Fear of Insects-Entomophobia

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Fear of Insects (Insectophobia or entomophobia) is classified on the current mental disorders diagnosis systems as a specific phobia of animal subtype. Nowadays, animal phobia has become a very common problem, in fact, recent studies show that 7.9% of the population has presented at some point this kind of problem. Cockroach and spider phobia is among the most frequent types of fears.


People suffering from phobias related to spiders and/or cockroaches usually avoid all those situations in which they believe the feared animal may appear, which may lead to serious consequences in their family, social and work life. In the event of not being able to avoid the situation, these people experience high and very intense levels of anxiety, and they may run away or remain still, paralyzed. Even once the animal has disappeared, they remain alert with high emotional activity.


Among the main fears experienced by people with phobias associated to cockroaches and spiders, the ones which stand out are: the sudden movement of the animal, its physical appearance or the sounds they emit. Other factors which may modulate the intensity of the emotional response are: the animal’s breed, size and ability to move freely, the distance from the animal or the fact of being accompanied by others. It is important to point out that there is not only an intense reaction of fear towards the possibility of the animal approaching and attacking, but entomophobia is also characterized by a strong feeling of disgust and revulsion.


In such cases, the preferred treatment is based on the use of exposure techniques, with a success rate of approximately 90%. In spite of that, it is very complicated to carry out properly-adjusted live exposure sessions because of the difficulty to control the insects’ reactions, the ability to create specific situations (e.g.: killing a cockroach), finding certain species, etc. Leaving aside the difficulty which implies having animals at disposal in the consultation itself, most of the patients refuse to get involved in live-exposure tasks.


A powerful alternative that has arisen in the last years is the use of exposure strategies supported by Augmented Reality (AR). In general, it is a technology that enables the combination of the real world with digital objects, which makes showing three-dimensional objects overlapped with real situations easy. In the case of animal phobia, AR enables the introduction, in a controlled and safe way, of different species at the patient’s familiar environment (i.e.: the therapist’s consultation, the patient’s home, etc.). That facilitates the construction of exposure sessions which are systematic, gradual, and customized to the needs of each patient. All said aspects make the Psious platform a valuable resource for the treatment of insectophobia.


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