Juliette Bains: Is help at hand to conquer our creepy crawly phobias?

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IN THE corner of my eye, I spot something scuttle across the room and the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

The sound of my heartbeat becomes unbearably loud in my ears.

Within a split second, I’m pounding down the staircase two steps at a time, before throwing myself headfirst into the lounge where my housemates are sat watching TV.

Then I mutter the immortal words.


Cowering on the sofa, the extra inch of space between me and the floor provides an unwarranted sense of safety.

“For goodness sake, I’ll sort it,” my friend says as she slams down her dinner and strides causally up the stairs and back into the danger zone.

I fear for her safety, and slowly peer my head around the door to make sure she’s ok.

It’s at this point that my so-called friend decides to describe the size of the creepy crawly in question, before escorting said insect out of the door in her hands.

Her bare hands.

This is a completely alien concept to me, as someone who has only ever removed spiders under duress, at arm’s length with a pint glass and a piece of paper.

Unfortunately for me – and the housemates who have had to put up with me – such scenes are pretty commonplace.

Arachnophobia is a strong word to use, but I’m certainly not a fan of the eight-legged fiends.

They’re just there when you least it expect it – crawling out from behind the telly, perched precariously on the side of the bath tub or dangling down from the ceiling in an arrogant acrobatic display – where ever it is, they always seem to sneak up on you.

A spider no bigger than a 5p piece once held me hostage after positioning itself between myself and the front door.

I could tell it was mocking me, probably laughing at me as my trembling hand reached for the door handle.

I had the last laugh though, and outwitted the little critter by performing a barrel-roll underneath it in a desperate bid for freedom.

I have even been known to hide horse chestnuts around the house after I heard they help keep spiders at bay (they don’t, by the way. And you look a bit stupid when people ask you why you’ve got a pile of conkers in each corner of the room).

To many of you, my tactics may sound extreme.

But I’m sure there are others out there who suffer from a similar fear.

Now though, help may be at hand.

A new app claims it could help arachnaphobes conquer their fear by using a ‘systematic desensitisation’ technique.

It sounds complicated but put simply, the Phobia Free app encourages users to play games featuring cartoon spiders, which start out as adorable little creatures complete with bows and top hats.

As players progress, the spiders gradually become more realistic, and players are rewarded for helping spiders out of their predicaments (ie. from being hoovered up or helping with their injuries).

The idea is that by slowly introducing people to their fear, they can help combat it.

Playing on the users’ addiction to games, I can see why it might work.

If my Candy Crush addiction is anything to go by, I could well be Leeds’ answer to Peter Parker if I chose to download the app.

There are other apps out there to help with anxiety and panic attacks, and an app for agoraphobes is being set up too.

Whilst experts suggest they are by no means a cure, it’s something I’m willing to try.

Perhaps I’ll hang on to a few of those horse chestnuts though, just in case.


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