While worms are not usually the most popular animals with the human public, these small invertebrates are not dangerous or a threat to humans.

However, under the right circumstances, an excessive and irrational fear of these animals can develop. This is known as escolequiphobia . In this article we will describe what it is, as well as its symptoms, causes and existing treatments to combat it.

What is escolephobia?

The escolequiphobia presents itself as a fear of worms that is excessive, irrational and uncontrollable . This condition belongs to the group of anxiety disorders, specifically to specific phobias.

Although experiencing an aversive sensation or manifesting an explicit dislike for these small living beings is very common, when this aversion turns into a pathological and incapacitating fear we can speak of escolekaphobia.

In order to know the difference between a usual or ordinary fear and a phobia or pathological fear we must find out what direct consequences this fear has in the daily routine of the person who suffers it.

This way, if a person feels repulsion or aversion to worms but they don’t interfere with his or her life in a major way, he or she doesn’t have to suffer from escolephobia. However, if the person experiences a strong anxiety reaction to the presence of these animals, it is recommended that he or she consult a professional in psychology .

In order to know exactly if a fear, in this case the fear of worms, possesses the category of specific phobia, it is necessary to review the characteristics of the fear that the person experiences. Those requirements or qualities characteristic of the phobic fear are the following.

1. It is disproportionate

The first point to take into account in order to differentiate between a normal fear and a phobic fear of worms is that the latter must be disproportionate to the real threat that the phobic stimulus represents.

The reaction of fear to the presence of these invertebrates must be intense and exaggerated, taking into account the real danger they pose to the physical integrity of the person.

2. It is irrational

The person suffering from phobic fear is unable to find a justified and reasonable explanation for his or her reaction. Similarly, sometimes the person is perfectly aware of how harmless the phobic stimulus is, but still cannot help but generate an anxiety response to it .

3. It is uncontrollable

The fear that a person with escolephobia feels is completely incoherent and, in addition, absolutely uncontrollable. Therefore, the person is unable to produce or eliminate the feelings of anxiety and fear.

These sensations appear automatically and mechanically and will only be extinguished when the person has managed to escape or avoid the phobic stimulus.

Your symptoms

In addition to the characteristics of phobic fear, another dimension that allows us to identify an anxiety disorder is its own symptoms.

As with all other specific anxiety disorders, in cleft palsy the person experiences an excessive reaction of nervousness and anxiety . Within this symptomatology, three groups of symptoms are included: physical symptoms, cognitive symptoms and behavioural symptoms.

However, as with a wide range of psychological conditions and disorders, not everyone who suffers from it experiences exactly the same symptoms not with the same intensity. Rather, both the incidence and severity of the disorder may change from person to person.

The following are the three groups of symptoms characteristic of phobias and their characteristics.

1. Physical symptoms

When the person with escolephobia is in the presence of the phobic stimulus, worms in this case, a process of great hyperactivity in the autonomic nervous system is initiated. This hyperactivity causes a great amount of changes in the organism, among which we highlight the following.

  • Elevation of the heart rate.
  • Dizziness and trembling .
  • Choking sensation.
  • Increased sweating levels.
  • Sensation of pressure in the chest .
  • Feelings of anguish and nausea
  • Gastrointestinal problems.
  • Sense of confusion .
  • Blackouts.

Cognitive symptoms

The response of fear and anxiety conditioned to the appearance of the phobic stimulus is due to the fact that the person, at some point in his life, made an association of this stimulus with a series of irrational ideas .

These thoughts, in this case related to worms, stimulate and provide the development and maintenance of the phobia and are characterized by presenting a series of ideas with little or no basis in fact about worms, their characteristics and particularities.

These thoughts are characterized by the following peculiarities:

  • Obsessive worm speculation.
  • Intrusive, irrational and absolutely uncontrollable thoughts about worms.
  • Mental images of a catastrophic nature.
  • Fear of not knowing how to handle the situation and ending up losing control.
  • Sense of unreality.

3. Behavioral symptoms

Like other phobias and specific anxiety disorders, escolequiphobia is usually accompanied by a large number of behavioral reactions or manifestations that appear in response to the aversive stimulus.

The purpose of these acts is either to avoid directly encountering the phobic stimulus, or to try to escape, in the event that the person has been unable to avoid the object of the phobia. These first behaviors are known as avoidance behaviors, while the second ones refer to escape behaviors.

Avoidance behaviours are carried out with the intention of avoiding the encounter with this type of animals. In them the patient executes all kinds of behaviours to avoid the possibility of coinciding with the stimulus that is the object of the phobia. This is to avoid experiencing feelings of anguish and anxiety generated by the worms in the person.

As for escape behaviours , these are generated when the person has not been able to avoid encountering the feared stimulus, so he/she will carry out all kinds of behaviours that facilitate escaping from the current situation as soon and quickly as possible.

What’s the cause?

Determining the origin of a phobia is a very complex task since there is no single trigger for the disorder. However, there are a number of factors that can facilitate the development of a phobia.

However, the genetic predisposition of the person linked to the presence of a traumatic event or situation related in some way to the worms will very possibly trigger the appearance of the aforementioned phobia.

Is there a treatment?

In cases where the fear is disabling or interferes with the person’s daily life, treatment for escolephobia can be initiated. In this treatment, psychotherapy is used to modify or eliminate the erroneous thoughts and beliefs that end up causing the rest of the symptoms.

This psychotherapy is accompanied by techniques for the treatment of phobias such as live exposure or systematic desensitization and relaxation training.