Arachnophobia: Eight Legs of Terror
Introduction: Phobia of the Arachnid
Eight small, hairy legs, brushing the hairs on your skin as they move up your arm. You turn to look. They suddenly stop moving. Your eyes meet eight black orbs, the size of liquid from an eye dropper staring back at you. Fear is immediate. Panic sets in. You skin becomes cold and clammy. That change in skin temperature causes the spider to get on the defensive. It sits back on four legs, raises the other four, slowly waving the front two. Exposing onyx-colored fangs.
You’re frozen. Beads of sweat causes the spider to shift. It nearly falls. It drops back on all eight and runs up your arm toward your shoulder. You open your mouth to scream. Nothing comes out but a hollow, dry groan. The siders two font legs touch your cheek. It’s the last thing you feel before you collapse.
You’ve just succumbed to your Arachnophobia.
You’re frozen. Beads of sw
The truth is, you’ve succumbed to my fear of spiders. But if you’re having feelings of dread and your phobia kick in, then I successfully did what I intended to do which his scare you.
So how was I able to accomplish this? Well, it’s all about using what scares you and shaping it in a way it invokes fear in others.
Fear Vs. Phobia
Everyone is afraid of something. But just because you’re afraid doesn’t mean you have a phobia. I know you’re saying “Ok, Marc, what’s the difference?” Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief something is dangerous. Phobia is an extreme and excessive fear of a specific group or thing. So, you see, fear can be based on a wide range of things, but the phobia is specific and that’s gold for a horror writer. Let’s now look at today’s specific phobia and how to use it.
Eight Legs of Terror: Arachnophobia
So popular it had its own movie, Arachnophobia, otherwise known as spider phobia, is the intense fear of spiders and other arachnids. It’s classified as a specific phobia, that can impact an individual’s quality of life. Contact with, or thinking about arachnids, individuals feel fear and experience symptoms of anxiety.
3 Ways to Use the Phobia You Know
#1 – Know Thy Enemy
The power of your horror lies in its antagonist, and you should know all you can about them. In this case, arachnids. Taking time out to research their habits, behavior and physiology is key to putting your story together. Wikipedia is always a good place to start as well as a Google search of the subject or phobia.
#2 – Use the Symptom
It’s all about the symptoms and phobias can cause some intense ones. Arachnophobia, for example, causes the following:
- Immediate fear and anxiety when you see or think about a spider
- Fear or anxiety that is out of proportion to the danger the spider poses to you
- Avoidance of spiders
- Panic and/or anxiety responses, such as difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, nausea, sweating, trembling, and a need to escape
Knowing this gives me the upper hand over my audience. They might start out reading my story and say “Oh, it’s about a spider. I hate spiders but let me read on.” And they are expecting to be scared, but what I want to do is tap into their fear. I want my audience to feel a semblance of one of those four symptoms (I want to frighten not cause a medical emergency. I’ll say more on this at the end.) either as they’re reading or after. The audience has come for a good fright and tapping into their fears is the goal.
#3 – Weave a Web of Fear and Words
What makes spiders and horror writers kindred spirits? We spend hours meticulously weaving a web to catch our prey. There is power in words and how they are used. Look back at Introduction: Phobia of the Arachnid piece above. Can you spot some key words that evoke a fearful response? What about the structure of the sentences? How about the pacing? Choosing the right words and creating strong, meaningful sentences help you to create a terrifying tale long or short.
Need More Help? Call on the MD for Believability
You see the doctor when you’re sick, right? No reason why you shouldn’t when you need to give your story horror wellness. In your research, turn to the medical profession for accuracy which you can apply to your story. The list of symptoms above come from an article that was medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD (https://www.verywellmind.com/spider-fears-or-arachnophobia-2671679#diagnosis). Experts in the field are always open to talk about their work and provide you with information.
Go Find Your Fear and Be Respectful
Specific phobias are more prevalent in females than males in both adolescents and adults.2 That’s according to the National Institute if Mental Health. That’s something to think about when you’re researching a phobia you want to use or one you have.
Finally, remember that, while you are doing works of fiction, these are real phobias that people suffer from. You should be mindful not to exploit them. Use all information you gather in an artistic way that can also bring awareness to your audience. It will make you a better writer for it.
- Fritscher, Lisa “What is Arachnophobia?” Very Well Mind, 22 April 2021 https://www.verywellmind.com/spider-fears-or-arachnophobia-2671679#citation-3
- National Institute of Mental Health. Specific phobia. Published November 2017
eat causes the spider to shift. It nearly falls. It drops back on all eight and runs up your arm toward your shoulder. You open your mouth to scream. Nothing comes out but a hollow, dry groan. The siders two font legs touch your cheek. It’s the last thing you feel before you collapse.
You’ve just succumbed to your Arachnophobia.
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