Animal Phobia – Fear of Animals – Zoophobia
By Steve B. Reed, LPC, LMSW, LMFT
Do you have an animal phobia? Are you afraid of snakes? What about a fear of rats? Perhaps you have a fear of lizards or a dog phobia? If so, you are in good company. According to survey research, a surprising number of people in both the US and the UK have a fear of animals or at least certain animals. The scientific name of this fear is zoophobia.
In 2014 the British government surveyed common fears among British citizens. They found that 11% of people had a fear of mice (Musophobia) and a fear of rats (Zemmiphobia).
In the US, a Gallup poll of Americans’ fears in 2001 indicated that 11% of US citizens had a dog phobia (Cynophobia). About 14% of our British cousins also share a fear of dogs.
However, the clear animal phobia winner in both countries is a fear of snakes (Ophidiophobia). The percentage of people in the US with a snake phobia is 51%. In the UK it is just about the same at 52%.
Animal Phobia List
Here is a short animal phobia list. Although most people don’t need to know this, I am including the scientific names of each phobia:
- Lizard Phobia – Fear of lizards – Scoliodentosaurosophobia
- Frog Phobia – Fear of frogs – Ranidaphobia or Batrachophobia
- Reptile Phobia – Fear of Reptiles – Herpetophobia
- Horse Phobia – Fear of horses – Equinophobia
- Bird Phobia – Fear of birds – Ornithophobia
- Cat Phobia – Fear of Cats – Ailurophobia
- Squirrel Phobia – Fear of Squirrels – Sciurophobia
During my years as a professional counselor, I have treated many things that people fear. This is because my practice specializes in treating phobias, anxiety disorders, and panic attacks. In my experience, I find that most people who have an animal phobia, at some point in their life, had a bad experience with the animal they fear. For instance, here is an example of a dog phobia.
Fear of Dogs
Having a dog phobia (Cynophobia) is troubling enough. But what if you also train dogs and run a dog rescue shelter? One of my clients was in that very situation. She had a bad experience with one of her rescue dogs. It was very frightening to her. As a result, she developed Cynophobia.
However, after animal phobia treatment using EMDR and Quick REMAP, the traumatic memory was neutralized. Secondly, CBT treatment helped her to calm negative intrusive thoughts. Finally, through exposure therapy (1), she gradually regained comfort with her rescue dogs.
I’ve already noted that half of the population has a fear of snakes. But now let’s add another element, cultural superstition. In one Middle Eastern country, there is a specific superstitious thought about snakes. For instance, if a snake ever looks you in the eyes, they will connect with you. Furthermore, they will then stalk you and eventually attack you.
A scary belief like this one can persist, even into one’s college years. In this case, both scary past experiences with snakes and automatic negative thoughts need therapy. I treated these past experiences in the same way as in the dog phobia case. But with this snake phobia, I had to spend more time working with the thoughts. Cognitive therapy is the tool of choice for irrational catastrophic thoughts. Through combining treatments, this phobia quickly faded.
Fear of Rats
What are the most rat-infested cities in the western world? Here are the top ten places you don’t want to live with a fear of rats:
- New York City — USA
- Houston, Texas — USA
- New Orleans, Louisiana — USA
- Atlanta, Georgia — USA
- London, England — UK
- Baltimore, Maryland — USA
- Chicago, Illinois — USA
- Paris, France
- Boston, Massachusetts USA
- Detroit, Michigan USA
Jan grew up in Chicago. As a small child, she awoke in the night to find several rats on the floor beside her bed. It was terrifying and she screamed for her mother. As a result of this experience, Jan developed a rat phobia.
Furthermore, as an adult, she moved to an older part of Houston. This part of town had a rat problem too. She would walk the neighborhood with her husband and sometimes see one. The panic she experienced was getting in her way of being happy.
After therapy for her animal phobia, she went on another walk with her husband. This time, however, they both noticed a dead rat. It was amazing to her that she felt no reaction. She said, “It was just a dead rat” and shrugged. Before treatment, she would have been distressed. But now, she felt nothing.
Sarah has a lovely home. Her backyard features a large swimming pool, outdoor cooking area, and plenty of outdoor furniture in which to lounge. The shrubs and flowers are well kept.
The only problem is she shares this beautiful setting with lizards. Normally that would not be a problem. But Sarah has a lizard phobia.
After a while, her fear became so bad that she was afraid to go outside. That is when she sought help to overcome her fear of lizards.
Although it was hard for her to imagine being able to tolerate them, she eventually did. Finally, she became so comfortable around the lizards that she began to give them names. She started thinking of them as pets.
Animal Phobia Treatment, Therapy, Counseling, Help
Steve B. Reed, LPC, LMSW, LMFT is a Licensed Professional Counselor that specializes in the treatment of phobias, panic attacks, and anxiety disorders.
Treatment is available for people in DFW, Dallas, and Plano at his Richardson, Texas office.
Phobia therapy is also available throughout the US and worldwide through phone counseling and video appointments. Treatment is routinely available for people from Albuquerque, Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Fort Worth, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Portland, New Orleans, New York, San Antonio, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa, and Washington DC.
Call 972-997-9955 to schedule an appointment for phobia treatment.
Or email — firstname.lastname@example.org
- Goossens, L., Sunaert, S., Peeters, R., Griez, E. J., & Schruers, K. R. (2007). Amygdala Hyperfunction in Phobic Fear Normalizes After Exposure. Biological Psychiatry,62(10), 1119-1125. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2007.04.024