The anxious survive
A evolutionary psychology theory suggests that our ancestors who were more anxious had a better chance of survival than the latter. For example, those who naturally approach their surroundings with more awareness were less likely to stick their head in a beehive, and then their offspring adopted the same habits. This is why humans have evolved their sense of caution because we mainly live in cities now where we won’t see as many bugs.
It’s not really bugs that scare us, it’s their lack of! These tiny things that can crawl into tiny spaces, and a humans instinct of knowing that having a bug crawl up your nose or into your ear is something we’d rather not experience – it’s all something we never want to imagine. So instead, we adapt to an innate sense of ‘better safe than sorry’ that will ultimately keep us safe.
Your first trauma
Can you remember the first time you were ever afraid of a bug? Turns out, that first fright may have had a lasting impact on you. One study discovered something called ‘Spider Trauma’ which may be the root of an arachnophobia. It’s where you experience a spider-related event, often when you’re young, that conditions itself into a fear that persists. And this is the same for all bugs – you may not remember having a bad experience with a bug, but it just might be that moment that scarred you.
It may be genetics
Unless you live in Australia, we know that 9 times out of 10 the spider we see in our home is going to be harmless – so why do we still get so scared of them? A study from the University of London found that our fear of bugs may actually be a family trait. Out of 118 participants, 75% reported being afraid of some sort of bug, and those people who reported also had a family member afraid of bugs. This may happen because we grow up more likely to view creatures negatively.
Humans may be pre-programmed
It’s easy to understand how we may be afraid of bugs due copying off our parents being afraid of bugs, but where does it all start? Modern humans may be afraid of bugs because we’re descended from ancient hominids who feared potentially dangerous creatures. This fear allowed them to survive, which then allowed them to pass these scaredy-cat genes down, and so on and so fourth.
It might not be the fear of being bitten
If the cause for a fear of bugs is the evolutionary reason, as stated above, the surely its because they wanted to avoid being bitten right? Further more into the University of London research, Davey suggests that the ‘legginess’ and erratic movements of bugs, like spiders, is the characteristic that scares people the most. Most of us seem to not like their unpredictable ways, and how they could dart in any direction at any time.
Your ancestors were European
Historical analysists have suggested that our fear of bugs may be a cultural phenomenon rather than a primal reaction. Apparently, a fear of bugs is much more common in European countries, because it was thought that bugs like spiders carried diseases like the black plague and tarantism, an illness that made the sufferer dance uncontrollably. Today, a fear of bugs is much less common in non-European countries since those religions consider spiders to be a symbol of luck.
Some scientists believe that our fear of bugs is actually more of a disgust response more than a fear response. Humans will develop this disgust response to avoid the dangers, rather than come face-to-face with the danger. While not all bugs and spiders are dangerous, when we see them on our food or in our homes, we still feel an intuitive sense of revulsion.
You may have Entomophobia
Entomophobia is the fear of insects. It is commonly seen in the US, particularly in urban areas where coming into contact with bugs is infrequent. The fear of spiders is one of the more prevalent forms of entomophobia, however it also comes with a fear of bees, ants, cockroaches, flies and butterflies. In many cases, people with entomophobia are often scared of becoming contaminated by insects.
Conquering your fears
While we know we have to be careful around certain insects, like venomous spiders, we can at the same time control our anxieties over them. A good way to deal with this phobia, apart from facing them head-on in nature, is to even watch films with bugs in them. This form of exposure therapy can be really helpful, like Disney’s “A Bug’s Life”!