have to do is just to leave them alone and nothing will happen to them !

    What a well-written and well-presented article, Sarah !

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About Sarahowlgirl1982

I am a master of Political Sciences, with special focus on Security Studies, Islamic Counter Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction. I enjoy discovering and commenting things which are " in the air" but still not spoken.I also do like science writing and planing to move myself into the pure science journalism !