Is there a difference between Arachnophobia and common Idiot Fear of Spiders?

The Wiki page for Arachnophobia says that this phobia affects 3.5 to 6.1 percent of the population. Since far more than one in twenty of the people I have encountered in life seem to have an irrational fear of spiders, I can only surmise that most people who are afraid of spiders are not truly arachnophobic, rather they are simply idiots.

Perhaps Arachnophobia refers to people who are paralyzed with fear at the mere thought of spiders while, in contrast, a person who screams and runs into the other room and demands that the first person they encounter must go and kill or remove the spider as the fearful person will not go back into that room until the spider is gone …perhaps this person suffers not from Arachnophobia but instead a more common Idiot Fear of Spiders.
So, GQ time:
Are the Wiki numbers just inaccurate and the true numbers should be much higher for percentage of the population affected by Arachnophobia?

Should phobias be thought of as existing along a gradient and do figures quoted for statistics only refer to people for whom the phobia is truly debilitating?

Is Arachnophobia really not that big a deal, it just so happens that bienville is surrounded by idiots?

Important question: because I am a committed feminist, I would LIKE to believe that Idiot Fear of Spiders is no more commonly found in women than it is found in men.
Any links to studies that bear this out?
Anecdotal evidence also appreciated.

To be classified as a phobia, a reaction needs to be both consistent and so severe that it disrupts the sufferer’s life and causes them distress due to the disruption.

Shrieking for a few seconds upon seeing a spider is not a phobia; Being unable/unwilling to open cupboards/closets/car doors etc. for fear of encountering a spider, and being unable to drive, do housekeeping, etc. is.

I once knew a library security guard who also was a prison guard (so, not some namby pamby pushover type) who was so afraid of snakes and lizards that she would not walk down the aisles with the books about snakes and lizards. Would. Not. Was afraid she’d see a picture.

That’s a very different thing from the dumbass “eek a spider” business.

And the fear also has to be irrational. If your house were actually overrun with black widows and brown recluses, such that there often were one waiting on the underside of the cupboard handle, then it would be quite rational to be unwilling to open cupboards, and for this situation to cause you extreme distress. To think that your house is overrun with widows and recluses just because you once saw a wolf spider on the windowledge, however, is not rational.

I think it’s a matter of degree. On one side of the scale is “Quick! Kill it with my shoe!” and the other side has “There’s a spider! Quick, evacuate the house and burn it down!”

I’ve known more men to have an arachnophobic fear of spiders, than I’ve known women to have an arachnophobic fear of spiders. It’s two men and zero women, so not statistically significant.

I’m a woman and I have your described Idiot Fear of Spiders - if they are bigger than can be squished in a tissue, I’m not happy and get an icky feeling, and I wouldn’t hold a tarantula for example. But life is not limited in any way.

My brother spent some time in Australia and when I chatted to him on Skype he was leaping out of his chair with the jitters, he hated even walking past a bush in case it was full of them.

I have never had a fear of snakes, even had one as a pet, but big hairy spiders bother me. My wife doesn’t like spiders either, but has a phobia about snakes. If I even mention that I saw one in the forest near our house she will completely freak out and ban me from saying the word "snake’ for the next week or two. A phobia is an irrational fear, and in general requires professional care to overcome and no, she has no intention of ever being treated for her phobia.

I’m uncomfortable when spiders or mice are around. And I lived in a trailer in a forest for three years, where there were always mice running around.

What bothers me is their propensity for making sudden darting movements. Mice and spiders alike don’t simply amble leisurely about (especially when I’m chasing them), but instead make abrupt quantum-tunneling movements so you never know where one will be from one instant to the next. There’s something unnerving about critters that do that.

Spiders are just miniature mice.

I can only surmise that most people who are afraid of spiders are not truly arachnophobic, rather they are simply idiots.

Can you control who you fall in love with?

Fear is an **emotional **response, not an intellectual one. Do you not understand the difference?

Intellectually, I know that flying is safe. It doesn’t stop the fact that I am anxious every minute I’m on a plane. My fear of flying isn’t a choice, and it’s not because I’m an idiot. It happens and I manage it the best I can.

People are different. Just because some people have fears that you don’t share doesn’t make them idiots.

Funnily enough, spending a year in Australia pretty much cured me of any icky feelings toward spiders. I was never phobic, but certainly had the usual irrational, but not debilitating, fear of them (arachnofauxbia?).
But a year in Oz pretty much cured me of that. Once you’ve woken up in bed to see a huntsman spider three feet from your head, ordinary spiders kind of lose their scare factor.
Now I’m back in the UK (where pretty much all spiders are harmless), I can happily pick a spider up with my bare hands and evict it out the nearest window. It doesn’t bother me at all. :slight_smile:

As for the men vs women thing, I have a (maybe slightly sexist) theory: Women are generally allowed to be afraid of spiders, whereas men are expected to be a bit braver and tougher than that - to the point where they’re often expected to ‘rescue’ the women from the spiders. So possibly a lot of men, even if they’re a bit afraid themselves, will ‘man up’ and deal with it, while trying not to show fear and be seen as a big girly pansy. :slight_smile:
That’s maybe why fear of spiders is commonly seen as a woman thing - probably, as you say, it affects men as much as women, but all the guys are trying to be manly and not show it.

Ha-HA! I’ll have to come back and read the thread, but HILARIOUS question!

Should have gone to the Humane Society and got a cat. (Many times, they will also chase spiders.)

I’m not afraid of spiders, I can let them walk on my hands and arm. If someone who visits me has expressed fear of, or said that he was grossed out by, spiders, I try to move the ones that live in my house into the garage while the visitor(s) stay. I used the pronoun ‘‘he’’, because none of the men I know are afraid of spiders, they simply are grossed out by them. Being grossed out must be more manly than fear.
Mice are cute, I love them.

