1 in 4 Americans Rank this Animal as a Top Fear (Hint: Not Snakes!)

Written by Crystal
Published: February 25, 2023
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What animal do one in four Americans rank as a top fear? Here’s a hint: it’s not a snake! Over 45,000 known species of this creepy crawly creature exist worldwide in all sorts of habitats. Follow along as we reveal the animal that’s giving everyone nightmares: the spider.

Survey Results: What Animal Ranks as a Top Fear?

Phidippus regius, regal jumping spider

A lot of spiders have enlarged abdomens and long furry legs; they can scurry along walls and crawl unexpectedly out of drains.


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Spiders scare 24% of Americans. In fact, in terms of fear, only snakes and heights outrank spiders. Spiders are feared more than flying, storms, needles, or darkness.

What Causes a Fear of Spiders?

It’s not 100% clear what causes a fear of spiders, appropriately named arachnophobia. For some, it’s all about how these animals look and move. Big or small, spiders can look creepy! A lot of spiders have enlarged abdomens and long furry legs; they can scurry along walls and crawl unexpectedly out of drains.

Traumatic Experiences

It’s possible that arachnophobia could stem from past traumatic experiences. The brain remembers being scared, possibly from a childhood incident, and sends panic signals to the rest of the body when a spider is nearby.

Traumatic experiences can vary too. What’s traumatic to one person might not seem significant to another. It’s all about how you felt when you had the experience. For instance, if a spider scares you while you’re driving and causes you to get in a car accident, this would be a traumatic experience. Waking up in the middle of the night to a spider in your room can also qualify. So does watching scary spider-related movies!

Learned Behavior

Childhood encounters with spiders can affect how we feel about these animals as adults. If you saw your parents reacting in fear at the sight of spiders, you may have learned to adopt the same behavior. The more a child experiences spider-sightings paired with an anxiety response, the greater likelihood arachnophobia will develop as a result.

Genetic Mutations

There’s also a theory that genetic mutations can increase your risk of developing arachnophobia. The amygdala center of your brain is what controls fear. Since neurochemicals can overstimulate this area, a genetic mutation can skew how you see the world. You may be more prone to arachnophobia if you have this single gene defect.

How Do I Conquer My Fear of Spiders?

Counseling is one of the ways to overcome arachnophobia. During counseling, you may learn relaxation techniques to help you calm your mind. You could also enroll in cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of talking therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy works on rearranging the way you behave and think. It’s a useful tool for treating anxiety, which usually fuels arachnophobia. Another common approach to phobias is exposure therapy. A professional will slowly provide exposure, starting with a low-threatening stimulus, such as a photo of a spider. Over time, and with varying degrees of exposure, you may be able to stand within a few yards of a spider, or even hold a dead one in your hand.

Learn the Truth About Spiders

Learning more about spiders can also be helpful. Find out what spiders are all about. For instance, did you know that they’re an essential part of our ecosystem? Big and small spiders help balance insect populations. If there weren’t any spiders, crops would be decimated by pests.

So, the next time you see a spider crawling outside your home, don’t rush to kill it. Spiders can protect your home and yard by managing insect populations. Instead of killing the spiders you see outside, do what you can to prevent them from coming into your home.

What Are Spiders Afraid Of?

Did you know most spiders hate the smell of lemons and oranges. They also steer clear of strong scents such as tea tree, cinnamon, peppermint, and eucalyptus oil. You can even spray vinegar around your home to help keep spiders away.

It doesn’t take long to spider-proof your house. Find a spray bottle, fill it with water, and add vinegar or 20 drops of your preferred oil. Spritz the concoction around the house anywhere you’ve seen spiders hanging out.

Remember, spiders are also afraid of humans. Clear out their hiding spots if you want to eliminate spiders around your home. Most will take their business outside if there isn’t anywhere to hide from people.

What is the Deadliest Spider?

Most Venomous Spider

The most dangerous spider is the funnel spider, which comes from Australia and has highly potent venom.

©James van den Broek/Shutterstock.com

Fear aside, showing a healthy respect for spiders is wise. After all, certain species are deadly!

But what spider is the deadliest worldwide? Though surprising to many, it’s not the black widow or the brown recluse.

The most dangerous spider is the funnel spider. This spider comes from Australia, and it has highly potent venom. The venom contains 40 different toxic proteins that kill very quickly. Even though there are spiders with deadlier venoms, the funnel spiders’ venom acts the fastest.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Protasov AN/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Crystal is a dedicated writer at A-Z Animals, focusing on topics related to mammals, insects, and travel. With over a decade of experience in the world of research and writing, she also fulfills the role of a skilled video and audio engineer. Residing in sunny Florida, alligators are Crystal's favorite animal.

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