Animal phobias - causes and therapy

Animal phobias - causes and therapy

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Respect for other animals is a primal experience of the mammal with a spread thumb, an upright gait and a large brain. Man developed with his culture out of the other animals. Fears of animals that appear in dreams, however, still show us our phylogenetic roots.

Animal man-eater

No human fear is more elementary than being eaten by an animal. Aliens from distant planets, dragons, great white sharks or werewolves - the man-eating animal is the central motif of the horror novel.

At the same time, the “man-eater” radiates power that people admired at all times: rulers adorned themselves with the skins of lions, leopards and tigers; the arms of the knights adorned bears, wolves and eagles. Heinrich the Lion; Richard the Lionheart or the Wolf of Badenoch were just a few of the innumerable names that rulers gave each other to show that they went into battle like predators.

On the one hand, the non-human animal is related to the human animal (siblings), on the other hand, they are alien and hostile to each other (opponents).

The evolution of fear

Going from prey to hunter (or from hunter to prey) is the quintessential horror film today. Sometimes it concerns real and today living animals like a groin crocodile in the mangrove forest of Australia in Blackwater, Komodo dragons or the white shark of Spielberg; Sometimes mutations satisfy our longing to be hunted: gene mutated sharks in deepwater, or gene mutated dogs in wilderness, bizarre gene hybrids in Frankenfish. Extinct predators that wake up also provide us with thrills: dinosaurs in Jurassic Park or basking sharks in Megalodon.

Our ancestors met predators ten thousand years ago, against which today's Serengeti looks like an amusement park. There were lions, tigers and leopards, crocodiles, giant snakes and sharks as well as today - but there were also megapredators that early humans could do little against: a gigantic relative of the Komodo dragon in Australia, the Kurschanuzen bear the size of a horse in America or saber-toothed tiger . The superior technique, not skill or strength, made us superior to the animals.

But the herbivores that our ancestors hunted were also extremely defensive: mammoths, woolly rhinos or aurochs took their toll. This is proven by regular bone fractures in Neanderthals in the shoulder and pelvic area, as we know them today from rodeo riders or stuntmen.

Our fear, not morality, turns prey into monsters. Evolution has no morals, and the blue whale saurian Lipleurodon differed from a blackbird that eats a worm only in that it was at the top of the food chain.

From prey to ruler

Why are we fascinated by the man-eating animal? Political scientist Ingolf Ahlers explains: “It all starts with the archaic primal experience in which the human animal is a prey for non-human predators. And that was there, because this primal fear of being defenseless, defenseless and helpless has been so terrifying, so profound and so irrepressible that we humans have performed and performed it dramatically in blood sacrifice rituals to celebrate the victory over the non-human animals. "

According to Barbara Ehrenreich, people show solidarity towards their own group in times of war to an extent that is hard to imagine in peace. She suspects in the positive feelings that the war triggers the defense of early human groups against superior and man-eating animals.

The “victory” of the human animal, however, called for a high price, namely the alienation of man from himself. In Christianity and the West, the animal became a symbol of unreason, instinct, the sensual and dirty. The animal impulses had to be killed. But the repressed is breaking its course. Today we find the victim of the deity in supposedly necessary animal massacres for the cosmetics industry as well as in slaughterhouses.

Animal phobias

When the fear of animals becomes overwhelming, we speak of animal phobias. Almost all people do not like certain animal species and individuals. Disgust, contempt or hatred are not phobias yet.

Fear is vital, and if our ancestors weren't afraid of wild animals, they would probably have died early. An anxiety disorder is present, however, if this fear is exaggerated first and secondly exists almost exclusively in the fear holder's imagination.

The person trembles, his heart is racing, and he suffers from breathlessness if he only thinks about the animal in question. Then his stomach troubles torture him and the cold sweat breaks out. He is so afraid of the fear of being afraid that he systematically avoids being able to meet the trigger of the fear, from the snake phobic who refuses to walk in the Lüneburg Heath because he could step on an adder to the shark phobic, that doesn't set foot in any sea.

