The Get-a-Grip Guide to Conquering Your Worst Fears
Snakes and Spiders
What's behind it: Many people aren't necessarily worried about being bitten; they're having an intense disgust reaction. "We also may be predisposed to be on alert because these animals can be dangerous," explains Martin M. Antony, PhD, coauthor of Overcoming Animal and Insect Phobias.
In most parts of the country you can manage this phobia simply by staying out of the reptile house at the zoo. But for those who live in an area heavily populated by snakes and spiders, such as the Southwest, exposure-based treatments are often the best way to cope, says Antony. "You start by looking at images of the animal and then work your way up to handling it -- for example, holding a garter snake at a local nature reserve or a natural history museum." Once you can hold or just be near a snake or spider without a bad reaction, you should be able to manage fear if you encounter the creature in an uncontrolled setting.
Pro tip: David Catlin, director of field support for the National Audubon Society in Springfield, Missouri
If you discover a snake in your lawn or under your house, don't panic and try to decapitate it or get rid of it yourself. "Most bites occur when people try to mess with a snake, so call a professional to remove a venomous one," advises Catlin. Avoid surprise encounters by keeping your lawn mowed and clear of places where snakes might hide, such as woodpiles. Fortunately, spiders want nothing to do with humans and stay hidden in dark places, such as underneath furniture and radiators. Use a vacuum attachment to clean hard-to-reach spots where adults and eggs might be tucked away.
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