Herpetophobia is a fear of reptiles. This condition goes beyond a dislike for snakes and lizards; instead the condition causes the individual to experience a level of fear that can be debilitating. The underlying cause of this disorder can be early trauma around reptiles. For some people, simply looking at a picture of a reptile is enough to trigger a reaction.

Symptoms of Herpetophobia

A person with herpetophobia may experience symptoms that range from mild to severe. Mild symptoms of this phobia include feeling nauseous or increased perspiration. An extreme reaction may be that the individual has a full-blown panic attack. Other symptoms of herpetophobia include:

  • o Dry mouth
  • o Feeling dizzy
  • o Rapid respiration
  • o Heart palpitations
  • o Shaking
  • o Feeling trapped
  • o Feeling of impending disaster

Causes of Herpetophobia

A person who has developed herpetophobia may have had a negative experience involving a reptile that is still part of his or her psychological makeup long after the incident has passed. In other cases, the individual has come to associate negative thoughts and emotions with reptiles that are far beyond the idea that in some cases these animals can pose a threat and should be treated with respect.

Treatment of Herpetophobia

In severe cases of herpetophobia, the individual will be prescribed anti-anxiety medication to help them deal with their physical symptoms when looking at, handling or even thinking about reptiles. Once the medication has started working to get the affected person’s brain out of fight or fight mode, other treatment methods can be used to help the patient feel more comfortable around these animals.

The treatment approach adopted will depend on the therapist’s training, as well as the client’s preferences. Psychotherapy can be helpful to uncover the deeper reasons why a person has developed a phobia about snakes and lizards. This approach looks at the person’s thoughts and feelings and delves into his or her past.

Another approach to treatment that can be used for people with herpetophobia is cognitive behavioral therapy. This method focuses on the client’s thoughts as the reason for behaviors, as opposed to his or her feelings or events. The client is helped to examine and change their thoughts about reptiles as a way to feel more comfortable looking at images or being in proximity to one without experiencing the discomfort that goes with having a phobia.

Exposure therapy is another method used to treat conditions like herpetophobia. Under the direction and guidance of a therapist, the client is gradually exposed to the thing or situation he or she is afraid of. In the case of a person who is afraid of snakes, the first step may be to look at an image of a reptile. After the client has had some experience managing his or her anxiety at this level of exposure, next steps may include looking at videos of reptiles, looking at a reptile in a cage through a window and working up to being in the same room with a reptile.

Treating mental health issues like herpetophobia can be effective when the individual gets the help and support he or she needs from a professional with experience helping clients deal with the issue. Asking for help from a therapist is the first step in learning how to deal with their fears and anxieties around reptiles.

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