What is Zoophobia (Fear of Animals)?

What is zoophobia (fear of animals)? Why does it happen? What are the symptoms? What are common animal phobias? How to deal and how to treat? You can find the answers to all these questions and much more below.

What is zoophobia?

Zoophobia means fear of animals . Often this fear is directed towards a particular animal species. However, it is also possible for a person with zoophobia to fear all animals or many animal species.

Zoophobia is one of many specific types of phobias. A specific phobia is an anxiety disorder in which you have an intense, exaggerated fear of something, such as an animal, object, or situation.

Zoophobia is one of the most common phobias. A small review in 2018 evaluated three questionnaires and found that zoophobia is one of the most reported types of phobia. ( Source )

What causes zoophobia?

The exact cause of zoophobia is unknown. It is possible that several factors contribute to the development of this condition, including:

  • Negative experiences: Having a negative experience with an animal can make you fear it. For example, someone who has been attacked by a dog may be afraid of dogs.
  • Learned behaviors: We can also learn to fear animals from someone close to us, such as a parent or sibling. For example, if your parent is afraid of spiders, you can find out too.
  • Genetic predisposition: There seems to be a possibility that genetic factors may play a role in certain phobias.
  • Fear processing : We process fear and anxiety in different ways. Some people may be more anxious than others, making them more likely to develop a particular phobia.
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What are the symptoms of zoophobia?

One of the main symptoms of a particular phobia is an overwhelming fear of something. This fear is exaggerated when compared to the threat actually presented by the fear object.

In the case of zoophobia, someone feels intense fear when exposed to an animal. It is important to note that exposure is exaggerated fear. A person with zoophobia may also feel fear when:

  • thinking about an animal
  • talking about an animal
  • An animal’s word
  • Seeing pictures or videos of an animal

Someone with zoophobia may also avoid activities that expose them to an animal. Some examples include avoiding watching nature documentaries, not going to the zoo, or even not going to a friend’s house because they have pets.

There are also physical symptoms associated with certain phobias. For example, someone with zoophobia may also experience the following when exposed to an animal :

  • increased heart rate
  • increased sweating
  • tremble
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Chest tightness
  • Nausea

What are the symptoms of zoophobia in children?

Children with zoophobia may show additional symptoms, including:

  • stay frozen
  • To cry
  • hugging someone you trust
  • have a nervous breakdown

What are common animal phobias?

It is possible for a person to develop zoophobia towards any animal species. It is also possible for a person to be afraid of all animals. ( Source ) However, some animal-related phobias are more common than others. These include:

  • Ailurophobia (fear of cats)
  • Arachnophobia (fear of spiders)
  • Chirophobia (fear of bats)
  • cynophobia (fear of dogs)
  • Entomophobia (fear of insects)
  • Echinophobia (fear of horses)
  • Helmintophobia (fear of worms)
  • Herpetophobia (fear of reptiles)
  • Ichthyophobia (fear of fish)
  • Mellisophobia (fear of bees)
  • Musophobia (fear of mice and rats)
  • Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes)
  • Ornithophobia (fear of birds)
  • Ranidaphobia (fear of frogs)

In fact, although all the above animals can be feared, snakes and spiders are the most feared animals, according to a 2020 study. ( Source ) It’s possible that factors such as feelings of disgust and perceived danger play a role in how common these two animal phobias are.

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How to deal with zoophobia?

If you have fear of animals, there are some things you can do to help deal with it:

  • You should try to limit avoidance of certain activities. Avoiding activities in which animals may be present can make your phobia worse.
  • You must keep yourself healthy. You should eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Getting enough sleep can also help reduce symptoms.
  • You can try stress-reducing techniques. It’s a good idea to try to find a way to reduce stress that works for you. Some examples include yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques.
  • You must connect with others. You should talk to other people, such as family and friends, about how you are feeling. Joining a support group can also help.

When to see a doctor for zoophobia?

If you’re noticing that the physical symptoms of your phobia are affecting your daily life, it may be a good idea to see a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Phobias can often negatively affect daily life in the following relationships:

  • Relationships with friends and loved ones
  • work or school relationships
  • social interactions
  • Daily activities

A mental health professional can talk to you about your feelings and symptoms. Using this information, they can develop a treatment plan tailored to your experience.

How is zoophobia treated?

Let’s now examine the different treatment options available for zoophobia.

Exposure therapy

During exposure therapy, you will gradually become exposed to the object of your fear. Initial sessions involve exposures that cause the least amount of anxiety. Working with your therapist, you will gradually come across situations that cause more anxiety.

Let’s use a specific type of animal phobia, ornithophobia (fear of birds), as an example of how this type of treatment can progress over time. We’ll start with the first scenario and then move on to the most worrisome situation.

  1. thinking about birds
  2. talking about birds
  3. looking at the bird painting
  4. Listening to the chirping of birds
  5. Watching video of different bird species
  6. Going to the zoo to look at the birds
  7. touching or petting the bird
  8. Allowing the bird to perch on your arm or shoulder
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As part of your exposure therapy, your therapist will also teach you skills to help you manage the feelings of anxiety that arise due to your phobia. These may include breathing techniques and relaxation techniques.

Exposure therapy does not always have to mean that an animal will be physically present. A small study in 2016 showed that virtual reality could be used in exposure therapy. ( Source )

cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is often combined with exposure therapy. In this treatment, you work with your therapist on the negative thoughts and emotions that are causing your phobia. You then reshape these beliefs and emotions to reduce your fear.

Medication

Medications are typically only used for certain phobias in the short term. In some cases, they can help you deal with anxiety while you’re being treated.

Two examples of medications you may be prescribed are beta blockers and benzodiazepines.

However, benzodiazepines are not typically used to treat phobias. According to the FDA , these drugs should carry a “black box” warning warning consumers that they may be habit-forming, and precautions should be taken.

Remember, your doctor will decide which drug you should take and how.

As a result

Zoophobia is the fear of animals. It can be said to be afraid of a particular animal or of all animals. Zoophobias are one of the most common types of specific phobias. The most common zoophobias are those directed at snakes and spiders.

Someone with zoo fear feels intensely anxious when they are around an animal or animals. This feeling is exaggerated compared to the threat the animal actually poses. Physical symptoms may also occur.

Animal fears can be treated using therapy and sometimes medication. If you have a fear of animals that are significantly interfering with your life, you may want to consider contacting a mental health professional to talk about it.

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