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How to Define an Animal Phobia
The fear of animals is known collectively as zoophobia. Some people have a fear of animals in general while others fear a specific type of animal. Animal phobias are often based on a traumatic experience such as being attacked by a dog or by watching a movie that instilled great fear of a wild animal. Animal phobias include fears of other creatures such as snakes, birds, spiders and frogs. Most animal fears develop by the age of four but can appear later in life if a person expereinces an animal-related traumatic event.
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Ophidiophobia or the Fear of Snakes
A fear of snakes is common although not all fears could be regarded as phobias. In 1974 R Klorman et al. devised a questionnaire that measures the level of fear a person has concerning snakes. Many snake fears are based on the possibility of receiving a fatal bite. Other people imagine snakes to be slimy and find this disgusting.
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Ailurophobia of the Fear of Cats
The word ailourus is Greek for cat. As cats are commonly kept as pets and do not stay locked in a garden as dogs do, a person with a cat phobia may encounter them in the street or around shopping malls. In its most extreme form, ailurophobia can cause a person to become confined to home. They suffer from an intense, overwhelming fear of cats that can result in hysteria if they encounter one. This is one of the better known animal phobias.
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Cynophobia or the Fear of Dogs
The fear of dogs is often associated with their jackal and wolf ancestry. People also regard them as being noisy, dirty and aggressive. Many dog phobias arise from a dog bite or unpleasant encounter with a dog as a child. These people will not want to be in the same area as a dog and will often refuse to visit people who own dogs.
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Equinophobia or the Fear of Horses
Many people with equinophobia develop their fear of horses as a young child. This may be as a result of a fall, being kicked or simply by the immense size of the creatures. When confronted with a horse, they may experience shortness of breath, feelings of dread, a dry mouth, nausea and difficulty in speaking.
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Batrachophobia or the Fear of Frogs
This phobia includes the fear of other reptiles. In particular, people have a fear of tailess, aquatic amphibians such as toads, newts and salamanders. The fear is related to their webbed feet, long hind legs and smooth, moist skins.
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Arachnophobia or the Fear of Spiders
The fear of spiders is often related to its size, appearance and color. People with a severe spider phobia often fumigate their homes on a regular basis and check bags and boxes coming into the home in case they are carrying spiders. Many people with this phobia are embarrassed about it, especially if even a small spider evokes a strong reaction.
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Musiphobia or the Fear of Mice
Musiphobia encompasses the fear of mice and rats. These creatures have associations with the plague in past centuries and are known for contaminating kitchen and eating areas with their urine and faeces. People with this phobia can become hysterical if they find mice or rats in their home or outside bins.
Animal phobias are widespread and encompass almost every kind or living creature. The response can be extreme and the symptoms of the phobias are related to panic and hysteria. Many people try to avoid the animals that cause their fears but there are other ways of being treated and overcoming animal phobias.
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The Encylopedia of Phobias, Fears and Anxieties by Ronald M Doctor and Ada P Kahn, Facts on File, 2000