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DominicX's avatar

Does a fear necessarily have to be based on danger or harm?

Asked by DominicX (28762points) February 18th, 2010

Many times I find myself “defending” my fear of spiders. I tell people I am afraid of spiders and then people tell me that I shouldn’t be afraid of them because most of them are not dangerous. It even happened in my psych class, my friend rather rudely stated that people who are afraid of spiders don’t make sense.

I know that they’re not dangerous for the most part. I’ve never even been bitten by one. My fear of them doesn’t come from a fear of danger or death. I am simply frightened by their shape and their movements and everything about them. It also grosses me out, if fear and disgust can be linked. I cannot even look at pictures of spiders. Typing “spider” on Google images really freaks me out.

I don’t really understand where this fear comes from. Does this make any kind of sense to anyone?

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37 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I share your fear. I have long felt that the shape of a spider is archetypal to me. I would know it anywhere.

As to your general question, no a fear does not have to be linked with a learned experience or with anything concrete.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Some fears are irrational but at the same time,to overcome a fear,one has to examine it rationally to determine just how dangerous it actually is.

Val123's avatar

I like ice cream, but I don’t like spiders.
Fear is a defense mechanism. It helps keep us safe.

The_Idler's avatar

People in general do not make sense, this is just one instance of that.

ucme's avatar

A lot of the things we fear is based on ignorance.The more we learn about whatever we fear the less fearsome they become.Familiarity kind of deadens the blow.

Nullo's avatar

I’d say that not liking the look of spiders is perfectly fine. Spiders have the potential to be dangerous.

Berserker's avatar

Not necessarily, although I’d say that generally fear does stem from variations of danger and harm, whether for oneself or someone else.
Whether it’s unfounded or not, the perception still remains.

I hate worms, they scare me, although I do know that they can’t hurt me, unless I go on vacation somewhere in Africa and don’t get shots or something.

DominicX's avatar

Snakes are probably much more dangerous than spiders. I don’t want to encounter a snake in person and the few times I have, it was a little freaky. But I can look at as many pictures of snakes as I want and it won’t bother me one bit. But I can’t do that with spiders. Certain animals, such as spiders, crabs, etc. actually make my “flesh crawl” just with their appearance. I think this contributes to the fear in that I don’t want to be around this “unpleasant appearance”.

CaseyWVU10's avatar

Well, related to the question and not spiders. I don’t think all fears are dangerous or harmful. I have a fear of commitment, maybe it is the point I am at right now in my life because the thought of being tied to one person sounds terrible

As for spiders? I think you are completely normal for having a fear of spiders. The funnel spider is enough to make me fear spiders. To sum up the funnel spider, it lives in Australia and it aggressively attacks people (IT DOES NOT NEED TO BE PROVOKED) shiver

SeventhSense's avatar

Actually you suffer from arachnophobia which is probably the most common phobia. You can work through it though. Chin up. You could be like me. I’m beyond hope and I’m afraid of nothing.

Val123's avatar

To answer you question…the perception of harm can be just as debilitating as an actual threat of harm.

casheroo's avatar

I dislike when people diminish my fear. People don’t understand my fear of elevators, I think they sort of understand…they probably think it’s the whole enclosed space, and possibility of getting stuck. But a fear is so much more than something simple.

I’m also afraid of spiders, and bugs. Of course it seems irrational when I run from a butterfly, but I think making fun of someone for something that they legitimately fear is wrong. I don’t think a fear has to be based on anything at all, it’s a fear.

dpworkin's avatar

It is a form of anxiety called a phobia. A lot of people have a lot of different phobias. It’s not very often that a “reason” is found for a specific phobia; however, if it annoys you, or interferes with your enjoyment of life, you can be successfully treated for this, or any other phobia in about 6 to 8 weeks of focused cognitive-behavioral therapy. Look for someone who specializes in phobias and anxiety disorders.

rooeytoo's avatar

Until it reaches the point where your fears are affecting your ability to lead a full and productive life, I’d say simply that some are fears are irrational but so what, who cares, just avoid them as much as you can and don’t worry about it.

TehRoflMobile's avatar

I have no idea where these phobias come from, but I am terrified of snakes and mice in person. Spiders are kind of cool though.

YARNLADY's avatar

A fear can be entirely irrational, such as a fear of ‘some’ unknown thing under your bed. There does not have to be an actual danger involved, but merely an irrational sense of dread. I, too, am afraid of spiders, to the point of experiencing fear symptoms from pictures of them.

GingerMinx's avatar

Of course not, that is what phobias are, irrational fears. I can’t stand spiders. I know they are way smaller than me and can’t hurt me etc, but so what? I still dislike them. It probably comes form my siblings throwing them at me all the time when I was little.

