Zoophobia – The Irrational Fear of Animals
How common is the fear of animals? It’s so prevalent that it is a general category in the American Psychiatric Association’s list of phobias.
Don’t believe it? Check out DSM-5, also known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Do zoos and pet shops scare you? Do you avoid watching wildlife documentaries? If you cringed while reading these questions, then you may have Zoophobia.
This abnormal fear of animals is real and not a cause for embarrassment. However, this phobia can affect your wellbeing and productivity.
Know that it’s possible to overcome this illogical fear. Let’s find out how.
What Is Zoophobia?
Zoophobia comes from two words, “zoo” and “phobos.” These Greek words refer to “animal” and “fear” respectively. Also, a zoo is a park where animals are housed and bred for public display and conservation.
It is not a specific animal fear disorder. A person with this phobia is afraid of a wide range of animals. There are more specific animal phobias like Arachnophobia or the fear of spiders.
Animals are always on your mind, but your worry goes beyond discomfort. You are not merely disgusted by slimy, furry, scary creatures. Instead, they cause irrational fear and extreme anxiety.
If you have this condition, you are terrified by the idea of running into an animal on the streets. Images or videos of animals can send you into a full-blown panic.
You might be wondering, “Why do I have fear of animals?” Like other phobias, the fear of animals is irrational.
Here are some factors that are linked to this condition.
Can you remember observing your parents or caregivers respond negatively to animals? If you place a little child with animals, they most likely won’t move. They could even play with the animal.
A child will learn to fear the animal from what they observe their parents do. You probably saw your parents scream in horror at the sight of a specific animal. As a result, you came to develop this phobia.
A Frightening Experience
A traumatic experience is another possible cause. An animal may have caused you pain or distress in the past. You probably were bitten by a specific animal. Maybe you had an intimidating experience with several animals, especially when young.
If you have a family history of anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder, you may be prone to developing phobias. You might have inherited the tendency for Zoophobia. Once you got exposed to animals, it would have triggered this irrational fear.
Others claim that females develop this phobia more often than males. Why? Some cultures find it acceptable for women to exhibit a fear of animals, while men are discouraged from showing their apprehension.
In movies, notice how often women scream at the sight of a mouse or faint when confronted with snakes and other critters. Men are then supposed to “rescue” the ladies from these fearsome creatures.
What Are the Symptoms of Zoophobia?
Zoophobia symptoms can manifest psychologically or physically. Children and adults alike experience these tell-tale signs:
● Difficulties in breathing
● Fast heartbeat
● Uncontrollable trembling
● Avoiding zoos and places with animals
● Overwhelming panic
● Uncontrolled thoughts about animals
● Talking too much about animals
● Seeing pictures or videos of animals in the mind
● Hearing animal sounds even when there are none
Symptoms in Children
● Screaming especially at night
● Hiding behind their parents or caregivers
● Throwing tantrums
Since children have fewer experiences with animals, their first encounters may be frightening.
Self-Help Tips to Manage Zoophobia
The symptoms of Zoophobia vary from one person to another. In this sense, a treatment method may work in one person’s case and fail to work for another.
Before you reach out to get professional help, look into what you can do for yourself. Let it register in your mind that fear is as big as you make it and as effective as you make it.
Fears are traps. They will hinder you from accomplishing whatever you have set your mind on.
Check out these other techniques that you can do on your own.
Apply Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques do not get rid of the problem. Instead, they help you address the fear and face life better.
Try controlled breathing at home every day before stepping out. Breath in and out for as long as necessary. This helps to relax your mind and reduce any tension. In addition, look at yourself in the mirror and affirm that you are not afraid of anything.
There is a motivation that comes from the inside of a person. That motivation cannot be compared to whatever other inspiration you could receive from other people.
Join Phobia Discussion Groups
There is no better comfort than knowing you are not facing something alone. Nobody will understand you better than a person going through the same experience.
Look for a group within your community and participate in the discussion. These groups work effectively if you are honest. It is in these group talks where you will learn what Zoophobia treatment methods worked well for someone else.
Remember the Basics
As with other mental disorders, having the essentials in place will help you cope. This means you need to eat right, get enough rest, and exercise every day. Don’t forget to give your mind a break as well.
Take note that there’s no medicine to treat phobias. The only available medications for Zoophobia are administered to treat underlying health issues like blood pressure.
Seeking Professional Help
Talk to a medical professional to explore professionally administered help. Such treatments include:
As the name suggests, this involves exposure to the thing triggering the fear. Exposure therapy is a standard treatment method for most anxiety disorders.
You will be exposed to the animals slowly and gradually. The exposure is healthy since it is done in a controlled process. First, you will start by visualizing and talking about your phobia. This will be followed by images and videos. Lastly, you will be asked to face or even hold a real animal.
Your therapist will know how to apply the treatment procedure. The medical professional will take note of how you are responding to animals. At the end of your treatment, you should be able to interact with animals freely.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT is a standard treatment method. It identifies and changes thoughts and beliefs that you have acquired over time. The first step is accepting that these thoughts and ideas are irrational.
However, CBT does not alleviate the problem completely. Medical professionals often combine exposure therapy and CBT to minimize the risks Zoophobia has on an individual.
How to Avoid It Altogether
How do you get rid of Zoophobia? Treating Zoophobia starts with accepting that you indeed have a phobia and working to alleviate it. You understand what exactly you fear or what you are uncomfortable with.
Treatment procedures do not get rid of Zoophobia entirely. They work to help you cope better. While treatment is good, the best way to manage is by addressing the problem personally. Fears start in the mind, and the same holds true for Zoophobia.
You may wish to avoid animals altogether. However, this is not realistic. Instead, practice the self-help tips mentioned above to alleviate the symptoms.
It’s normal to feel wary about certain animals. However, they should not give us sleepless nights or affect how we carry out everyday tasks.
If you want to overcome this persistent fear, be ready to do these tips for the long haul. There’s no instant fix for Zoophobia. But eventually, you can visit the zoo or buy that stuffed animal with nary a twinge.