A phobia is an irrational and uncontrollable response to an outside stimuli. This results in (depending on the person) the body producing high amounts of epinephrine, thus causing a "fight or flight" response. A panic.
The key words here are irrational and uncontrollable.
I've always gotten a strange adrenaline rush and butterflies in my stomach whenever I saw large spiders (especially tarantulas) in movies. For example, I have a hard time watching the scene in Lord of the Rings where Frodo is being chased by a giant spider. Or in Harry Potter when Ron and Harry are almost eaten by all those freakishly large spiders in the Forbidden Forest.
I first realized how bad my phobia was when I went with my cousin to pick up her child at kindergarden. I went into the classroom because my cousins kid wanted to show me their classroom "pets". She first showed me the bunny rabbit (it was so cute) and then she wanted to show me the other classroom pet: a spider. I took one look at it and I stumbled backward and froze. The tarantula was in a cage and I was completely safe but I was still a little shaken up.
Last year at field school I came across my first wild tarantula. I was sitting in my tent and I saw the silhouette of a giant spider crawling on the outside of my tent. I froze to the point that I couldn't even scream. After a few seconds I got up and ran out of my tent.
And now here's the story which prompted me to write this blog: A few days ago I was hiking and I came across a real, wild, running tarantula. After screaming at the top of my lungs, I ran. And then it happened: my body went into a complete panic. I felt sick. I was hyperventilating. I was crying uncontrollably. My body was shaking. I felt like the spider was crawling all over me. My lungs started to tighten up and I felt like I was going to pass out. I had experienced my first panic attack... and guess what? It was at work with 3 people who don't care about me. So what happened next? I sat on the ground and cried and just let my panic take the best of me while my co-workers starred and made fun of me.
The problem with phobias is that people try to calm you down by saying things like: "Its ok. Spiders are nice" or "They won't hurt you. You are bigger then they are". I know that. I know that the spider is not going to hurt me. I know that I am bigger. I know... I know. That is why it is a phobia that I have and not just a fear. I could not control my response. I could not control my reaction. I look back on the situation and I feel stupid and embarrassed. It would have been nice to have gotten a hug or some kind of positive encouragement during my panic (which I suggest you do if you see someone having a panic attack), but hey you can't always get what you want.
The thing that people don't realize is that 18-20 percent of people have phobias like this. Its an anxiety disorder and there is nothing to be ashamed of. The funny thing is that some people won't ever find out they have a phobia because they may never come across the "trigger" like I did. Well at least now I know... I need to steer clear of tarantulas. Simple.