Trillian's avatar

“my friend rather rudely stated that people who are afraid of spiders don’t make sense.” This is not my definition of friend. How dare anyone try to invalidate what another person fears. Whether or not the fear is rational is beside the point. And in a psych class no less.
And I’m right there with you on the spider thing. I took my oldest to Arachnophobia when it first aired. She was 7. I had to keep getting up and leaving the theater. The third time I got up she said “Mom, will you chill out? It’s just a movie.” Yeah, ok. I have to pee. That’s how badly spiders scare me.

SeventhSense's avatar

You don’t have to be embarrassed. God why would you torture yourself like that. Phobias don’t make sense but it doesn’t make them any less disturbing for the sufferer. Reminds me of my stepfather. He was thrown into a lake as a youngster afraid to swim. He did learn eventually but he barely avoided drowning at that time. There’s a way to work through these things but it’s certainly not to shock and awe.

Trillian's avatar

@SeventhSense thank you. I’m not the least bit embarrassed. I know it’s not rational, and I force myself to trap and freeze them when confronted with the dang things. Someday I’ll tell you the hand sized spider on my windshield story. That time, I didn’t get out of the car, but base security was there and that man is my hero.

SeventhSense's avatar

Gives men like me a purpose.

Trillian's avatar

@SeventhSense See? It all works out then!

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

The whole thing about phobias is that they are not rational.
Fear is based on the idea that there is some immediate and impending danger whether that be physical or psychological. Fear is also accompanied by denial in a lot of cases which makes treating that phobia difficult.

YARNLADY's avatar

Phobia from the Greek: phóbos, meaning “fear” or “morbid fear”

LunaChick's avatar

I have a completely irrational fear of public speaking. My speech professor recognized the fact that a lot of people have this same fear, so she started a special class – Public Speaking, for those who fear it. I passed the class, but still have the fear,

Cruiser's avatar

Nope…fear comes in all sizes and flavors….if you can get past a surprise visit from your MIL you are golden!

SeventhSense's avatar

Again it’s not a general phobia that you have though. It’s quite specific. It has a name.

mattbrowne's avatar

One evolutionary explanation is genetic memory. Fear of heights, fear of snakes, fear of large spiders has protected our ancestors.

Your fear might be triggered unconsciously by a slightly overreacting amygdala while you conscious mind tells you there’s nothing to be afraid of. The trouble is the amygdala gets a head start sending out alarms releasing adrenaline while our rational minds are lagging behind.

Coloma's avatar

Then what about us fearless types that would try to get extra close to the spider or snake just for a better look at their coolness? lol

If it is genetic memory ( makes sense ) then what would explain someone like me?

Were my ancestors spider whisperers? lolololol

I happen to adore jumping spiders…they have the greatest eyes, and their movements crack me up. I could spend hours watching one.

My daughters a bug freak too…guess it is genetic. haha

The_Idler's avatar

Curiosity and adventurism were the driving force of human development between the beginnings of humanity and the start of the ‘modern’ systems of exploitation: monotheism/feudalism, imperialism, capitalism, communism.

Since then, within each of those systems of exploitation, perpetuation of the status quo or expansion of the establishment’s power have been the driving force of human development, but these still require a degree of curiosity and adventurism on the part of those agents of the establishment.

Just a pity that, in all of them, bar capitalism, most individuals are encouraged not to exhibit these traits, and so they hinder humanity’s progress in worthwhile directions. Even in capitalism, especially the form observable in W Eur and N Ame (democracy/consumerism), there is a subtle but ultimately irresistible nudging of the masses towards ignorance and apathy, not to mention the pitiable result that people are only adventurous or curious when there is profit to be made.


mattbrowne's avatar

@Coloma – There are genetic exceptions of course. Psychopaths for example cannot feel fear and remorse the way non-psychopaths do. Besides learning can overrule instincts. We can learn that most spiders are harmless and loaded guns can be harmful (guns are not part of genetic memory (yet)).

SeventhSense's avatar

You brought back bunny ears!! I’m going to give you a marshmallow cheep and a chocolate bunny..

YARNLADY's avatar

@SeventhSense I had trouble getting it to post properly. It cut off my ears Whaaaaaaaa. I’ll share the cheep with you (I hate those things), but the chocolate bunny will be appreciated.

Val123's avatar

@mattbrowne You said ”We can learn that most spiders are harmless and loaded guns can be harmful” AND you can eventually be pretty sure that it wasn’t really a demon bat that just flew into your vacuum cleaner, no matter what all of your other instincts are screaming at you.

@YARNLADY By chance, is the pic taken sideways with the camera…..?

YARNLADY's avatar

@Val123 No, the image was cropped, and came out a strange shape on the upload.

Val123's avatar

@YARNLADY Mine do that sometimes too, but it’s usually because yeah, it’s been altered in some way or it was taken sideways.

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