Lepidopterophobia, the word for fear of butterflies, originates from the Greek word Lepidoptera (the group or class of insects including butterflies, moths, skippers and other winged insects). This phobia is closely linked with Entomophobia (which is the fear of insects) or Mottephobia – the fear of moths. It is believed that actress Nicole Kidman suffers from Lepidopterophobia.
People with the fear of butterflies are extremely afraid of most winged insects. Typically, they experience a disgust response at the sight of these creatures. They feel afraid, nauseous or panicky particularly at the sight of butterflies.
Many sufferers of this phobia claim to be afraid of the lanceolate wings of these insects. To top it all; the wings are often covered with scales and are brown or black in color. The color scales and their constant fluttering trigger a fear or anxiety response in the phobic’s mind.
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Causes of Lepidopterophobia
This surprisingly common fear of butterflies’ phobia has following causes behind it:
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- As mentioned before, the constant fluttering of these winged creatures can cause intense fear in the Lepidopterophobic’s mind. The phobic is afraid that the insect might accidentally brush against their skin giving the sensation of creeping, crawling or itchiness.
- Many Lepidopterophobic sufferers tend to be afraid of birds. Their fear may be related to the evolutionary fear which humans have associated with flying creatures. It is not surprising that a person with fear of butterflies is also afraid of hummingbirds or other rapidly fluttering birds/insects.
- Butterflies and moths tend to exist in swarms. The swarming habit is often linked with locusts or bees. A negative or traumatic experience with these insects in one’s childhood may have triggered the Lepidopterophobia.
- People undergoing great deal of stress, or having undiagnosed depression or anxiety disorders following a divorce, or the death of a loved one, or even the loss of employment etc can suddenly develop a fear of butterflies. This can develop into delusory parasitosis, a mental condition where the sufferer constantly ‘feels’ insects crawling or burrowing on their skin. In extreme cases, this can lead to self mutilation following intense scratching.
Symptoms of fear of butterflies phobia
- Some people with Lepidopterophobia are afraid of even looking at pictures of butterflies. They experience deep anxiety, disgust or panic at the sight or thought of butterflies. They might experience a host of symptoms like shivering, trying to run away or flee, crying or screaming, shaking, sweating, heart palpitations, dry mouth, rapid and shallow breathing etc at the sight of a butterfly or moth.
- In severe cases, intense scratching of skin or refusal to leave the home on account of encountering butterflies or moths may be seen in the patient.
- Most sufferers avoid gardens, parks, zoos or florist’s shops where there is a chance of encountering butterflies.
- Phobics often imagine being attacked by these winged creatures. A constant movie or negative image stills might run through one’s mind, typically about being attacked by butterflies. Sleep and appetite may be affected in some patients.
Gradual desensitization is the best way of overcoming Lepidopterophobia. You can start by slowly exposing yourself to butterflies using following steps:
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- Start by viewing photos on the internet.
- Draw a picture of a butterfly. Look at realistic images or photos, and videos about butterflies/moths.
- Use self help books or opt for group therapy etc..
- Talk about your fear: it is important that loved ones and friends provide their support in this matter.
- In case of extreme phobia which is affecting one’s day-to-day life, it is worthwhile seeing a professional therapist.
Do note that self help techniques mentioned above will not show immediate results. While it is possible to completely overcome your fear of butterflies, the results will not be instant. The process can take days, weeks or even years for the Lepidopterophobia to be resolved completely.