The fear of bugs or fear of insects is known as Entomophobia or Acarophobia and is sometimes also referred to as Insectophobia. The word Entomophobia comes from Greek entomos meaning insects and phobos which means deep dread or fear. Acarophobia is derived from Latin Acaro which means ‘mites’.
Fear of insects mainly includes a disgust response or aversion to bugs. Insects and bugs often appear “ugly or disgusting” owing to their shape or colors. Bugs like flies, mosquitoes and fleas are also associated with the spread of diseases and infections.
In some cases, Acarophobia can severely consume a person’s life in that; one is so afraid of insects that s/he refuses to leave the house to avoid encountering bugs. In some patients, the condition results in Delusory Parasitosis, a mental illness where the patient feels constant ‘prickling, tingling, creeping, crawling or burrowing sensations akin to insects present on the skin. In severe cases of Entomophobia, people have been known to self-mutilate or scratch intensely, leading to severe skin infections. Some display obsessive compulsive disorder where they may clean constantly to repel bugs.
Causes of fear of insects phobia
Several different factors are linked with Entomophobia or Acarophobia; these may be categorized as environmental, psychological, medical or drug related.
- Environmental– Static electricity, presence of mold, pollen, household allergens and formaldehyde impregnated products can all manifest as unexplained dermatitis or skin irritations. These lead the sufferer to believe that an insect or bug is crawling on the skin.
- Medical conditions and trauma– Mental retardation, hyperthyroidism, thiamine or folate deficiencies, syphilis, meningitis, cirrhosis, fluoride poisoning, anxiety disorders, adrenal insufficiency etc are often linked to the fear of bugs phobia. Psychological Factors- Divorce, loss of a loved one or pet, loss of employment, witnessing a traumatic or tragic incident at a specific time, monetary concerns, multi-tasking in professional and personal lives, etc are stressors that are linked to Entomophobia.
- Social Isolation– Often, individuals diagnosed with fear of insects phobia are known to live alone. As a result, their health becomes a fixation: it allows them to interact with doctors. Due to this, they start obsessing over dermatitis or other skin irritations. This leads to constantly think about bugs or insects. These thoughts become habitual and turn into a phobia.
- Depression– This is a major factor that may trigger Acarophobia. Depressed individuals often tend to have lack of interest in life; they also suffer from a low self esteem, have feelings of guilt or worthlessness. Schizophrenia is another proven cause of Entomophobia.
- Age– Sufferers of Acarophobia can belong to any age group though it is more common in females in the older age groups. Conversely, more men suffer from it in younger age groups than women.
Symptoms of Entomophobia
Patients with severe Acarophobia may display following signs and symptoms:
- Complaining constantly about being bitten by bugs
- Excessive cleaning
- Different degrees of self mutilation
- Social isolation
- Frequent visits to doctors
- Obesity and physical inactivity
- Constantly searching on the Internet to self-validate their beliefs about insects.
- Physical symptoms like nausea, shaking, trembling, headaches, crying, screaming at the sight of bugs. Going to great lengths to avoid bugs and insects.
Sufferers may continue to experience these symptoms for years not realizing that the longer they suffer, the harder their Entomophobia is to resolve.
Overcoming and treating the fear of Insects phobia
Entomophobia is a poorly documented and under-reported mental disorder. It often falls outside of most scientific categories and other phobias. Many phobics are known to visit numerous different doctors and specialists, often without any resolution of their condition. Hence, it becomes necessary to involve a multi-disciplinary approach to diagnose and treat Acarophobia.
A combination of therapies including drug therapy, desensitization, psychotherapy etc is proven beneficial in treating the fear of bugs phobia. An entomologist may also be needed to help the patient dispel misconceptions that may be aggravating one’s Entomophobia.