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Auntie SparkNotes: A Crippling Fear of Bugs

Auntie SparkNotes: A Crippling Fear of Bugs

Dear Auntie,

I always feel like a little kid when I say I'm afraid of bugs.They say it's just an "irrational" fear or "aversion", but it's just scary. They're just scary. For me, it is fear.

I can't tell you exactly what it is about them that makes me squeamish. There are the eyes and legs (and sometimes wings) that bother me, I know that the buzzing makes me twitch, and I still remember the ant invasion of my bedroom when I was eight. There were hundreds slowly spreading all over the room. That definitely scared me... And then there are spiders. I have a severe case of arachnophobia. Eight skinny legs, eight tiny eyes... I still scream when I see a baby spider. I can't even kill them myself because I can't get close to them without screaming and/or crying.

And I feel like such a wimp writing all of this out, but the fear is pretty much ruling my life. I'm more twitchy and paranoid now than I've ever been before. I'm only fourteen now, but most fourteen year olds (that I know, anyway) don't have this issue with these pests. I can't look at a picture of a bug without gagging (or occasionally crying and screaming). I can't enjoy going outside like most people because I'm pretty much terrified of them crawling on me, sucking my blood, etc. I'm too scared to even go to my backyard without drenching myself in bug spray first. And I still don't feel too safe in my own room because of spiders. Auntie, I don't think I can get over this fear. I just need to keep it from completely taking me over. Can you please help me?

Yes! Here, take this bag of spiders and...

Just kidding.

And actually, the answer is no—as in, no, I'm not going to help you construct the life you're after, in which you carve out a giant hole at the center for your paralyzing fear of bugs and then try to live around the edges. You're fourteen, Sparkler. It's a little early to give up, don't you think?

And though I hate to say it, giving up—or at least, giving in—seems to be where you're headed. Your letter is interesting; you seem to be really good at dwelling on your terror, thinking in circles about the legs, the eyes, the wings, the buzzing, the legs, the buzzing, the biting buzzing eyes feelers legs legs legs too many leeeeeeeegs... until you're in such a frothing state of agitation that the appearance of a spider on the floor is enough to send you screaming for the exits. Basically, right now, you're not only accepting your fear but cultivating it, making it bigger, letting it spread. If you've got a severe phobia, then seeing a picture of a bug might make you feel viscerally disgusted, squeamish, and frightened. But screaming and crying? That's not really about your fear; it's about you not even trying to control it anymore.

Because you've already decided that this is a legitimate way to live your life, that your fear is real and impossible to overcome, and that the best you can hope for is to be only, say, 88% consumed by it. Right? And while acknowledging your fear is good, letting it guide your decisions is always an awful idea. And that goes double when the fear is, not to put too fine a point on it, really silly.

Which, let's be real, yours is. And while that doesn't make it less real to you, it does make it less reasonable to work around it. You've got to get over this, darling. Really. And admitting to yourself that your horror of bugs is both completely real and completely irrational is the first step.

That said, I'll be honest: depending on how deep-seated in your psyche this phobia is, you may need more help than I can give you. But to begin with, you can try to beat it on your own using a DIY version of the sort of systematic desensitization that therapists use to treat irrational fears.

Which is basically a fancy way of saying that you need to look at bugs, a lot.

Look at bugs in pictures. Look at bugs on the internet. Look at bugs on TV. Go to an insectarium! The bugs are all under glass! And since nothing cures fear faster than familiarity, take it upon yourself to learn about the creatures you're so afraid of. Bugs, particularly the ones that live in nests or colonies, have their own little lives—they work together, they socialize, they even date, kind of. Sit in your yard (on a plastic tarp and wearing protective gear, if you want), and watch the bugs doing their thing, and see if you can't acknowledge them as fellow residents of the planet with their own business to attend to. They're not here to freak you out; they don't even care about you. From down there, you're as vague and uncontrollable a force of nature as the weather.

And if you find yourself feeling frightened, then take a deep breath, and try to step, mentally, beyond the reaches of your fear for a count of three... after which, if you still feel twitchy, you can close the book (or turn off the TV, or leave the yard) and go grab a Coke or something. But no screaming, okay?


Do you have a crippling phobia of bugs? Something else? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at

Topics: Advice
Tags: auntie sparknotes, advice, bugs, fears, phobias

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About the Author

Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

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