Good news for the millions of arachnophobes out there. The next time you see a giant, long-legged spider crawling across your kitchen counter, there’s an easier solution than burning down your house and moving to a new state. Researchers say they’ve found a cure for spider phobias.
As with many phobias, the reason why certain people are so damn scared of spiders, while others aren’t, is hard to explain. It could simply be a culture thing. For example, 55 percent of women and 18 percent of men in the West admit to being unnerved by arachnids; meanwhile, certain Eastern cultures consider fried spider a fine delicacy. (Check out a delicious recipe for deep-fried tarantula here.)
As such, this new “cure” for arachnophobia involves teaching yourself to forget that you’re a scaredy-pants. For the study, recently published in Biological Psychiatry, researchers grabbed 45 brave arachnophobes and placed a tarantula in front of them. Immediately afterward, the participants were randomly given either a single dose of the beta blocker propranolol or a placebo drug.
Propranolol, which is used to treat high blood pressure, heart conditions and reduce traumatic memories in adults, had a positive effect on the participants who took it. For the next year, they reported being less likely to crap their pants around spiders. Yes, that’s the scientific term for reduced phobia.
Propranolol has also been found helpful in treating PTSD. Participants in a 2010 study were given a dose immediately after memory recall — as in the spider study, when they were confronted with a tarantula — and then given another dose two hours later. The propranolol “fragmented” the traumatic memories and created a partial amnesia. The drug didn’t erase the memory; it reduced its emotional intensity.
Propranolol is useful for handling stressful memories because it blocks the effects of noradrenaline and adrenaline, which make your heart race and blood pressure increase. Of course, more research and testing is needed. In the meantime, try watching this video of the goliath birdeater tarantula of South America, the world’s largest spider.
If you get to the point where that looks delicious, you’re cured.