Musophobia is the fear of mice or rats and the word originates from Latin Mus which means mice and Greek phobos which means deep fear or dread. Other terms used for fear of rats and mice include Murophobia, which is derived from the word ‘Murine’ or the ‘Muridae’ family of mice/rats and Suriphobia which is derived from souris, which is French for mouse.
Famous personality with an extreme, unreasonable and irrational fear of mice includes Dr Genna Crosser who not only first diagnosed this phobia in her patient but also suffered from it herself.
Causes of Musophobia
Musophobia is a very common phobia affecting hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. Where some people think of mice as “cute and cuddly”; phobics tend to find them “disgusting and carriers of disease”.
- Rats and mice are known carriers of pathogens. They are also infamous in history for spreading the Black Plague which wiped away large chunks of the human population. In general, they are known to dwell in sewers, drainages and dark, wet or dirty places. Rats are also known to carry fleas and other parasites that harm not just humans but pets as well.
- Wild rats and rodents are not welcome guests in human homes, so they tend to hide in cracks and crevices found around pantries, kitchens and other places having an abundant storage of food. Naturally, they might spring on unsuspecting individuals and startle them.
- Like most animal phobias, the fear of mice also stems, usually, from a negative or traumatic experience with rats. Incidents in childhood where a rat has bitten a child or loved ones can also trigger this phobia.
- Humans are conditioned from childhood to fear wild rats and rodents. An adult, parent or caregiver, might have been startled by a rat and screamed or climbed up on a chair. Children unknowingly learn to imitate this behavior and the occasional fright triggers an anxiety response that might turn into lifelong phobia of rats and mice.
- Popular culture depicts these creatures in negative light: cartoons (Tom and Jerry), books (Pied Piper of Hamilton), movies, and TV shows etc show stereotypical traits about them. Typically: a rat scares the woman protagonist who jumps and climbs up screaming on a chair/table. (Despite these stereotypes, Musophobia actually affects both genders equally.)
Symptoms of Musophobia
The symptoms of Musophobia vary depending on the extent of fear the phobic experiences. Just like any other Zoophobia, the fear of mice typically triggers physical and mental symptoms which include:
- Screaming, crying, climbing on beds or tables/chairs
- Trying to flee
- Shaking, trembling, and sweating profusely.
- Having accelerated heartbeat, breathing rapidly or gasping
- Feeling nauseated, vomiting or having other signs of gastrointestinal distress
Musophobes might experience anxiety/panic attacks at the mere mention of mice, or even from watching them feeding on trash, or in pictures, on TV etc.
Treating and overcoming the fear of mice or rats
The treatment and diagnosis of Musophobia is similar to that of other animal or specific phobias in that; any standard therapies like psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy, gradual desensitization therapy etc may be used for it.
Patients should educate themselves about mice. Thanks to advances in modern medicine, plague has been eradicated and is at least not as dangerous as it once was. Rats inhabiting domestic or residential areas are themselves afraid of humans and generally stay out of their way. Wild rats and mice do spread diseases, so it is best to prevent them from coming inside the home by minimizing clutter and food sources in and around it.
If your squeamishness regarding mice is affecting you on a daily basis or you are afraid of stepping out after dark or are constantly thinking about mice, then your doctor might prescribe anxiety reducing medication for the same. Do note that such medicines do not cure the fear of mice; rather they only give temporary relief from the symptoms. It is best that you opt for long term solutions like Hypnotherapy, NLP or neuro-lingustic programming, talk therapy etc to cure your Musophobia once and for all.