In a list of the world’s most common phobias ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes, is most often found in the top three to five. In this article fear is used to denote an unhealthy, unnatural reaction as opposed to a “healthy respect”. For example you should respect a 20 foot long, 250 pound snake. That’s different than fearing it.
- What causes us to fear snakes?
- There are a few things that make people afraid of snakes. In most people it seems to be a combination of these things.
- Lack of knowledge
- Most people simply don’t know the first thing about snakes. When you don’t understand something it is very common to fear it.
- Social conditioning
- Most kids are taught by their parents and other adults from the earliest ages that snakes are “evil” or in some other way dangerous. The other day I watched a group of grown men pummel a completely harmless garter snake to death all the while telling the kids how dangerous snakes are. Those children are going to remember that their dad and his friends had to kill a snake because it was so dangerous.
- Misunderstanding of religion
- This isn’t the place for deep theological debates, but a misreading of Biblical scriptures is often to blame for our fear of snakes.
By no means is this an exhaustive list of why people fear snakes, but this is some of the more common reasons.
- How can the fear of snakes be overcome?
This is not meant to be medical advise. If you or a loved one has a fear of snakes that is really bad (you’ll need to judge that for yourself) then seek professional intervention from a local specialist in your area!
- Get educated
- As mentioned before the lack of knowledge is a big reason why people fear snakes. The more we know about something the less we tend to fear it. This is true of snakes as well. Learn what you can about them.
A lot of people are disturbed by their flicking tongues, but when people learn that they “taste” scents in the air by collecting microscopic particles and placing them in the Jacobson (vomeronasal) Organ that aspect of snake’s doesn’t seem quite so “strange”.
Another common misunderstanding is how something with no legs can move. It comes down to extraordinary muscle control. Snakes move by manipulating their muscles in such a way that it would put the greatest belly dancer’s to shame.
There are literally hundreds of examples of various characteristics people fear when it comes to snakes. Each one of them has a sound, normal explanation if you just take the time to look into it.
- Spend time around snakes
- Obviously if your state is such that you can’t even be near them this wouldn’t be a good idea to begin with, but if you are able to just simply watch a snake that is secured it will help to overcome your anxiety. Having a knowledgable person on hand to answer questions about it will go a long ways as well.
One thing to keep in mind is that generally snakes are pretty mellow creatures so you probably won’t see them doing much at all. In fact aside from when they need to thermoregulate their body temperature you might not even see the snake move.
- Take it slow
- You weren’t born fearing snakes it took time to build up that fear. It will take time getting rid of it as well. I can’t overemphasis the importance of professional counseling in dealing with any phobia if it is so bad that it poses a hazard to yourself or others.
If you truly want to be free of your unnecessary fear of snakes you can get there as long as you put in the effort.
Fearing snakes is not natural and it certainly isn’t healthy. Getting over the fear can take time, but it is very doable.