Friday, September 7, 2012

Cockcroach Phobia: Katsaridaphobia? How did I get it?

Roach phobia also known as Katsaridaphobia / Blattodeaphobia.

Phobias Really Cramp Da Style
As in all phobias, roach phobia is irrational. It doesn't make sense. It is crippling.

People with this phobia do anything they can to avoid roaches. Unfortunately, avoidance is a tactic that would not really work when it comes to roaches, because these six-legged terrors are EVERYWHERE. And they are here to stay.

I was once a very successful roach breeder. Meet Big
Mama and some of her babies.
Ease That Phobia
I remember my earliest memory of roaches stalking me as a child (recounted HERE). I continued to have horrifying experiences with cockroaches into adulthood. Thing is, I dissected cockroaches in high school and also as a Entomology graduate student at Virginia Tech. And 'The Ultimate' - had a stint as Cockroach Rancher boasting 500 hissing cockroaches.

All this roach-handling should have blown away my phobia.

Well all that helped. A lot. But I'm still afraid of them!

(Read Fear of Cockroaches to help deal with the phobia).

How Do Phobias Start?
I delved into what creates a phobia, in the book Hypnotism: A Hypnosis Training and Techniques Manual and found that phobias can be learned, created by a traumatic event, or a way of coping with generalized fear i.e. by placing all that unformed fear into (for example) a fear of spiders. I don't think I have a 'second hand fear' - getting the fear from my parents - because neither my Ma or Pa are scared of cockroaches. My Pa, growing up, slept on the wood floor in the family grocery shop and had cockroaches running all over him all night. Roaches don't bother him at all.

My phobia most likely originated at childhood (which I talk about in my previous post).

Masochistic Me
Strangely, although I was terrified of roaches, I had a morbid curiosity about them. I remember picking up The Nest from the used book store, and tortured myself reading it from beginning to the end. It's about cockroaches that develop a taste for human flesh. I might actually even watch the movie The Nest.

By the way, while cockroaches won't bite a chunk out of your thigh, they do eat the skin and other particles that fall off humans.

Hmm, now that I'm thinking about this - could my hands-on approach to tackling my cockroach phobia have led to me study entomology? After all, I did take up scuba diving to face head on my fear of drowning. (I now love scuba diving, but am resigned to aquaphobia for life).

Do you have a fear of cockroaches? How do you cope? Or not? Would love to hear from you!

xo Gracie

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  1. You are a seriously brave lady, i could never study insects.. interesting read though..

    1. Thanks Jemima! I think maybe I am more curious than brave - although afraid of insects especially roach-like ones, I am fascinated by these creatures.

  2. Wow, we have a lot in common.
    I am desolated to know that even though you "learned" how to be around them, you never actually overcame the fear... I had high hopes.
    I'm terrified of cockroaches. The reason I found this blog is that they seem to be persecuting me tonight. I've been living in my apartment for 3.5 years. I had never seen a cockroach in the apartment -- although they are common in the building lobby during the warmer months. The thing is, I live in a tropical country (Brazil). It is quite common to have cockroach phobia around here (perhaps because roaches are SO common), which doesn't make it less painful for us. My friends and family get mad at me because I scream and scare them when I see one on the streets and things like that. Also, I'm a biologist. While in college I intentionally enrolled in an entomology course which I knew used Periplaneta as a "model". The intention was, of course, to deal with this ridiculous phobia... Well, I cancelled the course after the first class, in which the teacher made us open a cockroach's head. :-/ Also, I'm only terrified of Periplaneta, I think. I have had to deal with other species in my life and it doesn't freak me out, even if I find them disgusting.
    So tonight, I was at my desk for hours, at night (of course). I got up and left the room for not longer than 2 minutes. When I came back, there is was, under my desk: a HUGE cockroach. I couldn't believe it. My house, my room. However terrified, I did not loose sight of the thing until my roommate, who fortunately was already inside the building, entered the apartment. So she killed it, and I immediately knew I had to desert my home until we called for a pesticide company to come over. I decided to go to my sisters house, which NORMALLY WOULD have roaches, but is constantly fumigated. So, when they show up there, they are always dead. But, of course, the sequence of events is that: they get in, they get intoxicated and, eventually, die. But I sleep late. So I was working in my laptop and every little noise made me think it would be a cockroach, etc. Then I realized there WAS actually one, two feet away from my bed (I was in a mattress on the floor...). It didn't notice me, so I observed it for minutes. Then it ran to the hall and was behaving strangely, so I thought, optimistically, that it was dying. But NO. It ran into my sisters bedroom like a lightning, and that's when I burst in and killed the damn thing (with a shoe, which I left on top of it for the next hour because I couldn't deal with it). I'm 27 and I had never actually killed one. I felt very empowered because a few years back I was almost run over by a car because I saw a cockroach. I have had insane behaviors like this all my life. So I was happy thinking that I was improving on this. From those behaviors to tolerating being near one was BIG leap. And killing it was a HUGE leap. Of course, I am totally paranoid now and won't sleep until the sun rises...
    Just to end this gigantic post, I did all of this without panicking... But that scared me. It resembles a feeling I had when I was robbed with a gun pointed to my head and was able to keep my cool. Only much later did I actually feel something relating to the incident. Is this some kind of "shock" state, perhaps? Tonight, I started feeling the anxiety only much later, when I decided to clean up and throw the dead thing in he trash. Now I can't sleep because, even though I feel able to kill it if I must, I am terrified that it will crawl on me while I'm asleep. I feel like an insane person.

    1. Dutty, thank you for sharing your experiences as a person with cockroach phobia and in a way I guess it is nice to know that you are not alone in your suffering. It looks like you have done everything you can to overcome your deep fear of cockroaches, and you certainly have made HUGE progress towards being able to cope with cockroaches since you actually managed to kill one. And hats off to you for attempting to face your fear by signing up for that entomology course - you are one brave lady! I guess you don't have much choice except to find some way to cope, since those awful Periplaneta are so abundant in the warm humid tropics. There might be some way to roach-proof your room eg insect screens over the windows, and beneath the doors to seal any cracks that roaches can slip through, plus (of course) obsessive cleanliness. I feel your pain, hang in there!


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