This avoidance behavior can have a massive impact on everyday life. Some of the frightened no longer dare to leave their apartment.

The fear is not only exaggerated, a phobia is above all inappropriate; it breaks itself without the trigger influencing the reaction.

A phobia shows itself as fear of expectation: the phobic expects disaster that comes from his object. But if this mischief does not occur, that is, neither a dog bites him nor a horse tramples him, this does not relieve the fear, but his fear tells the phobic that he was lucky.

He feels the environment like the viewer of a horror film. He senses, yes, he knows that the horror is hidden behind every corner. Unfortunately, phobics often also gain pleasure from this fear. The fear paralyzes them and lets them break out the sweat, but that is exactly why it triggers strong feelings, and, like in a scary story, he feels relieved when he has survived “it” again.

Every phobia also carries the risk that it acts as an elementary part of the emotional experience, and at least the unconscious would not want to do without it.

Not only animal phobics are constantly looking for confirmation of their fears. In the case of a general anxiety disorder, the fear owner keeps finding new monsters behind the horror: “fine dust”, invisible rays, aliens or demons.

Such anxiety disorders are a basis for conspiracy delusion. If you do not share the unfounded fears, you are one of the conspirators.


Every animal phobia is different. The parents have a decisive influence. Especially with spider phobias, the mother probably already suffered from this fear in every second affected person and passed it on to the children.

That has a lasting impact. Young children learn unconsciously from their parents, and fear is an extremely important signal. It signals danger to the child and the mother is the essential caregiver to provide security and to warn of dangers.

Animal phobias can also arise because an animal was present during a situation of fear, for example, when a toddler gets lost and panicked for his mother and a crow crosses its path. Later it unconsciously associates fear with the crow and even forgets the event itself.

Or a war-traumatized man sees dogs sniffing corpses between the ruins of a bomb crater and the images of dog, war and death are memorized.

For example, the image of the wolf as a man-eater was fixed in the Thirty Years' War. Central Europe was destroyed, in northern Germany every second died of hunger, violence or epidemics. The wolves returned to areas they had long since left, and the traumatized survivors saw them eat corpses like carcasses. The carnivore only benefited from the catastrophe that wreaked havoc, but it became a symbol of war and death.

The trigger of the fear symbol doesn't even have to be a living animal. Perhaps a man as a little boy was afraid of his grandparents in the attic and saw a stuffed owl in a dark corner or an older lady who frightened a girl was wearing a fox fur as a scarf.

People with specific anxiety disorders are generally prone to stress; Their organism is constantly on the alert, and apart from animal phobia, they usually also suffer from other fears and delusions.

Animal phobics who do not admit their disorder always find “confirmation” on the object of their fear. An unreflected shark phobia, for example, will look for the one that deals with the fatal attack on a surfer from a hundred T documentaries about great white sharks.

Some animal phobias turn directly into a conspiracy craze. This is particularly evident in the fear fantasies about the wolves returning to Germany, which overlap with the projections of racists.

This leads to animal phobias that have a purely symbolic origin, but which the person concerned is not aware of. For example, behind a cat phobia can be the fear of the perceived sexuality of women, which a sexually uptight man splits off and perceives as fear of cats, and then dreams of cats that jump on him while he is in bed.

What the respective animals stand for in such phobias can almost always only be found individually in therapy. However, some transmissions are clearly visible: there is the young man who builds up hatred and anger within himself, does not admit these feelings and sees bestial dogs raging everywhere. Or the good-natured employee, who is afraid of snakes, who are waiting for her and poisoning her, while her colleagues exploit her and "poison" the working atmosphere through slander.

Some phobics also fear only special animals of one kind: white pigeons, dark cats or black labradors.

As is usually the case with mental disorders, phobia is a mental trick to design a life strategy. The exaggerated fear of a phobic is in him and not a legitimate reaction to the object of fear. But when fear is linked to an external object, it is supposedly manageable by the fear owner avoiding the object.

But with the phobic, this crutch of the psyche blocks the affected person, because fear keeps him trapped. His fear remains, whether the object is nearby or not.

