Chiroptophobia (fear of bats): symptoms, causes and treatment
Chiroptophobia is the persistent and intense fear of bats . It is a specific type phobia that, as such, can be an important trigger of anxiety responses and even panic attacks. It is an uncommon fear and related to the transmission of threatening information about this animal species.
We will see below the main characteristics of chiroptophobia as well as its possible causes and treatment.
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Chiroptophobia: fear of bats
The word "chiroptera" (chiroptera) is composed of the Greek "cheir", which means "hand", and the term "pteron", which means wings. It is the formal way of calling the mammals that develop wings in the extremities, which we know as "bats". In turn, the word "chiroptophobia" is composed of the same Greek words, followed by the term "fobos" which refers to fear or fear. In this sense, chiroptophobia is the term that refers to the fear of bats.
When manifested in the presence of a particular animal, chiroptophobia it is considered a specific type of phobia . However, it is not a common phobia. Animal-specific phobias occur most frequently towards snakes, spiders, mice or rats, some insects and birds.
In this type of phobias, fear is not usually towards potential harm. That is to say, people recognize that the animal does not represent a significant danger to their physical integrity . However, this recognition does not reduce the anxiety response, since fear is generated by the physical characteristics of the animal.
Specifically, fear is related to the movement that the animal produces, especially if it is difficult to anticipate movements (for example, the sudden flutter), which in the case of chiroptophobia is very evident. Fear is also caused by the physical appearance of animals, which may be related to negative stereotypes about them and sensations like disgust .
Likewise, in the case of small animals that can evoke a perceived danger (for example snakes) fear is the main reaction, and disgust is the secondary reaction. The opposite occurs in the case, for example of rats, mice and bats. Finally the fear is related to the sounds they produce and the tactile sensations that the animals generate at human contact.
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As with other phobias, chiroptophobia triggers an immediate anxiety response . The latter can occur in the face of direct exposure to the stimulus, or in the face of the possibility or anticipation of exposure. Due to the activation of the autonomic nervous system (the order to regulate our involuntary movements), the most common response is an anxiety picture that includes sweating, decreased gastrointestinal activity, hyperventilation, accelerated heart rhythm, and sometimes an attack of panic.
There may also be a fear of the symptoms themselves or a panic attack. Similarly, there may be a component of a social nature: many people are afraid of the possibility of making a fool of yourself when other people notice the reaction .
In general, animal-specific phobias start in childhood (before age 12), although not necessarily, and occur more frequently among women.
One of the main hypotheses about the causes of specific phobias is that they stem from common fears common to the human species, generated by phylogenetic evolution . This same hypothesis holds that the most common phobic fears are situational, the natural environment, diseases and finally animals.
In the same vein, animal phobia is often explained by the theory of biological preparation, which says that a stimulus is more likely to become phobic when it poses a threat to the survival of the species. That would include fear of attacks by different animals.
On the other hand, phobias to animals are usually explained by the sociocultural variables that surround our interaction with them, as well as by early learnings about danger and possible threats .
In other words, the expectation of fear has to do with the transmission of threatening information, which refers to the notices received about the danger of the stimulus.
Thus, chiroptophobia can also be generated with the negative connotations associated with bats. In this sense it should be noted that, contrary to what is thought, of the 1100 species of bats that exist, only 3 feed on blood. The vast majority eat insects and fruits, and in some cases small vertebrates . For this reason they are an important species for pest control and seed dispersal.
Finally, as with other phobias, one of the main causes is the previous negative experiences with the phobic stimulus (in this case with bats). These experiences may have been direct or indirect, and are potential triggers when they fit with the expectation of previously acquired danger. Likewise, expectations of fear are reinforced by not having had positive experiences with the same stimulus.
There are different psychological techniques that allow modifying fears converted into phobias, as well as decreasing the anxiety response. One of the most used in the case of phobias specific to animals is the technique of live exposure and some exposure techniques in the imagination . Both have effects such as reducing fear, avoiding behaviors and negative evaluation of the stimulus that causes both phobia and repulsion.
In combination with the above, participant modeling or observation learning is used, which is a form of accompaniment in which the person observes the behavior of another and tries to imitate it. At the same time, he receives feedback on both physical and verbal or behavioral responses.
The problem specifically in the case of phobias to animals, such as chiroptophobia, is the difficulty to expose themselves live to their natural environments. Faced with this, techniques of virtual reality exposure, imagination exposure techniques and systematic desensitization have been generated.
- Bados, A. (2005). Specific phobias Faculty of Psychology Departament de Personalitat, Avaluació i Tractament Psicològics. University of Barcelona. Retrieved October 8, 2018. Available at //diposit.ub.edu/dspace/bitstream/2445/360/1/113.pdf.