Ever felt a crippling fear in the presence of animals? If the answer is yes, you most likely suffer from zoophobia. Zoophobia refers to the fear of animals which can be intense and uncontrollable. It can cause a person significant stress and interrupt his day-to-day functioning.
A frequently asked question related to zoophobia is, “zoophobia meaning.” To explain it simply, zoophobia is a type of anxiety disorder, the person experiencing zoophobia experiences anxiety of intense fear in response to thinking about animals.
Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental health disorder. It affects about 32% of adults in the United State at least once in their lifetime. Worldwide, 264 million people suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder.
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder about a specific object or situation. Zoophobia or the fear of animals is one of the specific types of phobias. There are several other types of phobias, including, blood, needles, height, etc. Phobias can be so intense that they can cause the person suffering from it intense and crippling anxiety and stress which may affect their wellbeing.
However, the good news is that just like any other phobia, even zoophobia can be treated.
Types of phobias
As we said, there are many types of phobias, including:
- Specific phobias: This happens when a person experiences anxiety or fear when faced with a particular object or situation.
- Agoraphobia: Agoraphobia refers to the fear of being stuck in unsafe situations where escape is difficult.
- Social anxiety disorder: Commonly known as social phobia, it involves anxiety regarding social or performative situations.
Zoophobia or the fear of animals is a type of specific phobia. Examples of other such specific phobias include:
- arachnophobia (fear of spiders)
- apiphobia (fear of bees)
- cynophobia (fear of dogs)
- entomophobia (fear of insects)
- ichthyophobia (fear of fish)
- murophobia (fear of mice and rats)
- ornithophobia (fear of birds)
- ophidiophobia (fear of snakes)
How common is Zoophobia?
Specific phobias are more common than you think. A 2015 research conducted in Germany found out that 5.4% to 11.1% of the general population had developed a specific phobia during the past year. It was also reported that 8.3% to 13.8% reported having specific phobias throughout their lifetime.
According to the researchers of one 2018 review, the fear of animals and fear of heights are among the most common specific phobias.
As per the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 12.5 percent of adults in the United States will experience a specific phobia during their lifetimes.
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What causes zoophobia or the fear of animals?
The primary cause of zoophobia hasn’t been detected yet. However, it’s possible that several factors could contribute to the fear of animals or zoophobia. These factors include:
- Genetics: It is argued that genetics can often play a role in the development of phobias, especially specific phobias like zoophobia.
- Negative experiences: The most plausible explanation of zoophobia involves past negative experiences. If you had a negative experience with an animal in the past, you are likely to develop a fear of animals or zoophobia. For example, people who have been attacked by dogs, usually develop a fear of dogs.
- Learned behaviors: Most people exhibit behaviors from their parents and relatives. Thus, you can learn to fear animals from someone who is close to you, such as a parent or a sibling. For example, if your mother is terrified of cockroaches, you might learn to fear them too.
- Fear processing: We process fear and anxiety in different ways. Some of us may just be more anxious than others, making us more likely to develop a specific phobia.
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What are the symptoms of Zoophobia?
A person with zoophobia or the fear of animals may experience the following symptoms:
- a feeling of uncontrollable fear or anxiety in the presence of, and while thinking about the specific animal that provokes the phobic response
- attempting to avoid the source of fear at all costs
- acknowledging that the fear response is excessive and disproportionate to the actual threat, but still being unable to control the feelings
- an inability to function properly when exposed to the animal that triggers a feeling of fear
Fears and phobias are often accompanied by physical reactions or physiological responses like,
- Shortness of breath
- Increased heart rate
- Increased sweating
- Tightness in your chest
- Dry mouth
How to cope with Zoophobia or the fear of animals?
If you suffer from an intense and uncontrollable fear of animals, here are some things you can do that might help you cope.
- Keep yourself healthy and active: More than often, taking care of yourself including eating a healthy and nutritious balanced diet, exercising regularly, drinking enough water, getting 8 to 9 hours of sleep daily, etc., can reduce phobia symptoms.
- Try limiting avoiding activities that trigger your phobia: Sometimes the only solution to such phobias is getting over them by encountering the situation. Therefore, going out of your way to avoid activities where animals may be present may actually reinforce your phobia.
- Connect with people: Joining a support group or talking to people you trust about your phobia can help.
- Practice stress-reducing relaxing techniques: Try to reduce stress by indulging in a relaxing activity of your choice. Popular choices of such activities include yoga, meditation, breathing techniques, etc.
When should you consult a professional?
If you notice that the physical and mental symptoms of your zoophobia are getting out of hand to a level where you can’t cope with it anymore, it’s wise to talk to a therapist. If the symptoms of your phobia interfere with your daily activities, contact a mental health professional or therapist.
A therapist may be able to diagnose the cause of your phobia and also treat it. Besides, many animal treatment therapies are common nowadays. Such treatments include exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT, medications to reduce anxiety, etc.
However, you should not try to diagnose any type of phobia or try any medication by yourself before talking to a mental health professional.