Animal phobics “confirm” their fear by convincing themselves of how “dangerous” the animal is. Tragically, they often only trigger behavior that confirms them, especially in dogs, cats and horses.

Dogs are extremely sensitive to unusual behavior, they smell fear in the literal sense, more precisely, they do not smell fear, but the fragrances that the body emits in extreme states of mind. In the dog's perception “something is wrong”. If the person affected then reacts frightfully, that is, moves hectically, screams or trembles, this means for the dog: alarm.

The escape animal horse shies when a man shies. It scratches its hooves, it neighs, and it jumps back.

In cats, phobics are in a particularly difficult situation. If the phobic shrinks back, the cat is frightened and jumps away, or humps and hisses because it is afraid, which confirms the phobic. However, if the phobic behaves extremely restrained, the cat will steer him precisely, regardless of whether other people are calling or distracting him with gestures. The bad luck for the phobic: the more a person holds back, the more the cat feels safe and is attracted to him.

Spiders, dogs and cats - the most common animal phobias

The ten most common phobias in front of certain animals are arachnophobia, the fear of spiders; Apiophobia, fear of bees; Ophidiophobia, fear of snakes; Elasmophobia, the fear of sharks; Cynophobia, fear of dogs; Herpetophobia, fear of lizards and other reptiles other than snakes; Ailurophobia, fear of cats; Equinophobia, fear of horses; Murophobia, the fear of mice and Bufonophobia, the fear of frogs and toads.

The fear of spiders is common worldwide. On the one hand, this is due to their anatomy with eight legs around a round body, which is very different from the familiar mammalian anatomy, on the other hand, spiders move quickly and, in addition, many types of spiders are poisonous, some even fatal to humans.

Parents often transmit their fear of spiders to their children. For example, a teacher called her neighbor because there was a spider in the kitchen. The neighbor came, standing with her son and daughter in a corner of the living room, pale-faced, pointing to the closet and shivering, "There." The neighbor finally found a small and harmless spider on the cupboard.

Spider fear often points to deeper psychological conflicts. So spiders in the subconscious stand for “being spun into a web”, that is, leading a life determined by someone else. For example, a student dreamed for years in front of a giant spider that was chasing him. He came from a very conservative parental home and tried to free himself from it through defiantly pubescent behavior. The fear images of his dreams also led to fear of real spiders; in every strange apartment he looked carefully to see if there was a spider hiding somewhere.


Bee phobia is primarily the fear of being stung by a bee. Beware of bees, because a bee sting causes pain, and some species outside Europe even cause severe poisoning.

If you suffer from bee phobia, you react with fear to everything that you associate with bees. For example, he flinches when a technical device buzzes because it reminds him of a bee or he avoids blooming flowers because bees could be there.

We should not confuse such a phobia with an allergy to bee stings. Allergies have good reasons to exercise special caution towards bees, because a sting in the wrong place, for example in the throat, can be fatal to them.


The fear of snakes is part of our genetic heritage. Other primates such as chimpanzees or vervet monkeys fear snakes and even avoid objects like long sticks that are reminiscent of snakes. Horses shy away from the sound of spray cans, which reminds them of snakes and garden hoses.

In countries with lots of venomous snakes, in Africa or South America, the locals kill every snake they see. Even the harmless blind crawls, legless lizards, fell victim to snake fear in this country for centuries.

The fear of snakes is understandable from an evolutionary point of view. Only a minority of the snakes are poisonous, but bites from cobras, kraits, mambas, rattlesnakes or many vipers lead to death without treatment.

Our subconscious understandably does not differentiate between poisonous and non-poisonous snakes, because to distinguish between them would cost important moments in which the snake might bite.

In the mythology of Europe, the snake is also negative. The “devilish snake” that seduces Eve is synonymous with Satan, and the dragon, the adversary of the Christian knight, borrows its attributes from her.

In other cultures, snakes, on the other hand, are not only negatively populated: the cobra that straightens up and thus remembers the penis is even considered an animal of the Hindu god Shiva, and anyone who dies from a cobra bite automatically enters the cycle of rebirth.

