Hold an earthworm in the air and many children will shy away and perhaps even run screaming to remove themselves from the presence of the worm. This fear may be common in childhood, but when it invades the life of an adult it becomes known as Scoleciphobia. A secondary worm phobia is known as Helminthophobia. This fear exists due to the fear that an individual’s body will be overtaken by worms. These would be the parasitic type worms shown below.
It may be easy to believe that this fear may have to do with boys who love to go fishing intentionally trying to scare young girls with their bait. That may work for stories with a Mark Twain feel, but the truth is the fears expressed come from a variety of backgrounds.
What Causes the Fear of Worms?
Dr. Deborah Miller shares a story on EMOFree.com about a patient who had a fear of worms. What started as a therapy session designed to deal with Scoleciphobia (fear of worms) ended up being a session dealing with Helminthophobia (fear that the worms will invade the body). The patient could not stand to even think about worms. Her discomfort was extremely high.
Dr. Miller explains, “She lives in a country (Mexico) where it was quite common at the time of her childhood that almost everyone got intestinal worms. She, at the age of 6, got worms. She was given a local herbal remedy to get rid of them. She remembers going to the bathroom and seeing the worms wiggling in her feces. At which point she started screaming. Her mother came to take care of her but just stated it was normal. She didn’t get a hug nor was she placated for being afraid of having these worms inside of her.”
From the age of six onward this woman lived with the same fear she felt seeing worms in her stool and never understanding why.
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Symptoms of Worm Fears
Individuals who have a fear of worms may feel as if warm weather is an enemy. Rain can send them into a panic. So much so that some will insist on moving to a dry climate to avoid an encounter with worms. These individuals may also take extreme precautions if they must use a public restroom.
Other symptoms include…
- Panic attacks
- Air hunger/hyperventilation
- Elevated heart rate
- The urge to scream or cry
- An incredible sense of dread
How to Overcome the Fear of Worms
Dr. Miller (discussed above) uses tapping therapy with her clients, but there are multiple other therapies available including hypnosis and peer counseling.
Some Doctors suggest simply immersing the patient in with what they fear most. While this works in some cases it can serve to enhance the fear in others.
If you are seeking therapy consider all options and then begin to confront and master your fear.