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Ophidiofobia: symptoms, causes and treatment

Ophidiofobia: symptoms, causes and treatment

August 8, 2022

While it is true that snakes have little fame among people and that the stories about them have earned them the reputation of very dangerous animals, the reality is that rarely coincidence with a snake poses a real threat to the life of the person.

Despite this, ophidhophobia or snake phobia It is one of the most common phobias worldwide. Throughout this article we will see what it is and how it manifests, as well as its possible causes and most effective treatments.

  • Related article: "Types of phobias: exploring the disorders of fear"

What is ophidhophobia?

By ophidophobia is understood the specific anxiety disorder in which the person experiences an exacerbated, irrational and uncontrollable fear towards the snakes. Although experiencing a degree of fear in the presence of one of these reptiles is quite natural, in ophidhophobia The fear must be unwarranted and exaggerated compared to the real threat what the situation supposes


Some keys that help us differentiate between a normal and adaptive fear of snakes and a phobia is the behavior that presents the person in situations in which the animal is not a danger. These situations can go from the fear experienced to seeing them in a zoo, to the experimentation of anxious symptoms simply by seeing a photo or a toy reproduction.

The phobia of snakes or ophidhophobia is found in another type of phobia that is more generalized: herpetophobia, which is included in zoophobia . Herpetophobia refers to intense and exaggerated fear of any type of reptile.

What symptoms does it present?

Like the rest of phobias or specific anxiety disorders, ophidhophobia has a series of symptoms typical of this type of disorder. The symptomatology of these can be divided into three major groups: physical symptoms, cognitive symptoms and behavioral symptoms.


As usual in all types of conditions, there is no common and rigid pattern of symptoms , but these can vary as much in their incidence as in their degree of intensity. These individual differences in the manifestation of the symptoms will change according to the intensity of the fear that the person experiences.

1. Physical symptoms

When a person with ophidhophobia is in a situation in which the appearance of any type of snake is involved, an overactivity of the autonomic nervous system will automatically be triggered.

This hyperactivity generates a reaction in the organism which suffers a lot of changes and alterations. Within these changes we find the following.

  • Acceleration of the heart rate .
  • Feeling of vertigo and dizziness.
  • Sickness.
  • Tremors uncontrollable
  • Feeling of suffocation.
  • Increased sweating .
  • Sensation of pressure in the chest.
  • Confusion.
  • Syncopes or fainting.
  • Gastro-intestinal alterations.

2. Cognitive symptoms

In order for physical symptoms to appear in the presence of a snake, the person must also have a series of previous cognitive symptoms. This cognitive symptomatology is given by an association of the phobic stimulus with a series of irrational ideas and beliefs about these reptiles .


These distorted beliefs favor the development of the phobia, being reflected in the following way.

  • Beliefs and intrusive thoughts , involuntary and uncontrollable in relation to snakes.
  • Unpleasant and aversive mental images.
  • Obsessive speculations associated with snakes.
  • Fear of not being able to manage the situation properly and end up losing control.
  • Feeling of unreality

3. Behavioral symptoms

Finally, as in all conditions in which fear and anxiety overcome the control of the person, ophidhophobia also includes a series of behavioral symptoms that appear in response to the sighting or perception of the aversive stimulus.

These acts are carried out with the intention of either directly avoiding the situation that causes discomfort, or escape as quickly once the aversive stimulus has appeared. These behaviors they are known as escape and avoidance behaviors .

The behaviors known as avoidance behaviors are carried out with the intention of avoiding the encounter with any type of snake. In them the person performs all kinds of behavior to avoid the stimulus object of the phobia and so do not get to experience the feelings of anguish and anxiety that this causes.

For example, these avoidance behaviors can be reflected in the constant avoidance or refusal to visit zoos or any type of facility in which these reptiles may appear; as well as avoid traveling to exotic countries.

Finally, the escape behaviors appear when the person has not been able to avoid encountering the phobic stimulus , and once experienced the feeling of discomfort will carry out all kinds of behaviors that allow you to escape from the current situation as soon and quickly as possible.

What causes this phobia?

One of the main features that characterizes phobias is the impossibility, in most cases, to define the specific origin of a phobia. However, there are a number of factors that can facilitate the appearance, development and maintenance of a phobia.

Someone with a genetic predisposition to suffer more from the effects of stress , accompanied by the experience of a highly traumatic experience or with a very high emotional load in which the aversive stimulus (in this case the snakes) has a relevant role, can be much more vulnerable when developing a phobia.

However, in the case of snakes, there are some theories that expose other factors, in addition to genetics and traumatic experience, which can justify the intense fear that a person feels towards them.

The first theory points to the idea that ophidhophobia has an evolutionary foundation that has not disappeared in some people. These hypotheses maintain that formerly the danger that snakes posed to the physical integrity of humans was much higher, so the sense of alertness and danger to this reptile was much more intense. This feeling would have lasted to this day in some of these people who suffer from ophidhophobia.

On the other hand, the mythology that surrounds this animal and the symbolism that is associated with it facilitate the development and maintenance of these fears and irrational and aversive beliefs regarding snakes.

  • Perhaps you are interested: "Escolechiphobia: symptoms, causes and treatment"

Is there a treatment?

In the event that the person suffers a real ophidhophobia, and not a normal fear of snakes, an adequate treatment can reduce, and even eliminate, the anxiety response associated with the aversive stimulus. The high effectiveness of psychological interventions in the treatment of phobias they have become the main method of choice when it comes to relieving symptoms.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy in which, through cognitive restructuring, distorted thoughts of the patient are modified as well as techniques such as systematic desensitization or live exposure , and training in relaxation techniques, is highly effective and often have very satisfactory results on the patient.


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