What does zoophobia mean?
Zoophobia is a kind of phobia where a person is having a fear of animals. It doesn’t mean person fear all kind of animals but mostly in many cases, the fear of animals is directed to a specific kind of animal. However, in extreme cases, it can also be possible for a person suffering from zoophobia to fear many different types or all animals.
Zoophobia is a specific kind of phobia that can also be related to anxiety disorder in which a person suffers from an uncontrollable, exaggerated, and intense fear of animals or any situation related to animals.
Zoophobia is way too common and consistently the most reported type of phobia related to animals. According to the National Institute of Mental Health around 12.5 percent of adults in the United States experience zoophobia during their life.
Symptoms related to Zoophobia
One of the main indications of any kind of phobia is to have an intense fear of something and in this case, this exaggeration is compared to the ferry of animals where a person feels an intense fear whenever he/she is being exposed to any kind of animals. It’s really important to note that it’s not always necessary for a person to fear animals when that animal is actually present in front of them. A person with zoophobia also fear when:
- Hearing about an animal
- Thinking about an animal whom they fear
- Talking about an animal
- Seeing videos of an animal
A person with zoophobia tries to avoid activities when they see animals around them. Some examples include avoiding watching documentaries related to nature, going to friends or relatives’ houses who have pets, or zoo.
Except for having fear of animals, there are also many other physical symptoms associated with this phobias. For example, someone with zoophobia also experiences things such as:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased sweating and trembling hands or legs
- Difficulty in breathing
- Vomiting or nausea
- Feeling that you are going to faint
- Tightening of chest
Children with zoophobia also tend to show some signs such as:
- Freezing up
- Crying or start throwing tantrums
- Clinging to their parents or somebody near them
What are the causes that lead to fearing animals?
Till now the exact causes that lead the path to zoophobia are still unknown but it’s possible to know several factors that contribute a lot to the development of this condition, such as:
- Any negative experiences. One of the most common reasons to fear animals is that if a person has gone through any negative experience related to animals in the past then he can panic while seeing them. For example, if there is someone who’s been attacked by a dog, he may become afraid of them.
- Learned behaviors. Fear of animals is something which can also be learned by observing i.e. if our parents, friends, siblings, or someone to whom we are very close fear animals then we also start fearing them. For example, if our parents get terrorized by seeing cats then, we may also learn to fear them.
- Genetics. There’s also a belief that our DNA or genes also play a huge role in transferring phobia’s from one generation to another.
- Fear processing. There are many people whose anxiety or curiosity leads them to develop a specific phobia as they process their fear in a different way trying to be more impatient than others.
The most common animal phobias are:
It’s possible for a person to develop a zoophobia to any particular kind of animal and it can also be a possibility that someone can fear all animals. Some very common animal-related phobias are:
- Chiroptophobia is fear of bats
- Cynophobia is fear of dogs
- Equinophobia is fear of horses
- Helminthophobia is fear of worms
- Ichthyophobia is fear of fish
- Musophobia is fear of mice and rats
- Ranidaphobia is fear of frogs and toads
How to cope with Zoophobia?
If a person is suffering from zoophobia, there are some things which he can surely do that can help him cope with his fear, such as:
- Try avoiding certain activities. You should not limit yourself from going out or avoiding several activities just because of your fear to come across animals as this can be a great barrier in reinforcing your phobia.
- Keeping yourself healthy. Taking care of yourself should be your greatest priority. You should eat a healthy diet, start doing regular exercise and most importantly make sure that you get enough sleep so that you can reduce your symptoms.
- Stress-reducing techniques. Anxiety gives a lot of support in increasing your fear so you should always try to find a way to reduce your stress. Some of the ways that you can try include meditation, yoga, or even breathing practices.
- Connect with others. You should never suppress your emotions and always try to talk with your family or even friends about what you’re feeling. If you want you can also join a support group as they can also help you.
Treatment for Zoophobia
You should always look for a medical health professional to whom you can speak about your symptoms and feeling and can know about different treatment options available for treating zoophobia.
You are made to deal with your fear during exposure therapy. Slowly and gradually you are exposed to the object you fear. First sessions mostly lead to the least amount of anxiety and then your therapist will gradually build up more anxiety-related situations.
Let’s use a specific type of zoophobia, such as fear of dogs as an example to show how this therapy progresses over time. Firstly they will ask you to:
- Thinking about dogs
- Start talking about dogs
- Looking at a picture of a dog
- Listening to the sounds of dogs barking
- Watching a video of different breeds of dogs
- Touching or petting a dog
- And lastly will ask you to play with a dog
During exposure therapy, your therapist will also teach you skills so that you can manage the feelings of anxiety
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is mostly combined with exposure therapy. In this, the therapist will work on your negative thoughts and feelings. You’ll work on reshaping your beliefs and emotions so that you can reduce your fear of animals.
Medications should be used for specific phobias in the short term. In many cases, they can be useful in coping with anxiety as you are undergoing treatment side by side.
Two examples of medications that are prescribed are beta-blockers and benzodiazepines.
You should always talk with your therapist before taking any medication.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) What is the most common Zoophobia?
Zoophobias are referred as one of the most common types of phobia. The most common zoophobias are of spiders and snakes
2) When should a medical professional be consulted?
If the physical symptoms of phobia are interfering with your daily life, then a mental health professional such as a psychologist should be consulted.
3) What are the areas of your life where your specific phobia can interfere?
Some of the areas which our phobia can ruin are:
- relationships with friends or people we know
- work or school
- social interactions or our daily activities