Zoophobia: The Extreme Fear of Animals

As the name itself says zoo phobia refers to the fear of animals. Most of the time this fear is from a specific type of animal. However it can be possible for a person with zoophobia to have fear from all types of animal. This is one of the many types of specific phobias. The specific phobia is an anxiety disorder in which you have developed the fear of something like an animal, object or any situation.

What Is the Reason Behind Fear of Animals?

Well, the exact cause of zoophobia is not known. There are possibly several factors that could contribute to the development of this condition.

1. Negative Experience


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Having some negative experience can cause you to fear any animal. For example, a person who has attacked by a dog will develop a fear of dogs. And that is very natural or common amongst humans.

2. Learning Behaviors 

You may also learn to fear of animals from someone who is close to you such as a parent or sibling. For example your parents terrified of snakes so you may learn to fear snakes as well.

3. Genetics


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There is a possibility that genetics may also play a role in specific phobias.

4. The Fear Processing

We always process fear and anxiety in different ways. Some people just be more anxious compared to others and making them more likely to develop a specific phobia like zoophobia. 

A person can have a fear from all the animals however the fear can also from a particular animal. 

Here are some common animal phobias.

Fear of cats: ailurophobia

Fear of spiders: arachnophobia

Fear of dogs: cynophobia

Fear of bats: chiroptophobia

Fear of insects:  entomophobia

Fear of horses: equinophobia

Fear of worms: helminthophobia

Fear of reptiles: herpetophobia

Fear of bees: mellisophobia

Fear of mice and rats: musophobia

Fear of snakes: ophidiophobia

Fear of birds: ornithophobia 

Fear of crops and toads: ranidaphobia

Fear of fish: ichthyophobia

From the above list, two types of animals stand apart: snakes and spiders. A study in 2020 found that these animals account for the most zoophobia.

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The Fear of Fish or Ichthyophobia

The word ichthyophobia comes from Greek ichthus (fish) and phobos (fear). It is quite common to be afraid of sharks (Galeophobia), but many times, individuals have the fear of small or harmless fish. This irrational or persistent fear of fish called ichthyophobia or fish phobia. 

Many cultures, especially the Navajo tribes, known to have fear from all aquatic animals, including the fish. Hence, the entire tribe termed as ichthyophobic, however the fear is not physiological as much as it is cultural or mythical. It is the belief that all aquatic beings are taboos and thus they refuse to touch or eat them or even dive deep into water bodies.

In case of fear of fish that originates due to the psychological factors, this phobia can cause the individual to be afraid of living or dead fish. Sometimes people tend to have full blown panic attacks even at the sight or thought of fish. This can affect a person’s mental health.

What Are the Causes of Fish Phobia

As with all of the specific phobias, fish phobia also begins with a negative or dramatic episode with the fish. Mainly in childhood.

  1. As a child, the phobia might have developed by pranks by his or her siblings or friends who might have shown a dead fish. In this case a phobia recalls terrified in the past.
  2. Sometimes children with superior imagination tend to believe that the small fish are as large as great white sharks. It may sound funny but it could deeply affect children’s health.
  3. Fish are smelly creatures, people with anxiety disorders tend to believe that fish are responsible for many illnesses and diseases and that can lead to mercury poisoning and so on. This is the most common trigger of ichthyophobia.

Overcoming the Fear of Fish

If your child has fish phobia then the siblings or friends can help by showing how fish are harmless creatures. They can put their hands in a small fish bowl to catch the goldfish. Similarly, children can also be gradually exposed to pictures or movies or aquariums having fish until they get comfortable enough. Not only the fish phobia but also any kind of zoophobia can be treated by this method.

Hypnotherapy is another powerful technique that helps you to get rid of the phobia. This method is very helpful in older persons who can learn to rationalise their fearful thoughts and change them into positive ones. 

In extreme cases, it is worthwhile taking an antidepressant for other medication to reduce anxiety. An experienced psychotherapist can also help or cure your phobia. All phobias can be treated with the help and support of family and doctor.


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