Zoophobia (Fear of Animals)
Zoophobia is the fear of animals. Some people with zoophobia fear all animals, while others are afraid of one specific animal. You may develop zoophobia after a traumatic experience with animals. Or the phobia may be related to another anxiety disorder.
Zoophobia (Fear of Animals)
What is zoophobia?
Zoophobia is an extreme fear of animals. Many people who have zoophobia fear one specific type of animal. Others fear many types of animals or all animals.
The fear of animals is a type of anxiety disorder called a specific phobia. Specific phobias are intense fears of certain objects, situations, people or animals. Many people with specific phobias know that the intensity of their fear isn’t proportionate to any actual threat. Still, it can be challenging to manage phobia symptoms.
What are the types of animal phobias?
Some people who have zoophobia are afraid of one specific type of animal. For example, studies have found that the two most common types of animal phobias are ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) and arachnophobia (fear of spiders).
Other common animal phobias include:
Chiroptophobia (fear of bats).
Cynophobia (fear of dogs).
Entomophobia (fear of insects).
Musophobia (fear of mice and rats).
Spheksophobia (fear of wasps).
How common is zoophobia?
Specific phobias are common. More than 12% of adults in the United States have a specific phobia.
In particular, zoophobia is one of the most common specific phobias. Some research has found that a fear of animals is one of the top three most common specific phobias.
What triggers zoophobia?
Experts don’t know exactly what causes zoophobia. Some factors can increase your risk of developing zoophobia, including:
Family members who are afraid of animals.
Genetics, with some people being naturally more anxious than others.
Traumatic or negative experiences with animals, like being attacked by a dog.
What are the symptoms of zoophobia?
The primary symptom of zoophobia is an intense fear of animals. Typically, the level of fear isn't proportional to the actual threat an animal poses.
People with zoophobia may avoid going to zoos or even visiting a friend who has pets. They may avoid viewing images or videos of animals like nature documentaries.
Having overwhelming fear around an animal can cause physical symptoms like:
Chest pain or tightness.
Increased heart rate or heart palpitations.
Nausea or vomiting.
Shortness of breath (dyspnea).
Trembling or uncontrollable shakes.
Children who are afraid of animals may also:
Cling to a caregiver.
Throw a temper tantrum.
How is zoophobia diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider may ask questions to understand your anxiety around animals. In some cases, physical symptoms may be related to another anxiety disorder or mental health condition.
Your provider may ask if you experience:
Extreme avoidance of thinking about or interacting with animals.
Fear or distress that lasts six months or longer.
Feelings of panic that are extreme compared to the actual threat an animal presents.
Immediate panic or dread at the thought of seeing an animal or pictures of animals.
Symptoms that interfere with your usual activities or day-to-day routine.
Worsening anxiety when you know you might see an animal.
How is zoophobia treated?
Zoophobia treatment often involves a combination of therapies. The goal is to help you live an overall higher quality of life without disruptions. Your provider may recommend:
Exposure therapy is often the first treatment for specific phobias. It relieves symptoms for about 9 out of 10 people who do it faithfully. Often, it’s the only phobia treatment people need. You learn to manage anxiety or fear by gradually introducing the specific fear into your life. For example, you may practice looking at pictures of animals, watching nature videos or thinking about animals.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) involves speaking with a therapist about symptoms. You learn to pinpoint thoughts that may be irrationally fearful and train yourself to replace fearful thoughts with rational ones. You may do CBT with exposure therapy or on its own.
Medications are a less common phobia treatment, but they can help some people when exposure therapy doesn’t decrease symptoms.
How can I prevent zoophobia?
There's no guaranteed way to prevent zoophobia. If you struggle with fear or anxiety when thinking about or interacting with animals, healthy habits may help reduce how severe your symptoms are. Healthy habits include:
Avoiding dehydration and reducing anxiety by limiting alcohol and caffeine and drinking plenty of water.
Eating a nutritious diet of lean protein, healthy fat, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Sleeping at least seven to eight hours each night.
Speaking regularly with trusted loved ones or a therapist to decrease your risk of social isolation.
What is the outlook for people with zoophobia?
With treatment, many people can manage zoophobia symptoms so they don’t interfere with their daily life. Without treatment, specific phobias can increase your risk of:
Mood disorders, including depression and anxiety.
Social isolation or withdrawal.
Substance use disorders.
How can I best learn to cope with zoophobia?
Many people have fewer and less frequent symptoms when they receive phobia treatment. Some people may overcome a fear of animals, while others may cope with symptoms long-term.
When you interact with or see an animal you're afraid of, you may lessen anxiety symptoms by:
Breathing intentionally, such as counting to four on each inhale and exhale.
Doing aerobic exercise, such as jumping jacks or running in place.
Meditating or practicing guided imagery.
Zoophobia is the intense, overwhelming fear of animals. Some people feel afraid of one specific type of animal. Others fear all animals. Zoophobia is a type of specific phobia. Often, people with specific phobias know their fear is irrational. But the symptoms can still be difficult to manage. If you have zoophobia, you may benefit from therapy or medication. Some people overcome zoophobia, while others manage anxiety symptoms long term.