For my entire life, I’ve suffered from a massive phobia of spiders. Arachnophobia is one of the most common phobias, and it’s not hard to see why! I’d never liked them, but it all got so much worse one evening when I went to find something in the shed and a huge house spider fell on me. After that, my phobia became so bad that I avoided opening windows even in the middle of the summer in case a spider crawled in, and I couldn’t spend a lot of time outside in case I saw another spider.
One miserable, stuffy day last summer, I decided that enough was enough. It was time to face my phobia head on, and I decided to arrange an appointment with a cognitive behavioural therapist. CBT is focused on changing the link between the way we think and the way we behave as a result of those thoughts – in my case, my irrational fear meant that I thought I might have a panic attack if I saw a spider or that a spider might kill me, which made me react by avoiding situations where I might come across them and feeling anxious when I was forced into one of those situations.
After the initial session, where the therapist asked me about when my phobia started and how I would react in certain situations, I started the main therapy sessions. This included explaining to me why my thoughts and behaviour were irrational, and how I could break the link between the two to take a more rational view of spiders. At first, I even felt uncomfortable talking about spiders, so when my therapist told me that we’d be working towards me holding a tarantula, I was terrified!
Over the weeks, we worked together to dispel my fears and I was taught techniques to help me cope when I started to get anxious. It only took little steps, but when I spotted a tiny money spider in my house a month or so later, I didn’t run screaming from the room. Instead I just asked my son to take it outside for me (I wasn’t brave enough to do it myself by then!) and slowly but surely, it became less and less stressful being around spiders.
Finally, the day came where I was sat in the therapist’s office with a tarantula in a tank. Believe it or not, after some serious reassuring pep talks from my therapist, I managed to let it walk across my hand! I didn’t panic, the world didn’t end and I’m here to tell the tale. I still don’t like spiders, but now I’ve held a tarantula, suddenly a tiny house spider doesn’t seem quite so frightening!
Clare Cox believes passionately in the incredible results that can be achieved with cognitive behavioural therapy