Fear of Spiders and Scared of the Web: Dilemma for Oz Researchers Offering Phobia Treatment

by Tanya Thomas on Sep 30 2008 10:22 AM

 Fear of Spiders and Scared of the Web: Dilemma for Oz Researchers Offering Phobia Treatment
From fear of spiders to fear of the website crashing! Unbelievably, researchers responsible for creating a website that offers free online treatment for fear of spiders (arachnophobia) are now scared their venture might crash due to the overwhelming response.
However, the group behind the website, Feardrop, still wants people to test out their treatment.

University of Tasmania psychiatry researcher Philippa Cannan, one of the persons behind the online treatment website, points out that about five per cent of the adult population experience some form of phobia, with higher rates found among females than males.

She says that many people suffer arachnophobia, some with seriously dangerous panic reactions and intrusive checking behavior, but still few of them seek treatment.

"Some people have told us they have broken limbs trying to get away from spiders because they have been so terrified," quoted her as saying.

"After successful treatment they don't have to have the same intense shock of anxiety in response," she added.

Feardrop hope that website will help more people access treatment.

"While there are currently some online programs which provide instructions on exposure, to our knowledge, this is the first program to directly deliver exposure treatment online," Cannan said.

"This spider phobia treatment involves people looking at images of spiders and rating their level of anxiety.

"Participants will learn to look at the pictures until their anxiety level is low.

"It is expected that the learning that occurs online will help people to reduce their fear of spiders in everyday life," she added.

Arachnophobes respond to the research team's anxiety questionnaire before moving on to a graded exposure exercise, in which phobics follow a small circle with their computer mouse as it travels over a number of photographic images of huntsman spiders.

The program's organizers hope to expand the program to include snakes and dogs.

Presently, people in Hobart have been asked to participate in the trial to determine the effectiveness of the test.

Cannan, however, is worried that the response could overwhelm it.


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