What is it Herpetophobia?

Herpetophobia is the irrational, unwarranted and persistent fear of reptiles. It is a highly common animal phobia, and is classed as a specific, or “isolated” phobia.

Herpetophobia consists of fear of reptiles, commonly lizards and snakes, and similar vertebrates such as amphibians. It is one of the most diffused animal phobias, very similar and related to ophidiophobiaherpetophobia.)

Most individuals suffering from herpetophobia will fear harmless wall lizards, etc., as part of a blanket avoidance of the unknown, or a general fear of being bitten, attacked, etc.

The name originates from the Greek word “herp” meaning "reptile ".

Symptoms of Herpetophobia

The phobic may simply avoid gardens, zoos, forests or pet stores selling reptiles. In extreme cases, the sufferer might refuse to leave their home for fear of encountering reptiles.

  • extreme anxiety, dread
  • shortness of breath
  • rapid breathing
  • heart palpitation
  • excessive sweating
  • nausea
  • dry mouth
  • confusion / inability to articulate clearly
  • lack of focus
  • irritability
  • diarrhea
  • shaking
  • feelings of powerlessness
  • obsession with the subject of the phobia
  • fear or feelings of losing control
  • avoidance behavior
  • headaches

Learn more about phobia symptoms

Causes of Herpetophobia

Wild animals instill primal fear in humans for what may be primal reasons, stemming from “fight or flight” responses or fear of the unknown, etc.

Herpetophobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, centered on non-social key factors. Isolated phobias tend to have some previous trauma (often in childhood and often physically injurious) as a root cause; a fear of bees may stem from an injury in childhood, for instance.

Upbringing can also play a role, such as parental warnings about a direct threat (such as “snakes can bite and kill you”) which is especially notable in cases where a threat is more imminent. (An allergy to bees or peanut butter, for instance, would naturally reinforce a real medical concern.)

It is thought that genetics and hereditary factors may play a role in specific phobias, especially those related to a danger of injury. (The primal “fight or flight” reflex may be more easily triggered in those with a genetic predisposition, for instance.)

By contrast, social phobias (like a fear of body odor or touch) are less well understood, are driven by social anxiety and are broadly labeled as “social anxiety disorder”.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation or seeing something on the news or on TV and movies.

Herpetophobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.

Learn more about the causes of phobias

Treatment for Herpetophobia

  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
  • Habit strategies to relax
  • Cognitive therapy (CT)
  • In vivo exposure
  • Response prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

Learn more about phobia treatments


Book Shelf

The list of books below are hand picked by the staff at Massive Phobia. It's a mixture of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Habit Strategies, Trauma Healing, Mindfulness, Meditation, Buddhist Knowledge and Somatic Study. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.