In this blog we will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatment of Katsaridaphobia.
A fear of cockroaches is known as Katsaridaphobia. People suffering from this type of specific phobia experience extreme anxiety when they see cockroaches. If the anxiety worsens, one can also have full-blown panic attacks.
Katsaridaphobia comes under anxiety disorders in the DSM-V. Sufferers are unable to control their anxious feelings not only when they encounter a cockroach in real life, but also when they think about them. Therefore, the mere thought of being exposed to a cockroach can instigate extreme levels of anxiety.
Phobias are irrational fears. However, the fear of cockroaches is somewhat valid. This is because cockroaches can be harmful to humans as they carry a number of diseases. If they come in contact with humans, it is very likely that they transmit these diseases to them. Also, cockroaches feed on rotten food or other small insects which are another source of diseases and potential threat to the sufferers.
Fear of cockroaches is normal, as many people dislike them or are afraid of them. However, in Katsaridaphobia, one suffers from overwhelmingly high levels of anxiety when they see a cockroach or even think about them. For them, even the slightest site or presence of cockroaches can result in panic attacks. And sufferers are unable to rationalize their fear fully.
Additionally, people suffering from Katsaridaphobia take all the possible measures to avoid cockroaches. Avoidance produces pleasant feelings for them and they repeat their actions in order to maintain those feelings.
This repetitive action of avoiding cockroaches maintains their fear. It proves the sufferer that they are to be feared of and that only avoidance can make them feel good. Though this can change their act of avoidance into compulsions. An individual might develop Obsessive-compulsive disorder in the long run.
According to the DSM-V, someone suffering from Katsaridaphobia must experience anxiety lasting for at least 6-months and this anxiety should affect ones social and occupational functioning.
One might have to leave their house and move some place else because of the fear of encountering cockroaches. For example, someone living near a garden has a higher chance of getting exposed to a cockroach. They may need to leave their family and live independently. Thus, their social relations are affected.
A child might even avoid attending school if they encountered a cockroach in their classroom or school. Likewise, one can leave his job if he’s afraid of encountering a cockroach in his office. This affects ones’ career or academic life.
This occupational dysfunction can cause one to develop depression as a result of his inability to live a normal life or earn a good living for their family.
Katsaridaphobia is the irrational fear of cockroaches. It is a type of specific phobia in which one experiences extreme anxiety in the presence of cockroaches.
People with Katsaridaphobia, like in all other specific phobias experience intense anxiety on having an encounter with cockroaches. They’re unable to control this anxiety and thus end up feeling more anxious. This anxiousness, in extreme cases can give rise to full-blown panic attacks.
Sufferer goes into flight or fight mode because of an adrenaline rush. In this state, the body’s physiological responses help one make decisions when in fear causing situations. They either decide to escape the situation (flight) or stay and combat their fear (fight).
In the case of Katsaridaphobia or any other type of specific phobia, the physiological symptoms that are produced when exposed to cockroaches (including extreme anxiety) cause the person to escape or avoid that situation. Sufferers don’t have the courage to fight with their fear because of the unpleasant, terrifying experience the body goes through.
Apart from anxiety, Katsaridaphobia has a number of other physiological symptoms which include:
- Extreme anxiety upon an encounter with cockroaches
- Extreme anxiety by just thinking about cockroaches
- Avoiding cockroaches
- Full-blow panic attacks
- Inability to handle anxiety
- Muscle tension
- Increased heartbeat
- Feelings of dizziness
- Screaming or crying
- Hot/cold flashes when in a flight or fight mode (A hot flash refers to the temporary heating up of the body when in a state of fear. And a cold flash means when the body suddenly starts to shiver or cool down, when encountered by a fear stimulus).
- Upset stomach
Out of these, one should have at least 3-5 symptoms (including anxiety) to be diagnosed with Katsaridaphobia.
Like every other specific phobia, Katsaridaphobia is a result of either genetics or a past traumatic experience.
Someone who has a family history of anxiety disorders or specific phobias has a higher chance of developing Katsaridaphobia than someone who doesn’t. This is because they are genetically predisposed to develop it.
This genetic tendency to develop a mental disorder/specific phobia can also be referred to as a Diathesis-stress relationship. According to this, one with a genetic predisposition will not develop symptoms of Katsaridaphobia until and unless there is some trigger event, instigating anxiety or fear of cockroaches.
This triggering event can be for example, coming in contact with a cockroach in the childhood. The sufferer might have developed this fear since then because of the disgusting or unpleasant feelings it caused. Also, he might be fearful of developing an allergy or other health problems because of the diseases the cockroach contains.
Or, one might have been punished as children, locked in rooms where they saw cockroaches. This can induce fear in people.
Another example of an environmental cause can be, learning to be afraid of cockroaches by looking at parents. It is possible that someone whose parents are afraid of cockroaches, or upon hearing an unpleasant experience of an individual’s encounter with them can induce fear in the person.
Also, watching documentaries on cockroaches can be the reason for one to develop Katsaridaphobia. One might be afraid of them because of the way they look, ‘ugly’. Plus, a sufferer may be afraid of roaches because of the fictional stories they’ve heard about them in their childhood.
Therefore, it is evident that there is no one cause for specific phobias to develop. Genetics with environmental factors, together will cause one to have Katsaridaphobia.
Katsaridaphobia, like all other specific phobias has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it. Like all the other specific phobias, Katsaridaphobia is treated by a number of different therapies including, Exposure Therapy, Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT) and or medications that lower downs the anxiety or other physical symptoms.
• Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
It is one of the most frequently used treatment for patients with almost all kinds of mental disorders. Katsaridaphobia is defined as the irrational fear of cockroaches. Thus, the therapist helps the patient in replacing these irrational thoughts with more rational ones.
The patients are helped out in analyzing and justifying the way they feel about being exposed to cockroaches. Therapists assist them in uncovering the reasons behind their fear and later they provide them with alternate, pleasant thoughts.
The patient is told to maintain a thought diary (with ABCD column) which provides them a replacement for every irrational thought they have, when thinking about a particular situation. The ABCD stands for:
i. A (antecedents) a situation or triggering event.
ii. B (belief) the thought that comes to one’s mind when in that triggering situation.
iii. C (consequences) the symptoms/feelings caused by that event/thought
iv. D (dispute) alternate, rational thoughts provided by the therapist in an attempt to dispute/challenge those irrational beliefs.
This last section of the thought diary is what really plays a role in helping the person feel good/less anxious.
• Exposure Therapy
It is one of the most frequently used ways of treating patients with Katsaridaphobia (or any other kind of specific phobia). In this therapy, the patient is exposed to the source of his fear over a certain span of time. To begin with the therapy, the therapist exposes the patient to the least triggering stimuli, a picture of a cockroach for example.
As the therapy progresses and the patient is able to control his anxious feelings, imagery can be used to take the treatment a step further. In this part of the treatment the patient is asked to visualize/imagine a situation in which he sees or encounters a cockroach. During this process of imagery, one actually feels being in that particular situation or place, experiencing various senses.
Once the person successfully, without feeling anxious clears this step of the therapy, he is then exposed to real cockroaches.
While the patient is being exposed to different intensities of stimuli during the various stages of therapy, the therapist simultaneously teaches them coping exercises. These include, breathing techniques or muscle relaxation methods to lower their anxiety, when in an actual fear/anxiety causing situation. This teaches them how to remain calm when exposed to the fear stimuli.
Before actually starting the exposure therapy, the therapist needs to figure out the intensity of the patients fear, as to deduce whether they will be able to undergo this treatment, without any physical or psychological harm caused to them during the exposure processes.
However, these steps desensitize one to their fear of cockroaches, by exposing them to that stimuli repeatedly, until they learn to undergo the situation without anxiety/panic attacks.
• Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR is a meditation therapy, is used to manage stress or anxiety. It is an 8-week program which includes group sessions. Mindfulness meditation and Hatha yoga are practiced in these sessions. Lectures and group discussions are also done to talk about mental health and increase interactivity.
In mindfulness meditation the person is told to, for example to focus on the sensations felt while breathing or the rhythm of the chest rising and falling during the process. This distracts the person’s attention from something stressful to something which is neutral and soothing.
For quick and effective treatment, patients are also given a set of home works, for example 45 minutes of yoga and meditation sessions for 6 days a week and to record their results/feelings in a book or diary for 15 minutes a day.
• Drug Therapy
Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Katsaridaphobia. Drugs are very quick in effectiveness, as they start showing progress in the patients’ health at least 2 weeks after the medicine is taken.
This type of biological treatment is usually more effective if the cause of the phobia is only genetic. However, these drugs/medicines are not to be taken without a doctor’s prescription or consultation.
Two types of drugs are used in the treatment of this phobia:
i. Anti-anxiety Drugs
Medicines like Valium are anti-anxiety drugs. They are most commonly used with patients who experience panic attacks and also lowers their anxiety by binding to receptor cells of the brain that cause these unpleasant symptoms.
ii. Antidepressant Drugs
These drugs, as the name suggest don’t only treat depression but are also very effective in treating phobias. Medicines like Lexapro reduce the anxious feelings of a person and makes him feel calm. They need to be taken on a daily basis but not without a doctor’s advice.
Whether the cause of Katsaridaphobia, or any other type of specific phobia is genetics, environmental or both, the best and the most effective way of treating them is by using a combination of both biological treatments (drugs) with cognitive treatment (for example CBT/exposure therapy).
Titles to read
- The DBT Deck for Clients and Therapists: 101 Mindful Practices to Manage Distress, Regulate Emotions & Build Better Relationships
by Lane Pederson
- DBT Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (The New Harbinger Made Simple Series)
by Sheri Van Dijk
- The Anxiety Journal: Exercises to Soothe Stress and Eliminate Anxiety Wherever You Are: A Guided Journal
by Corinne Sweet
- Be Calm: Proven Techniques to Stop Anxiety Now
by Jill Weber PhD
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) What causes Katsaridaphobia?
Katsaridaphobia can be a result of a genetic predisposition or an environmental factor. One might feel that their safety is under threat by cockroaches. A traumatic childhood experience is one of the many reasons of Katsaridaphobia.
Q2) How do you know if you have a phobia of cockroaches?
Katsaridaphobia, the fear of cockroaches can be diagnosed with the help of symptoms one shows in this specific phobia. Symptoms include, extreme anxiety, panic attacks, feeling of dizziness, hyperventilation etc.
Q3) Can a cockroach hurt you?
Cockroaches normally are not known to bite. However, a specific breed can scratch you if your skin is exposed to them. Though, they can be harmful to one’s health.
Q4) What to do if a cockroach bites you?
If you are bitten by a cockroach one should wash the bite area with water and soap to eliminate any potential infection or disease it might cause.