Mottephobia is similar to the fear of butterflies or Lepidopterophobia. The word Mottephobia originates from German ‘Motte’ meaning moths and Greek ‘phobos’ which means fear.
Mottephobia falls in the category of specific animal phobias. It is an anxiety disorder which is not as common as Arachnophobia – the fear of spiders, but is relatively widespread. The disorder triggers a severe panic attack in some cases where the sufferer continuously pictures a moth attacking him/her. Moths are generally harmless creatures and considered quite beautiful by insect lovers around the world. But to a Mottephobic individual, the creatures appear evil or downright frightening. They are especially afraid of stepping outdoors in the summer months, when moth populations are rampant.
Causes of Mottephobia
As with other specific animal phobias, the fear of moths can also be triggered by a specific event. The phobic, as a child, might have been ‘attacked’ or frightened by a moth as a result of which s/he tends to recall the episode each time there is an encounter.
Sometimes, negative or traumatic experience related to these creatures can also trigger the phobia in the individual.
Moths are generally harmless but they are also known to destroy crops. They appear in our homes typically at night time and tend to be attracted to electric light bulbs.
Moths have dark/brown colored, scaly and furry bodies for camouflaging themselves from their predators. They inhabit dusty, dark places like attics and come out rather suddenly when disturbed. They also make a flapping motion with their wings along with a buzzing sound that can be perceived as ‘scary’ by people who are already suffering from various anxiety disorders.
Symptoms of Mottephobia
Like other phobias, Mottephobia is also characterized by certain physical and psychological symptoms. The phobic might have experienced a split second of panic upon encountering one in the past and the brain wires then respond similarly to future stimuli.
The common symptoms of Mottephobia are:
- Fast heartbeat
- Dry mouth
- Elevated stress and anxiety levels
- Freezing on the spot, refusing to move
- Shaking or trembling
- Running away, screaming or crying hysterically
Most phobics try to avoid situations where moths might be present. If the phobic does happen to encounter a moth, s/he follows it with close scrutiny to ensure that it will not come near him/her.
Treatment of fear of Moths
Extensive research has been conducted on exposure therapy and its efficacy in treating the fear of moths or Mottephobia. Augmented Reality Exposure therapy or ARET is also a part of gradual desensitization where the phobic is gradually and progressively made to interact with moths. In the beginning, the phobic will experience deep anxiety at even an image or a cartoon of the object of his fears. But ARET is done in a safe and controlled manner, which slowly enables Mottephobic individuals to learn to view images of moths or butterflies without having a panic attack.
The gradual desensitization therapy is a slow process, but modern methods like virtual reality etc are used to make the environment more realistic for faster results. A stimulated interaction between the sufferer and a moth may also be enabled or a virtual replica may be created which can be viewed on screen. These interactions enable the phobic to gradually overcome anxiety and panic s/he experiences each time one encounters a moth.
Likewise Hypnotherapy is also known to get to the root of the phobia to enable the phobic to rationalize this fear. Talk therapy along with group interactions can also help the phobic take comfort in the fact that there are others like him suffering from Mottephobia.