Fear of cockroaches (blatophobia): causes, symptoms and consequences
There are many insects or animals that produce disgust, and in some cases fear. Some of the most frequent can be spiders, snakes and cockroaches. The latter are usually related to dirt, and although in some countries they are considered a delicacy, many people fear them.
The truth is that there are few insects that produce more rejection for humans than cockroaches. These small animals, which have existed for millions of years (they lived with the dinosaurs), produce irrational reactions in many people.
In this article we'll talk about blatophobia, the irrational fear of cockroaches .
- Related article: "Types of phobias: exploring the disorders of fear"
What is blatophobia?
Blatophobia is a phobic disorder and, therefore, belongs to the group of anxiety disorders. Phobias can be divided into two groups. The specific ones, such as aerophobia (fear of flying) or coulrophobia (fear of clowns) and blatophobia; or in complex phobias, which include social phobia and agoraphobia.
Cockroaches are one of the most feared insects since disgust and fear are two universal negative emotions . For many, they are disgusting animals, and in spite of being harmless, some individuals can not have cockroaches nearby.
Jeffrey Lockwood, professor of Ecology at the University of Wyoming and author of the book The infested mind: why humans fear, feel disgust and love insects, explains that "despite the fact that mosquitoes are more dangerous and can become deadly, they have nothing to do with the reaction that some people have to cockroaches".
Phobias are disorders that cause great anxiety and discomfort , and to avoid this unpleasant sensation, many individuals tend to avoid the feared stimulus. In case you can not do that, you go into a state of panic when you see the object of your fear. In the following audiovisual content you can see a totally irrational reaction of a girl towards a harmless cockroach
Causes of irrational fear of cockroaches
Phobias usually have their origin in a traumatic experience of the past, and they are learned through a process called classical conditioning , which is a type of associative learning. You can deepen this type of learning in this article: "Classical conditioning and its most important experiments"
Although one of the first researchers to discover this type of learning was Ivan Pavlov, it was John B. Watson who made the term popular in the United States and the first to experience it with humans.
In his experiments, he had a little boy named Albert learn an irrational fear of a white rat which he adored at first. Despite its interesting findings and being one of the most important experiments in the history of psychology, today it could not be carried out since it would not be considered ethical.
You can see a video of this controversial study below:
Other causes of phobias
Other experts also claim that phobias such as blatophobia may be due to other reasons. One of them is vicarious learning , that is, by observation. For example, watching a scary movie in which cockroaches appeared. Phobias can also be due to our biological predisposition, because we are prepared to feel fear of certain stimuli.
Fear is an adaptive emotion that throughout history has allowed the survival of the human species, and that is the reason why phobias are constituted by primitive and non-cognitive associations, which are not easily modified by logical arguments.
- Related article: "Vicariate learning: observing others to educate us"
Symptoms of cockroach phobia
Regardless of whether they are specific or complex phobias, the symptomatology is similar in all phobic disorders s. They are known as anxiety disorders because they are characterized by a strong anxiety and discomfort caused by fear or irrational fear when facing the phobic stimulus, anticipate the encounter with it and even imagine it. Mainly, the symptoms of blatophobia can be classified into three groups:
- Cognitive symptoms : great fear and irrational fear, anguish, catastrophic thoughts ...
- Behavioral symptoms : avoidance of the stimulus that causes fear
- Physical symptoms : choking sensation, dry mouth, dizziness, stomach pain and nausea, headache, hyperventilation, acceleration of the heartbeat, tremors, chills ...
Phobias cause great discomfort, but are curable (at least to the point of causing your symptoms to be greatly reduced).In fact, psychological treatment is very effective in this type of disorders .
Generally, psychotherapy sessions focus on cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a type of therapy that aims to modify those internal events (emotions, thoughts and beliefs) and behaviors that cause discomfort. This form of therapy employs different techniques of behavior therapy and cognitive therapy, but for the treatment of phobias Relaxation techniques and exposure techniques are really useful . Within the latter, systematic desensitization stands out, in which the patient is exposed to the dreaded stimulus in a gradual manner and at the same time he learns different coping strategies that improve his well-being.
In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, which belongs to the so-called second-generation therapies, other therapeutic models belonging to the third generation are also used today: cognitive therapy based on Mindfulness and acceptance and commitment therapy. This type of therapies do not focus on the modification of internal events and behaviors , but in the acceptance of the experience and therefore the reduction of the symptomatology.
On the other hand, in extreme cases pharmacological treatment can be used , but always in combination with psychological therapy.
New technologies and the treatment of phobias
In recent years, with the advancement of new technologies, psychologists have begun to employ new tools that help expose the patient to phobic stimuli without the need for them to be present. Virtual reality and augmented reality are some examples.
In addition, with the use of smartphones, patients can also have different apps that help overcome phobias. You will find more details in the article "8 apps to treat phobias and fears from your smartphone".