However, I understand phobias. I have an unreasoning fear of snakes, even harmless garter snakes. No matter how I try to make myself accept, internalize, the fact that a snake is not always dangerous, when confronted with one I panic, sheer blind panic.

Not funny at all: That sort of thing is the standard treatment for phobias. Expose the subject to the feared stimulus (whether they like it or not), nothing bad happens. Repeat as needed, and the subject learns that, in fact, the stimulus isn’t harmful.

I think you’re drawing the line a little too restrictively. Shrieking for a few seconds – and being unable to remain in the room – and being unable to pick up the latest copy of National Geographic – and being unable to brush away a spiderweb in the garden – and having difficulty shopping near Halloween because of giant crepe-paper spiders – these are all phobic reactions.

Exactly. The first is only mildly phobic, and the second is strongly so.

Thank you! Even if my uncontrollable fear of spiders is not formally a “phobia” (although I believe it is and that Qadgop the Mercotan’s source’s definition is a little too restrictive) there’s nothing “idiotic” about it. It’s not under my voluntary control.

Surprise me with a tarantula, and I wig out. I once pole-vaulted about five feet, using my walking stick, when I came across one on a trail. Show me as much as a photograph of an orb spider, and I start having violent physical reactions: panic, heart-pounding, clammy skin, shaking in my extremities, and so on.

The “idiocy” is hard-wired in my brain. That’s just the way it is with some people. I have a friend who wigs out seeing pictures of sharks. At least that’s somewhat more rational, as a shark might actually be dangerous to you, while an orb spider is about as harmless as a dragonfly or grasshopper.

One other thing that I find fascinating: the “filter” that includes/excludes visual stimuli is remarkably narrow. Spiders trigger my phobia…but scorpions do not! I have no idea how that works.

I love spiders, because I think they are fascinating. I will not kill them, and let them live in my house, understanding that they are doing me a service and keeping pests at bay. However, I am absolutely afraid of them.

When I lived in a trailer house, I could not do any DIY work that would require me to crawl under the house, because there could be/were spiders to be found. When I have nightmares (not too often, nowadays, but still occasionally happens) they always feature me having to go into a space (for some reason) that might contain spiders or spiderwebs. When I was 11 or 12, I was lying in bed reading a book with my arm draped off the bed and a mouse RAN up my arm and over my back, and I very nearly passed out, because I thought it might have been a spider. Even writing this paragraph is starting to make be uncomfortable, thinking about encounters with them!

While it doesn’t interfere with my life under most circumstances, I could not accept any claim that I don’t have a phobia. I have structured my life in such a way to be as spider-free as possible… there is no way I could be an electrician, or plumber, or any other profession that might require me to poke around in dark, cramped places that are brimming with eight-legged beasties. I will stick with my well-lit and comfy office job, thank you.

ETA: I realize that most of my post absolutely contradicts the first three words, but I really do think spiders are a marvel of evolution. I am just terrified of them (emotionally) while also holding them in high regard (intellectually).

krondys– I’m a good deal like you; though, I think, in a lesser degree. I’m male – I tend to a reaction of abhorrence, around big spiders – small ones don’t bother me, and I can be happy enough as regards a big spider, if I can be prepared for the encounter (one of the unsettling things about spiders is their way of showing up unexpectedly). I live in the UK, where even the largest native spiders are not that large, and where by general repute, all are completely harmless to humans – though we have something called the woodlouse spider; a friend tells me that he was once quite painfully bitten by one of those.

I’m annoyed at my involuntary feelings about spiders, be those feelings phobia, “idiot”, or whatever. I wish that I could truly like the creatures: I agree with you, they’re fascinating and ingenious beasts – and valuable for pest control. Perhaps people like us should found a Would-Be Arachnophiles’ Society.

Depends on your definition of what a phobia is.

There is definitely a gradient, as some people seem to call any kind of negative reaction to a trigger a phobia.

Not nice to call people idiots, just because they don’t understand how to cure their phobias. Sure, some people overreact and might get some kind of secondary gain out of displaying a phobic response (they don’t have to clean the garage, they don’t have to go on hiking treks, etc), but in general, people don’t choose their behaviour.

Anecdotal evidence (my experience) seems to suggest that more women suffer from a strong phobic response than men. The response you call “idiotic” seems to be displayed less often by men in public due to expectations of gender specific behaviour.

I think I would agree with both statements that a phobia needs to be consistent, severe and irrational and maybe also that it can be triggered just by thinking about spiders or seeing pictures or hearing about them, rather than having to encounter them.

That is how I was cured of my dog phobia. I did lose a step after last year’s dog attack sent me to the ER, though.

I suspect that with both genders, it depends on how acute the aversion / phobia is, and thus how overcomeable it is – or isn’t – for the individual. I’ve known some women to claim that when they became mothers, they fought down their fear of spiders, so as not to pass that problem on to their offspring. (I came by my spider-dislike “on my own hook” – my mother had no problem with the creatures.) Others, in my perception, have the thing so badly that it’s beyond them to " ‘[wo]man up’ and deal with it"; their kids just have to take their chances as regards human / arachnid interaction. I see this as applying to some women, and to some men.

One of my favourite travel writers, Dervla Murphy (a mother of one), suffers from very extreme arachnophobia, even re the tiniest of spiders – an unfortunate trait for one who spends a lot of time in parts of the world where spiders of considerable size, are a prominent element in the fauna. Dervla, whose accounts of her journeyings are very humorous, comes across as in many ways spectacularly ill-suited to be a wide-ranging traveller.