Treat Arachnophobia with Virtual Reality Therapy

The word “arachnophobia” probably brings to mind the 1990 Hollywood movie by that name, a tense film about a small California town invaded by deadly spiders. However, arachnophobia (fear of spiders) is one of the most common phobias, and a very real and sometimes serious problem that can affect a person’s everyday life.

Although many people are frightened by the sight of a spider, arachnophobics don’t even have to see a spider to have an intense reaction to it. Often, just a picture or the mere thought of a spider can cause a panic attack. If you suffer from arachnophobia, it’s probably hard to imagine ever being comfortable around spiders. But thanks to modern technology, there is now a much better way to successfully treat arachnophobia than the traditional methods of immersion, desensitization, cognitive behavior therapy, hypnosis or self-help books and videos.

Using virtual reality simulators to treat arachnophobia

VR therapy has several advantages over traditional “immersion” therapy for arachnophobia, which involve progressively taking a person from viewing pictures of spiders to handling a live spider such as a tarantula. Exposing arachnophobics to real spiders can be expensive and sometimes dangerous. Using virtual reality, the doctor can control the intensity of the encounter and stop immediately if the patient panics. VR also offers complete confidentiality, since the phobia need not be confronted where others might be watching. Additionally, because they don’t actually have to face a live spider, reluctant arachnophobics might be more likely to agree to treatment with VR therapy. And finally, some arachnophpobics are persuaded to try VR therapy because they are intrigued by the technology.

In virtual reality therapy, patients wear a VR helmet or glasses, and a virtual reality glove. A computer-simulated three-dimensional spider moves across the screen, and the patient moves the VR glove closer and closer to the spider until they are able to let it crawl across their hand. In some cases, patients touch the virtual spider while simultaneously grasping a realistically solid, fuzzy model of a large spider. This tactile addition seems to make the VR treatment more effective, as these patients report less anxiety during treatment and are able to complete their therapy quicker than those who undergo VR therapy alone.

If virtual reality therapy is not available where you live or you cannot afford it, there are a few other treatment methods that have shown some success with arachnophobia.

~Systematic Desensitization

The arachnophobic is given relaxation techniques to help deal with the specific situations involving spiders that trigger the phobia. They start with the least frightening situation, and gradually progress until they are able to cope with the most frightening situation. Accompanied by a therapist, they then move on to real situations, i.e., exposing themselves to live spiders. When they are able to see and subsequently touch a live spider without anxiety, they have conquered their phobia. There are also a number of arachnophobia courses run by zoos, the most famous one being the Friendly Spider Program at the London Zoo.

~The Phobia Self-Help System

For arachnophobics interested in taking a do-it-yourself approach, this comprehensive, easy-to-follow system is a culmination of years of phobia research, knowledge and expertise. The Phobia Self-Help System includes five powerful techniques that have been used to successfully treat the fear of spiders, plus a simple technique to discover what brought about your arachnophobia, even if you don’t consciously remember. Also included is The Phobia Cure VHS Video, plus the Phobia Self-Help Book which contains step-by-step instructions for the techniques on the video, plus extensive information about how phobias work in the mind.

~Hypnosis

Hypnosis has shown some success with the treatment of arachnophobia. You can either see a trained hypnotherapist in person (which can be rather pricey) or there are inexpensive programs you can download from the internet, some for under $10 per download.

A caveat: don’t buy anything that claims to cure your fear of spiders unless it teaches you proven techniques you can easily use yourself; it doesn’t take weeks (or years) to see results; it’s written in easily understood language by a practical expert-someone who has first-hand experience treating phobias; and, it has a money-back guarantee.

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