The fear of spiders, arachnophobia, is one of the most common phobias in the world. It affects around 11 million people in the UK (Anthony Devlin/PA). Many people suffering from this fear experience extreme anxiety which takes hours to dissipate. Worse still, many can endlessly worry about their next encounter with spiders as they can appear any time and in any place. This means arachnophobes often stay in a constant state of worry, especially at this time of the year. The impact this has on mental health is obvious, but constant anxiety can affect far more than just the mind.

 One of the worse aggravants for long covid and other chronic illnesses is anxiety.  Anxiety releases histamine and other chemicals. A normal release of these chemicals acts beneficially to protect and heal a healthy body. When too much is inappropriately triggered and released, they can have a negative effect, flaring symptoms and raising inflammation in the body increasing fatigue and pain. (Ref). 

 There may not be a lot known about long covid yet but it’s clear that eliminating anxiety as much as possible is key to recovery and wellness.  This is why it is crucial during this pandemic when our health is under elevated threat to beat anxiety.  A person suffering with arachnophobia should get over their fear to boost overall wellbeing and resilience.

 Thankfully, curing a spider phobia does not have to take years of therapy, but can actually be treated in only a day.  Featured several times in the media with even celebrity clients, the Spider Courage Experience run by Creature Courage offers a multi-faceted approach to spider phobia therapy. Different people will resonate with different types of treatments so Creature Courage uniquely combines cognitive behavioral therapy, art therapy, imagination exercises, NLP techniques, hypnotherapy, education, and immersive therapy into one cost-effective session. Currently, no other arachnophobia or animal phobia treatment is as comprehensive and as in-depth as the Creature Courage workshops, nor has the extremely high success rate which has earned Creature Courage the title of the UK’s animal phobia specialists.

 The most powerful aspect of Creature Courage’s approach is that it is holistic, taking a person’s entire mental health and life choices into consideration. The techniques used and taught on these life-changing workshops are designed to help support clients far beyond the animal phobia, they are techniques that are  versatile to address overall anxiety and build courage in any situation.

 “It doesn’t make sense to get a person to simply be more positive about just one area of their life such as the animal they fear. If they are still caught in negative worry cycles about other things in their lives, they will breed the phobia back into their mind. They need to find overall positivity and courage. We give people the tools to liberate their minds and their lives. This therapy is also fun so really a win-win for those wishing to eradicate this debilitating phobia.” founder Britain Stelly emphasizes.

 Stelly is also a long covid sufferer and has developed long-term health problems from only a mild case of covid. Before covid, she was perfectly healthy, now she often has days when she cannot even get out of bed.  Experiencing firsthand how devastating the condition can be especially while experiencing anxiety, she encourages everyone suffering from a spider phobia to seek support to lessen unneeded anxiety. She has teamed up with Jane Green to help highlight the connection between physical health and mental health.

 Green is autistic and has Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS), a connective tissues disorder, which can include many additional chronic health symptoms that can present in a very similar way to Long Covid. Green has a lifetime history of proof of how the anxiety from the spider phobia affected her physical body. Green explains;

 ‘I had been known to jump out of my car and leave it running on the road due to seeing a large spider inside the car. In the autumn, when we see more spiders, I am hyper-vigilant. This anxiety affected my whole body, especially with increased fatigue, pain and inflammation. I was constantly worried  when I might see a spider.’

 Green wants to inspire others to address their fears and get rid of unnecessary anxiety. The liberation of her spider phobia has been hugely beneficial.

 ‘I feel so much better being back in control of my anxiety around spiders. Anxiety for people with EDS and other co-occurring conditions can mean an overload of chemicals and enzymes, sometimes leading to allergic reactions or even anaphylactic attacks, so getting in control of my phobia was incredibly important!’

 Green recently took part in an experimental trial testing a novel theory called ADIE to reduce anxiety in autistic adults. This looked at how accurate a group of autistic adults were at knowing about their inner senses.  One of these key inner senses is called the interoception sense. This sense helps us to know what is happening inside our bodies if we are too hot, cold, hungry or tired or anxious. So, the idea was to help people become more aware of their own heartbeat in order to effectively ‘calm their emotions’.

 In 2017 Professor Garfinkel, a cognitive neuroscientist at UCL  designed an experiment using the concept of interoception to treat spider phobias for autistic adults with computer-simulated spiders. It was found that using interoception techniques helped 31% more people recover from a spider phobia as opposed to 16% in the control group. REF

 ‘Our fear response and feelings of anxiety are closely linked to changes in our body, including the perception of these changes, such as the pounding of our heart. Good insight into these internal bodily signals, a process known as interoception, can provide early access to these signals, allowing us to regulate them before they start to spiral. Calming down our bodies can also serve to calm down our minds.’  Professor Garfinkel remarks.

Green really wanted to get control over the anxiety caused by her spider phobia and connected with Creature Courage to spread the message of how important the mind and body working together is for overall health, especially with sufferers of Long Covid and chronic illnesses.

Further Information:

Jane Green is founder and Chair of the multi-award winning Sussex Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes and Hypermobility Disorders (SEDS) and advocates for hypermobility and autistic issues in health, education, social care, transport accessibility and employment.

Contact: https://www.sussexeds.com

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @JGjanegreen

For press photos please go to HERE: 

https://jnnp.bmj.com/content/92/8/A3.3

References:

 Schmitt, WJ; Müri, RM (2009). “Neurobiologie der Spinnenphobie”. Schweizer Archiv für Neurologie. 160 (8): 352–355. Archived from the original on 23 August 2016.

 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2589537021003229

Interoceptive training to target anxiety in autistic adults (ADIE): A single-center, superiority randomized controlled trial

Lisa Quadt, Sarah N Garfinkel, James S Mulcahy, Dennis EO Larsson, Marta Silva, Anna-Marie Jones, Clara Strauss, Hugo D Critchley  (2021)

 ‘Listening to Your Year Might Be The Key To Conquering Anxiety’

Wired https://www.wired.co.uk/article/sarah-garfinkel-interoception

Accessed 1.9.2021

Beyond Bones: The relevance of variants of connective tissue (hypermobility) to fibromyalgia, ME/CFS and controversies surrounding diagnostic classification: an observational study

Jessica A Eccles, Beth Thompson, Kristy Themelis, Marisa L Amato, RobynStocks, Amy Pound, Anna-Marie Jones, Zdenka Cipinova, Lorraine Shah-Goodwin, Jean Timeyin, Charlotte R Thompson, Thomas Batty, Neil A Harrison, Hugo D Critchley, Kevin A Davies

Clinical Medicine Jan 2021, 21 (1) 53-58; DOI: 10.7861/clinmed.2020-0743

 Watson DR, Garfinkel SN, Gould van Praag C, Willmott D, Wong K, Meeten F, Critchley HD.  Computerized Exposure Therapy for Spider Phobia: Effects of Cardiac Timing and Interoceptive Ability on Subjective and Behavioral Outcomes. Psychosom Med. 2019 Jan;81(1):90-99. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000646. PMID: 30300237.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30300237/ accessed 1.9.2021