What is Vermiphobia?

Vermiphobia, also known as scoleciphobia and helminthophobia, and related to teniophobia (fear of tapeworms), is the irrational fear of worms, especially parasitic worms. In extreme cases even the sight of a worm (or anything that looks like a worm) may cause the sufferer to have a panic attack. Vermiphobia is usually associated with a fear of unhygienic conditions and the belief that worms represent poor hygiene or diseases.

Helminthophobia is a specific phobia that derived its meaning from the Greek word “helmins”, which means “intestinal worm.”

Symptoms of Vermiphobia

Sufferers may believe that worms are crawling on them and may have real itching sensations. The phobic may avoid soil or refuse to use public restrooms and may excessively examine their feces for signs of parasites. This fear may have associated Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) symptoms in which the phobic might wash or bathe several times a day or take extra precautions like cleaning the home or yard, or shutting doors and windows, etc.

  • 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 Vermiphobia

Fear of worms can be associated with primal fears of injury in the manner of reptiles, poisonous snakes, etc. Worms might be thought of as “tiny versions of snakes” and can thus evoke disgust or fear of injury or disease.

Unconscious / subconscious causes such as a traumatic sexual experience may play a role.

Vermiphobia 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. (A 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.

Vermiphobia, 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 Vermiphobia

  • 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.