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Face Your Spider Fear Scientifically

false widow spider
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6:13am 26th September 2014
(Updated 6:13am 26th September 2014)

Here is how to deal with Cornwall's rash of giant spiders, the scientific way.

It is after Pirate FM told you the warm weather means fewer have died off - and more have grown bigger - just as they start to head inside.

Many are looking for a mate, as temperatures cool.

It is prompting fears false widows will be among the species heading into our homes.

The creature is Britain's most poisonous spider and has a number of colonies in the Duchy.

Dr Vikki Hunkin is a clinical psychologist in Redruth. She told Pirate FM: "You can develop a phobia about pretty much anything - but some things evolution has primed us to be more likely to have a phobia of. Things like spiders, snakes, heights and things like that.

"Some things can be threatening to us, so we learn to be scared of them - and that seems to be passed down through our families.

"The fear of spiders is one of the most common phobias - about one in six of us has it. That ranges from a mild dislike of them through to having a panic attack when you see one.

"There are two main ways we treat the fear of spiders - the first is through graded desensitisation, where you gradually work through scary scenarios while doing relaxation exercises.

"The other is 'flooding' where you just kind of go for it - and immerse yourself in the scariest scenario you can think of. Because your brain isn't able to keep up the anxiety over a long-term, if you stick with it, the fear eventually goes away and you aren't so scared in future. That's quite an intense experience, so you have to be quite motivated to get over your phobia quickly."

She has this advice if you are scared of spiders and come face to face with one over the coming weeks: "One of the things that happens when you see a spider if you're scared of one is that, almost automatically, your brain starts to produce thoughts of the worst case scenario - what happens if the spider climbs up your arm? What happens if it climbs up your towel? What happens if you lose sight of it?

"In order to avoid getting trapped in that cycle where you get more and more scared the best thing to do is to try to act quickly and calmly if you can to deal with the spider, so you don't hit a panic attack."

6:13am 26th September 2014

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