Chiroptophobia (Fear of Bats)
Chiroptophobia is the irrational fear of bats. Someone experiencing this condition may find themselves enduring intense bouts of anxiety at the mere thought of bats. In fact, their fear may be so intrusive and debilitating that they may even experience full blown panic attacks as a result of their chiroptophobia.
They may find themselves making decisions based on their chiroptophobia that negatively effects their day to day life. For example, someone with this condition may find it extremely difficult to go out at night or to go into more woodland areas in an attempt to reduce the risk of them coming into contact with a bat. Though they may feel some immediate relief from their anxiety by avoiding such places, doing so will only reinforce their fear, thus exacerbating their chiroptophobia.
They may in fact realize that their fear of bats is out of touch with reality. However, in the midst of intrusive anxiety or a panic attack, they may be unable to logically convince themselves out of their anxiety. However, as is the case with all other mental disorders, chiroptophobia has a spectrum of severity that will vary from person to person.
Bats, unlike many other mammals are often greatly feared by people. This may largely be due to their association with darkness, vampires, or horror films. Such depictions of bats may be enough for someone to develop full blown chiroptophobia insofar that they have the genetics to do so.
Symptoms of Chiroptophobia
As is the case with virtually every other phobia, anxiety will be the most profound and common symptom for someone suffering with chiroptophobia. Their anxiety may be so intense when seeing a bat in real life that they may actually have a full blown panic attack that will require them to be hospitalized. Though this may not be typical, it is still possible nonetheless.
Someone with this condition may choose to limit the amount of time they spend outdoors during nighttime. They may avoid places or areas where bats may have been spotted before. They may go to painstaking efforts to ensure that they “protect themselves” from bats by avoiding them as best as they can.
Though this is not a hallmark symptom of chiroptophobia, it is plausible to conceive that someone with this condition may begin to lose confidence in themselves due to their ineptness with coping with strong emotions. Their inability to do this successfully may cause other symptoms to manifest as well, such as self-loathing and/or depression.
Though additional symptoms such as depression, loneliness from isolation, shame, and several others may occur in someone with chiroptophobia, anxiety will undoubtedly be at the forefront of all of these symptoms.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of chiroptophobia:
Intense anxiety at the sight of a bat
Intense anxiety when thinking of a bat
May experience full blown panic attacks
Unable to cope with intense emotions
Increased heart rate and increased rate of breathing
Muscle tension, increased perspiration, and shakiness
Causes of Chiroptophobia
There is no known cause of chiroptophobia. However, genetics and one’s environment may both play significant roles in the development of this disorder. For instance, someone who has a family history of mental illness, especially with anxiety disorders may have an increased chance of developing chiroptophobia. If this is the case, then it may be due to them having a genetic predisposition to develop mental illness.
If they were to have a genetic predisposition to develop mental illness, it may then only take them experiencing some sort of traumatic event for them to develop full blown chiroptophobia. Such a traumatic experience may be that they were once attacked or bitten by a bat. Or perhaps they were merely spooked by a group of bats once that left them extremely fearful. Such an experience may leave a permanent imprint that may leave them with chiroptophobia.
Besides having a real world encounter with a bat, it is also plausible to conceive that someone could develop this disorder due to them watching a documentary on bats or of simply reading information about bats. Such information will not affect everyone the same way. For some people, such information may be extremely uncomfortable and anxiety provoking.
So, it is not implausible to think that someone could develop chiroptophobia due to this insofar that they were genetically predisposed to develop it. Though we do not definitively know what causes someone to develop chiroptophobia, we can definitely look closely at several different potential causal factors.
Chiroptophobia Treatments (abridged)
There is no treatment that is specifically designed for chiroptophobia. Nevertheless, exposure therapy may be quite advantageous. This form of therapy is one of the most common forms of treatment for people suffering from phobias. Just as the name implies, exposure therapy works by having the therapist slowly expose the patient to that which they fear. In context to chiroptophobia, it won’t be a good idea to literally expose the patient to a bat for obvious reasons. However, there are other ways this can be done.
For instance, the therapist can “expose” the patient to bats by showing them a picture of a bat and/or videos of bats. Looking at these different forms of media will likely spark intense amounts of anxiety in the patient. Though this may seem like it is destructive to do this, it may be extremely beneficial in the long run. Theoretically, the more someone is exposed to their fear, the less their fear will bother them.
Anti-anxiety medication may also be able to help reduce some of the symptoms associated with chiroptophobia. However, merely taking medication by itself may not be enough to truly improve this condition in the long term. This has to due with the reality that the patient will most likely need to learn how to improve their thinking patterns and/or behavioral patterns. Such adeptness must be learned through practice.
If you think you may have chiroptophobia, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can get properly diagnosed or treated.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Chiroptophobia
CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with chiroptophobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.
CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with chiroptophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with chiroptophobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.
Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with chiroptophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Chiroptophobia
MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from chiroptophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with chiroptophobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.
Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of chiroptophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Meditation for Chiroptophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from chiroptophobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimeous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.
Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from chiroptophobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.
For someone with chiroptophobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.
To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of chiroptophobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.
Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with chiroptophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Exposure Therapy for Chiroptophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as chiroptophobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with chiroptophobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.
The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with chiroptophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their chiroptophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with chiroptophobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.
Exercise for Chiroptophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including chiroptophobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.
According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of chiroptophobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.
There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of chiroptophobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with chiroptophobia over time.
Yoga for Chiroptophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from chiroptophobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with chiroptophobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.
There are many different types of yoga that someone with chiroptophobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with chiroptophobia.
If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of chiroptophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Reducing Caffeine for Chiroptophobia
It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with chiroptophobia to experience panic attacks.
So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.
Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with chiroptophobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Chiroptophobia
DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like chiroptophobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.
One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with chiroptophobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.
Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with chiroptophobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.
Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with chiroptophobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your chiroptophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Psychiatric Medications for Chiroptophobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe chiroptophobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.
These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their chiroptophobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.
These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as chiroptophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of chiroptophobia.
These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of chiroptophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.