Terrified of Spiders? This New App Could Change Your Mind About the Creepy Creatures

fear of spiders

I am the antithesis of what you might call a “girly-girl”. I loathe inspirational quotes, steer clear of anything too pink or cutesy and have little patience for those who are overly effusive, can’t watch horror movies because they “get too scared” and who go running and screaming for the nearest man at the sight of a tiny bug.

However, if there is one thing that can turn me straight into someone who embodies that last part of my pet peeves list, it’s a damn spider. Not the little, harmless, spindly, useless ones but the big, ugly, hairy, evil-looking things that Australia is famous for.

Yes, I am aware they are good for our eco-system and keep things in check and yes, I am aware that I am approximately 1000 times the size of one of my eight-legged foes, but I don’t care. They are awful and terrifying and, honestly, a large part of the reason why I bailed on Australia for 12 years in favour of America, where I could breathe easy knowing all I had to worry about was gun violence and Republicans.

If you resonate with anything I just said then apparently there is hope for us yet. Scientists at the University of Basel have developed a smartphone app that is said to help those who suffer from arachnophobia with researchers reporting that after two weeks of using the app, people with a fear of spiders were able to get closer to a real spider in a glass case than those who didn’t use the app.

“We report that repeated home-use of the stand-alone, smartphone-based, gamified AR exposure app was effective in the reduction of phobic fear in participants with a fear of spiders,” researchers wrote in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders. “Specifically, the app use led to reductions in fear, disgust and avoidance behaviour at medium effect sizes when tested in a real-life situation, and to reductions at large effect sizes in questionnaire-based fear measures.”

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that arachnophobia is one of the most common phobias people suffer from and while exposure therapy is thought to be the most effective way of treating such an affliction, it’s not always possible, practical or safe.

With that in mind, the new app is called “Phobys” and it is designed like a mobile game —  one that displays virtual spiders. If you’re really brave, you can point the mobile camera at your hand and use the app to place a very real looking digital spider on the back of it, to start desensitising you to your fear.

According to one of the researchers, “For people who are afraid of spiders, exposing themselves to a virtual spider is easier than exposing themselves to a real spider.” Well, duh.

While the app starts out with exposure to just one spider, due to its video-game-like design, each level of the app becomes more difficult and features more spiders crawling about — which makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.

As horrifying as this all sounds, it does seem as though there is merit to this development, with 66 arachnophobia sufferers participating in the study of the app, reporting that it did, indeed, significantly reduce their fear of spiders.

For me, I think it would take more than just an iPhone 13 to cure me of my fear of those little bastards…like a lobotomy, perhaps.

You can download Phobys via the Apple Store or Google Play.

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