What Is the Fear of Butterflies?

Lepidopterophobia

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While butterflies are widely appreciated for their beauty, some people have a phobia (an irrational and excessive fear) of butterflies called lepidopterophobia. An encounter with a butterfly can trigger fear or panic, and they may avoid places where they might see a butterfly. This phobia can affect their daily life, but treatment options are available.

Vegetable garden mixed with purple and orange flowers

The Spruce / Valerie de León

Definition

The fear of butterflies or moths is called lepidopterophobia. This word derives from Lepidoptera, the name of the order of insects that includes butterflies and moths.

When a person has a phobia, they have a fear that is so excessive that it can interfere with their daily life. Fear of butterflies is a type of anxiety disorder, classified as a specific phobia (animal type). About 12.5% of adults in the United States have experienced a specific phobia at some point in their lives.

With this phobia, some people fear the insect, either its fluttering or flying or everything about it.

Symptoms

There are various symptoms of lepidopterophobia, and they are typical of other phobias. The trigger can be a photo of a butterfly, the thought of a butterfly, or a physical sighting of the insect.

A person with this condition can feel anxiety or panic immediately almost every time they encounter the trigger. They can experience shortness of breath, shaking, sweating, and rapid heartbeat. They may scream and run away. The physical symptoms are due to the release of adrenaline, a hormone that produces the fight-or-flight response.

Avoiding places where they might see butterflies may be another behavior of people with this phobia. They may avoid parks (especially during seasons when there may be butterflies), zoos, or other institutions that may have butterflies.

In a person with this phobia, the fear persists for at least six months, causes significant distress, or significantly affects their daily life.

Diagnosis

Phobias can disrupt the normalcy of life and can lead to other anxiety and depressive disorders. It is important to get the help needed if you or someone you know is living with a phobia.

You may bring your concerns to your primary healthcare provider, who will ask you questions regarding your health. They will also ask you questions specific to your symptoms and phobia. They may refer you to a licensed mental health professional who can help you work through the phobia so it will not disrupt your life.

A mental health professional will assess your symptoms. They will apply criteria from the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to determine whether it is a specific phobia or another disorder.

According to the DSM-5, criteria to be diagnosed with a specific phobia include:

  • The feared object creates a level of excessive fear.
  • The reaction almost always occurs immediately within the presence of the cause of the fear (such as a butterfly).
  • The reaction is out of proportion to any danger the feared object poses.
  • The fear causes the person to avoid the cause of fear or endure an extreme reaction and distress.
  • The fear or phobia limits day-to-day living.
  • The fear, anxiety, or avoidance has persisted for six months or more.
  • The disturbance is not better explained as symptoms of another mental health disorder.

Causes

The cause of fear of butterflies and other specific phobias is unclear. The phobia can occur due to learned behavior (such as observing a parent who has the same fear), genetics, or a past experience that has activated fear of insects, flying insects, or swarms of insects.

Treatment

Treatment options will depend on the severity of the phobia. This is something you will work through with your mental health professional. Some therapies that help are:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy (talk therapy) that challenges irrational thoughts and behaviors.
  • Exposure therapy: In this form of CBT, you will work with your therapist to desensitize yourself to butterflies. This may be done through imagining exposure, experiencing real-life exposure, or having virtual reality exposure.
  • Relaxation and breathing techniques: These may help you cope with your reaction to butterflies.

Summary

Lepidopterophobia, a fear of butterflies, is a specific phobia. It is an irrational and excessive fear in which a person displays immediate anxiety or panic when exposed to butterflies. The fear is so intense, people will avoid places where they might encounter butterflies.

A mental health professional can diagnose this phobia. Treatment includes talk therapy, including exposure therapy.

A Word From Verywell

Phobias are not uncommon. If you have a phobia of butterflies that is impacting your life, seek out professional help. A licensed mental health professional can help you effectively work through this phobia so it no longer affects your life.

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7 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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