Zoophobia also called animal phobia is a fear of animals that can’t be controlled. The stress it causes can significantly reduce the quality of your life.
Animal phobias are among the most common kinds of specific phobias. The 2018 research source evaluated three large surveys for phobias. It found that zoophobia is one of the most commonly reported phobias.
Phobia can derive from an intense fear of or anxiety about a particular object or situation. People are generally anxious regarding many phobia triggers, including blood, needles, and heights. However, a person with a phobia feels a level of fear and anxiety that is far beyond what is actually at risk.
Is there a reason why people fear animals?
We don’t know precisely what causes zoophobia. Many factors are possible contributors to this condition, including:
- Negative life experiences: You might fear an animal if you have a negative experience with it. People whose dogs have attacked are likely to be afraid of them.
- Behaviors learned over time: People close to us, such as parents and siblings, might also teach us to be afraid of animals. You will likely learn to fear spiders if your parents are afraid of them.
- Genetics: Specific phobias may also be influenced by genetics.
- The fear processing process: Anxiety and fear affect us differently. Those who are anxious may develop specific phobias more than those who are less anxious.
An overwhelming fear of something is one of the main symptoms of a specific phobia. This fear is typically excessive compared to the threat that the object of fear actually presents.
Zoophobia can occur when you are frightened by an animal. It is crucial to keep in mind that awareness does not always mean the presence of an animal.
Additionally, someone who has zoophobia may experience fear when:
- Phobia refers to an uncontrollable fear or anxiety that occurs in the presence of or when thinking about the animal that provokes it.
- Aiming to avoid any possible source of fear.
- Although under-recognition that the fear response is excessive and disproportionate to the actual threat, they still cannot control their feelings
- If the animal is exposed to you or a person near you, you can’t function properly, triggering feelings of fear.
Zoophobia can also prevent a person from participating in activities that might involve animals. If it has pets, you probably don’t want to watch nature documentaries or attend the zoo.
Specific phobias can also cause physical symptoms. People with zoophobia may also experience the following symptoms when exposed to animals:
- It feels dry in the mouth
- Heart rate increases
- Breathing too fast or shallow
- Shaking or trembling
The following actions may be used to express zoophobia among children:
- Hiding behind someone or something
- physically clinging to a parent or relative
- Silence or being still
- having a tantrum
How to deal with zoophobia?
If you have zoophobia, you can cope by doing the following:
- Avoid certain activities as much as possible: You can reinforce your fear of animals by avoiding any action that may involve animals.
- Maintain good health: You can reduce your symptoms by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep.
- Take steps to reduce your stress: You should find the method that fits your needs for reducing stress. Meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises are examples of these practices.
- Get in touch with others: Feel free to talk to others about how you are feeling, such as family or friends. You may also benefit from joining a support group.
Treatment with exposure therapy
Exposure therapy is not only used for zoophobia treatment but also used for any other types of phobia disorder.
Exposure therapy should only be offered by a licensed mental health professional. The professional should have received special training in the treatment of anxiety disorders and administering exposure therapy.
For example, we will look at the fear of snakes (ophidiophobia), a particular type of zoophobia as we move from the first scenario to the most anxiety-provoking one.
- When I think about snakes
- Talking about snakes
- Looking at pictures of snakes
- Hearing the sounds of snakes
- Watching a video reel showing various snakes
- Visiting a zoo and looking at snakes
- Touching a snake
- Holding a snake
Your therapist will also teach you ways to cope with any anxiety you may experience due to your phobia as part of your exposure therapy. These can include breathing techniques as well as relaxation techniques.
It is not always necessary for an animal to be physically present during exposure therapy. In a 2016 study, show virtual reality was also feasible as a tool for exposure therapy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is another effective treatment option for people with zoophobia.
The goal of CBT is to assist people who suffer from irrational and negative beliefs and behaviors in identifying and managing these issues with the help of a licensed therapist.
The treatment of phobias with medications is usually short-term. You may be able to cope with anxiety better with their help while you go through treatment in some cases.
A beta-blocker and a benzodiazepine are examples of medications that could be prescribed to you.
It is uncommon to use benzodiazepines to treat phobias. The FDA says they must now recommend that consumers take these prescriptions with caution because they can lead to habit-forming behavior.
For people with multiple phobias or anxiety disorders, mental health professionals may recommend a combination of exposure therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication.
Make sure to discuss any medication you are taking with your healthcare provider.
A person who has zoophobia exhibits a range of symptoms, such as intense, uncontrollable fear when exposed to specific animals. Fortunately, zoophobia is highly treatable with exposure therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, or both.
In addition to zoophobia, there can be anxiety disorders and mood disorders. Combining therapy and medication may be necessary when a patient has multiple mental health conditions.
- Specific Phobia: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/specific-phobia
- Any Anxiety Disorder: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder
- Specific phobias: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7233312/
- Epidemiology of anxiety disorders in the 21st century: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4610617/
- The cross-national epidemiology of specific phobia in the World Mental Health Surveys: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5674525/