How to Conquer your Fear of Snakes

Ophidiophobia or ophiophobia is a type of phobia or fear of snakes. It is sometimes called by a more general term, herpetophobia, fear of reptiles. This is one of the most common phobias, which is right up there in the polls with having a fear of public speaking, effecting more than 50% of Americans! The good news is that this phobia is also treatable with a little TLC, patience and some help from your friends here at New England Reptile Shows. 

During our shows we strive to spread awareness about these amazing animals in a safe and engaging environment, but we never force anyone to come close or touch anything if they are not comfortable. We have found that at every show that we do there is at least on person who leaves the show having a new found appreciation of reptiles. With countless numbers of studies and information on this phobia, we have come to understand one thing; education and exposure are the ultimate key in helping someone conquer their fears.

We were recently blessed with the opportunity to help a woman overcome her fear of snakes. We are honored to share her story in the hopes that someone out there will understand that there is hope and we are here to help.

 

My Experience With a Private Snake Phobia Therapy Session

“This is my story of how one seriously snake-phobic person, with the help of Eric, Emily and their family of snakes, was within two hours, comfortably wrapped in a 10-foot Python! The experience has positively changed my life forever. I only wish I had taken steps to conquer this fear decades ago because I know, without a doubt, that my life would have been easier, happier and less stressful if I had.
I contacted New England Reptile Shows through their website earlier this week with the following story in hopes that they might be able to help me. Within minutes Eric was calling me, patiently listening to my story, and we were scheduling a visit to meet a few days later.

I am a 55-year old woman who has suffered from a lifelong fear of snakes. I am an active outdoor enthusiast who spends countless hours hiking deep in the woods with my dogs, coming across coyotes and other wild animals – no problem. I love animals and have experience with all kinds including horses, chickens, cows. I have no fear of mice, spiders, lizards, etc. I’ve gone swimming with the dolphins and snorkeling with sting rays – no issues. But snakes, it is difficult to explain the utter panic I feel just thinking about one. Many a hike or day has been ruined when I came across one. Even my dreams were routinely invaded by the horrid creatures.

My husband and I recently purchased a lovely lakefront retirement house (our dream) that sits on a beautiful rock ledge – a perfect spot for snakes to sun themselves. And that’s exactly what I found – a smallish Northern Water Snake enjoying the day. Our new neighbor, after listening to me talk about my fear of snakes, proceeds to say, “Well I probably shouldn’t tell you about the 4-foot long snake that likes to swim between our camps.” O my, I thought I was going to pass out!

A few days later, after taking our first swim in the lake with friends and sitting on our boat enjoying a drink, I see a snake coming out of the water right where we had just been swimming, slither up our rock and go under our house. The blood drained from my head. It took every ounce of courage I had to get off the boat and go into the house. Of course, at the end of the dock, wouldn’t you know there was a smallish Garter Snake. For the rest of the night I jumped at every leaf blowing in the wind and creak in the cottage.

I left the camp that night wondering how I was ever going to live there without obsessively being preoccupied and worried about snakes. There is no way I would ever be able to swim in the beautiful lake again. My husband became concerned that we may have to sell this beautiful cottage that was our dream. For me, the dream was becoming a nightmare because of the few snakes I had seen.
As I faced the reality of what this unjustified fear of snakes could mean to the rest of my life and my marriage, I decided that I must take steps to overcome my phobia. I researched snake phobia online and watched videos of therapists and patients using behavioral exposure therapy. Once I understood the issue, that my brain (the Amygdala) was sending a baseless signal that the snake is something to be feared, I put a plan in place. I knew that I needed to find a safe place to expose myself to snakes and retrain my Amygdala to stop sending false positives. That’s when I contacted New England Reptile Shows.

I had four days to prepare for my session with Eric and Emily. During that time, I read all I could about exposure therapy and snakes, watched videos of therapy sessions, looked at pictures of snakes, watched videos of snakes on land/in water/hanging from trees, bought a few fake snakes and handled them every day, and visualized being close to a snake.

From the moment I arrived at Eric’s house, he knew exactly what to do. We started with some of the reptiles that I exhibit no fear of, such as lizards. We then moved on to a very small 8-inch snake. Eric handled it and I eventually asked if I could touch it (first time ever for me!). Step #1 complete. Eric and Emily were utterly patient and never pushed me – everything was within my control. All along the way we discussed all things snakes (behaviors, types, physiology, habits). Within 5-10 minutes I asked if he could place the snake in the palm of my hand but not let go. Eric and Emily decided that a coiled Ball Python would be the best choice for me to hold by myself as the snake would not be moving. Whew, Step #2 complete. I then asked to hold the small 8-inch snake. It was not what I expected, the feel of the snake was not slimy, scaly or scary. It took me just a few minutes to get used to the snake moving in my hands. From there, we rapidly moved up in size. Eric and Emily just kept bringing out snake after snake, bigger and bigger. Over the course of two hours we moved from that little 8-inch guy to a 10-foot Python. I was draping the big Boas over my neck and sitting on the couch with Steve Irwin the 10-foot Python. In fact, I found I enjoyed the feeling of the constriction and the snake moving on me. I even got a little tongue-to-tongue kiss from Steve Irwin!

With the help of Eric, Emily and their snakes, my Amygdala was successfully reprogrammed! I had assumed, and was planning, that this process would likely take me multiple visits. I am astounded at what we accomplished in two hours (actually, the reprogramming was complete in the first hour after I held a couple of snakes).

Eric has even come up with a plan to bring Charlie, a 6-foot Red Tail Boa that loves to swim, to our lake house so I can experience swimming with a snake in the ultimate exposure therapy.

There is no way I would have ever believed that I could do this, absolutely no way. I find it just incredible that within an hour I went from having an almost paralyzing fear of snakes to having a 5-foot Boa comfortably draped around my neck. Who knew?

Thank you, thank you, thank you Eric, Emily, and all the snakes (too many to name here!) for helping me overcome my fear and positively changing my life forever. I’m sure I’ll be calling to get a “tune-up” in the future and I’ll be writing to let you know how my first encounter in the wild goes! I’m looking forward to swimming with Charlie soon!

Without hesitation, I would strongly recommend the New England Reptile Shows for anyone looking to overcome a snake phobia. If I did it, anyone can!”

~Debby L.

If you or someone you know has a fear of snakes or any reptile, or if you want to learn more about snakes and other fascinating creatures in the reptile world, book a show and see some popular species up close with New England Reptile Shows and conquer any phobias!