The Ultimate Test in Fear; ANXIETY EXPERT WANTS PEOPLE TO FACE THEIR PHOBIA OF SPIDERS

Article excerpt

Byline: MAXINE FRITH

DOES THIS picture make you want to run screaming from the room, or leave you cringing as you try to turn the page without touching the spider?

If so, gather your nerve and read on - medical research needs you.

A London academic is looking for 50 people who are terrified of spiders to take part in a unique experiment.

Armed with a tarantula called Emily and various other props, Professor Paul Salkovskis of King's College London wants to measure feelings of fear and disgust in people when they are confronted with the creature of their nightmares.

He believes that genuine disgust and loathing of spiders may play as much of a part in some people's phobia of them than the more common feelings of fear and anxiety.

About 30 per cent of people admit they are terrified of spiders, and eight per cent suffer from arachnophobia, where their fear can literally rule their lives.

Professor Salkovskis said: "I have seen people who have become housebound recluses because they are so terrified of spiders.

"They will not go to the supermarket in case a spider comes out of a box of bananas, and they tape their windows and doors up because they want to stop spiders getting into their home.

"These are people who dread the beginning of the 'spider season' in May because they know they will see them everywhere.

"People with really serious fears are convinced that spiders will bite them, or get under their skin and lay eggs, or even make them so scared that they will have a heart attack and die. …