Fears Episode 10: Ophidiophobia

“I loved animals when I was little so I would watch Animal Planet all the time. The snakes just seemed vicious. I had never seen one in person but they looked like scary little dinosaurs. The way they stuck their tongues out made them look like demons and that hissing sound! And they can get so huge – like those Anacondas! It was just really traumatizing. We had a pool in my backyard and I always feared the garden snakes I thought were everywhere would come out and wrap around me and strangle me or bite into me – I mean they’re so quick! Even at the zoo, I usually avoided the reptile exhibit. I’d see the iguanas, but then I’d leave before I could see any snakes. Just a few weeks ago some friends and I took the bus to see a movie in downtown State College. When we got off the bus, there was a big field that we had to walk through to get to the theater. But I saw that there were snakes in it and I refused to walk through. I tensed up and got really hot. We ended up finally getting to the theater but I had made my friends take the longest way possible around the field.”

Ophidiophobia (or ophiophobia) is defined as the abnormal fear of snakes. It is sometimes called by a more general term, Herpetophobia, or the fear of reptiles and/or amphibians. It is termed an irrational fear. Approximately 1/3 of all adult humans are Ophidiophobic, which makes Ophidiophobia the most commonly reported phobia. However, as with many other phobias, it is important to note that there are also many people who simply do not like snakes. There are also some who simply fear them for their venom or the inherent danger involved, but do not undergo the same effects of the Ophidiophobia. Some signs and symptoms of Ophidiophobia include panic, anxiety, difficulty breathing, sweating, elevated heart rate, nausea, vomiting, shaking, crying. and/or an inability to remain near a trigger (i.e. a snake or a photo of a snake). An Ophidiophobe would not only fear snakes when in live contact but would also dread to think about them or even see them on TV or in pictures. The history/evolution behind Ophidiophobia is demonstrated by scientists who have theorized that humans may have an innate reaction to snakes, which was vital for the survival of humankind as it allowed such dangerous threats to be identified immediately. Other causes may include a traumatic experience surrounding the feared item, possibly early in childhood. However, there are even times that phobias arise without being connected to past experiences. Possible treatments for Ophidiophobia include cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques, gradual exposure, and even Hypnosis to assist in relaxation.


Fun Fact: The fictional adventurer Indiana Jones is an Ophidiophobe.