What Is Entomophobia?

The Fear of Insects

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Entomophobia is an irrational and persistent fear of bugs. Those with a fear of insects may go to great lengths to avoid them, or they will experience significant distress when encountering an insect.

Learn more about the causes and treatment of entomophobia and how this condition affects those diagnosed with it.

Definition

An irrational fear of insects is formally known as entomophobia, although it is sometimes also called insectophobia.

An intense fear of insects may interfere with your daily life, as this condition can cause feelings of anxiety or panic when you are near an insect or think a bug may be present. This can make outdoor activities and situations very stressful.

A fear of insects is considered a specific phobia. A specific phobia is a type of mental health disorder that presents as a significant and persistent fear toward a specific object, situation, or activity.

Specific phobias are classified into five categories. These include:

  • Animal types are characterized by a fear of animals or insects.
  • Natural environment types are a fear of things found in nature like heights, water, or storms.
  • Blood-injection-injury types are a fear of blood, having an injection, or other medical procedures.
  • Situational types of fears include things like flying, enclosed spaces, or public transportation.
  • Other types of specific phobias are fears of things that don't fit into the other categories, like a fear of choking or vomiting.

Entomophobia falls under the subcategory of an animal-type specific phobia.

The fear experienced with a specific phobia is considered out of proportion to any actual danger in each context.

Symptoms

Entomophobia can manifest in a variety of signs and symptoms and can include:

  • Experiencing symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heart beat, tightness in chest, or shortness of breath, when thinking of insects or when a bug is present
  • Avoiding situations where you may encounter an insect
  • Increased feelings of anxiety as an insect comes closer to you
  • The inability to cope with the presence of an insect or bug, despite recognizing that the fear is irrational

In those with a severe phobia of insects, it is also possible to experience a range of psychological symptoms, including:

  • Panic attacks
  • Fear of dying
  • Sense of dread
  • Fear of not being in control
  • Fear of fainting

Some people with a severe phobia may begin to experience fear of the anxiety symptoms themselves because the feelings they experience as a part of their phobia are so unpleasant.

Causes

The causes of phobias often involve several factors, including learned history, past experiences, and biological factors.

Learned History

It is believed that phobias can emerge in relation to certain learned experiences. This can take three forms:

  • A direct learning experience may involve a traumatic event involving insects that led to the development of a phobia or fear of bugs.
  • An observational learning experience involves learning to fear insects by seeing others fear insects. An example is a child having a parent with a phobia of insects who later develops a fear of insects as well.
  • An informational learning experience involves developing a fear of insects after reading or hearing facts about insects that seem dangerous.

A learned history is not the only reason for a phobia. Many people may have direct, observational, or informational learning experiences regarding insects and do not develop a fear of bugs.

Biological Factors

It is believed that biology may play a role in the development of phobias. Some people may have a genetic susceptibility to phobias or irrational fears. It is also believed some people are born with a tendency to experience anxiety more than others.

Diagnosis

Not everyone with a phobia receives a formal diagnosis. Many people with phobias are aware they have a fear of a specific situation or object, yet they may choose to live their life without treatment.

However, avoidance of an irrational fear can make the phobia worse. Getting a diagnosis and appropriate treatment, on the other hand, can significantly lessen the impact of a phobia on a person's life.

To reach a formal diagnosis of entomophobia, a doctor will first consider the seven diagnostic criteria outlined in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Treatment

Most phobias can be successfully treated and even cured.

Treating entomophobia may involve the gradual exposure to insects. This is known as desensitization. It's a type of exposure therapy that allows the person with a fear of insects to reduce their negative emotional response to insects after repeated exposure to them.

Other treatment options include psychotherapy (also called talk therapy) approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). A person with entomophobia will build a relationship with a professional therapist and then work to challenge irrational thoughts and behavior patterns regarding their phobia. The goal is to overcome their irrational fear of insects.

Medications

It is not typical to use medication in the treatment of phobias. However, doctors may sometimes prescribe medication to help with feelings of anxiety, which can include:

  • Antipsychotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Beta-blockers

Coping

Dealing with a fear of insects can be difficult, but there are steps that can be taken to make it easier.

It may be helpful to:

  • Practice deep breathing if you feel panicked.
  • Look at the evidence logically to reduce your irrational fears surrounding insects.
  • Visualize a scenario in which you successfully engage in a situation where insects are present.
  • Practice self-care by eating healthy food, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
  • Reward yourself when you face your fear successfully.

Summary

Having a specific phobia of insects, bugs, or tics may cause a person to experience significant distress in situations that involve insects, or in anticipation of being around insects. A person with entomophobia may go to great lengths to avoid bugs. Most phobias can be successfully cured with the right treatment, such as desensitization; psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy; and counseling.

A Word From Verywell

If you are experiencing a phobia of any kind, know that you are not alone and help is available. If you have an intense fear of insects that impacts your daily life and activities, consider discussing this phobia with a healthcare professional. A provider, particularly one specializing in mental health disorders, will be able to assist you in finding the best treatment options to reduce your fear of insects.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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