Apiphobia or the fear of bees is a common zoophobia affecting a sizeable part of the population. The word is derived from Latin ‘api’ which means bees and Greek ‘phobos’ meaning deep dread or fear. Many people suffering from Apiphobia are not only afraid of bees, but also fear wasps (spheksophobia), yellow jackets and all other swarming and flying insects that sting.
To an extent, the fear of bees is absolutely normal and healthy. Many people feel apprehension at the sight of bees, since no one wants to get stung. But in case of Apiphobia, even the mention of bees (or pictures of bees) can trigger an anxiety response that is akin to that of actually being stung. Thus, normal and healthy apprehension turns into paralyzing fear which can disrupt the phobic’s day to day functioning.
Causes of fear of bees phobia
Fears and phobias are usually classically conditioned responses of the brain. A previous traumatic or negative reaction is most likely the trigger behind Apiphobia.
- A child, or even an adult, might have accidentally disturbed a beehive and, as a result, been stung several times. (In some cases, one might have only witnessed similar incident and not experienced bee stings at all).
- Socially conditioned responses are often the likely factors that trigger Apiphobia. Parents and caregivers tend to warn children to stay away from bees and wasps. Over protectiveness of this sort can amplify the fear about bees in the young minds.
- Likewise, parents or older siblings might show intense fear at the sight of bees and young children learn to fear bees as a result.
- Movies, TV shows etc can also trigger such a phobia of bees.
Most childhood cases of Apiphobia resolve by themselves. In some cases though; the fear may persist well into adulthood.
Symptoms of Apiphobia
The sight or thought of bees can trigger one or more of the following symptoms in the phobic:
- Rapid or accelerated heartbeat
- Sweating profusely
- Thoughts of death or movie stills about being stung run in the phobic’s mind
- Loss of control, detachment from reality
- Full blown panic or anxiety attack where the phobic tries to run or screams or cries
Often the Apiphobic realizes that such thoughts are completely irrational. Yet, s/he is unable to control them and continues to think them which result in greater anxiety.
Overcoming and treating Apiphobia
An important part of overcoming the fear of bees is to understand the facts about bees:
- Bees only sting when provoked
- A majority of the bees cannot even sting, (this includes the male bees as well as the solitary varieties).
- Bees are amazing insects that provide us with food and medicine. They are also essential players in the ecosystem.
These facts can help phobics rationalize their fearful thoughts.
Likewise, counter conditioning therapy is an effective method for overcoming the fear of bees. This therapy involves brining the fear producing stimulus, in this case bees, closer to the participant until s/he gets ‘conditioned’ to show a positive rather than negative response to it. This procedure has now evolved into systematic desensitization and gradual exposure therapies both of which expose the sufferer to bees in a gradual manner until they are completely able to control their anxiety.
It also helps when you learn to focus on the feelings you experience upon encountering bees. Deep breathing, counting numbers, diverting your attention away from bees etc are a few simple yet useful self-help techniques that can help one overcome their Apiphobia.