In Germany, fear of snakes has no real object. The only venomous snake in this country is the highly endangered adder, and its bite rarely ends in death.

Snakes are predators, some are poisonous, they move silently, camouflage themselves and are fast. That makes them scary. In addition, as with spiders, there is their strange physiognomy. They move without legs, they make no sounds except for their hissing, and their eyes look unemotional.

A snake phobia often stands for the fear of being helplessly exposed to a threat: its poison paralyzes, strangled snakes choke their prey, and snakes seem to appear out of nowhere when they come out of their caves after winter.

So if you are symbolically afraid of being “poisoned”, if you “feel paralyzed” because you don't know how to get out of a strange life situation that “crushes” you, you may develop a snake phobia.


The fear of sharks is also part of our genetic heritage. Only four species of sharks are dangerous to humans, especially the great white shark, the tiger shark and the bull shark. The tiger shark is the “garbage-eater of the seas”, with its wide mouth it eats almost everything that fits in it, whether sea turtles, manatees or rope.

The Great White Shark is against its reputation, not a systematic man-eater, and most of its attacks on divers or surfers are probably tests that it looks at, "what is this?" So he tries to bite something like we finger it. Otherwise, Great White Shark attacks would not result in injury, but fatal.

The bull shark is ultimately the most dangerous because it looks for its prey in the sand near the shore, i.e. where people bathe. Many victims of supposed white sharks fell on his cap.

Peter Benchley wrote the novel "The Great White Shark", and the adaptation by Stephen Spielberg became the most successful film of all time. Unfortunately, he fueled the fear of fish worldwide, which Peter Benchley later bitterly regretted while devoting himself to protecting endangered sharks for the rest of his life.

Benchley was initially amazed at the success of his novel, but then realized what was behind it. According to him, the Great White Shark is the ultimate monster in the human unconscious. In his realm, the ocean, he is the undisputed ruler and his element is foreign to man. It comes from the depths (also of our subconscious) to the surface (of consciousness?), Has a huge mouth full of triangular teeth and has been a "type of success" for millions of years.

After the “Great White Shark”, many people worldwide hardly dared to go into the sea anymore, and the film shows how media can activate a phobia, which, however, already exists as a biologically anchored caution.

The fear of sharks is also an example of how little evolutionary animal fears have to deal with real dangers: worldwide, barely more than a dozen people die from shark attacks every year, so every car trip is more dangerous than bathing in a sea where Swimming sharks.


Dog phobia is probably the most common exaggerated fear of animals due to the fact that we encounter dogs all the time. The dog is our oldest pet, and the only animal that developed bioculturally with humans.

Although dogs are becoming more and more part of the patchwork life in the big city today, from the “handy” French bulldog to the Rhodesian Ridgeback of the active athlete, the non-alienated experience with working dogs, which was only a few generations ago, is disappearing.

A negligent lack of distance from other dogs is increasingly accompanied by excessive fear. After pit bull terriers attacked children, boulevard media fueled the hysteria towards alleged fighting dogs. The image of the beast with its bared teeth became an image of fear in many minds.

A jogger who asks a dog owner to put a kangal on a leash, who runs towards him barking, does not suffer from phobia but shows justified fear, and parents who warn their children not to touch strange dogs even behave in an exemplary manner .

On the other hand, there is a phobia if someone freezes with fear or sweats because a dog is under the next table in the cafe, or if someone changes the street because a golden retriever comes on a leash to meet him.

An extreme phobia leads to the person even avoiding places where he could meet dogs, avoiding the hunter fence behind which a German shepherd lives, or not visiting acquaintances who have dogs, even though he knows that they are the animals keep away from him.

Dogs on TV, even advertising dog food or talking about dogs can trigger the fear reaction. In the worst case, someone no longer dares to leave the house because a dog could be waiting outside.

His everyday life suffers because he makes detours in order not to meet a dog. His fear is transferred to his children, or the children suffer from the fear because they can no longer move freely with their father / mother.

A dog phobia can come from archaic fears of the wolf, which is why psychologists also speak of canophobia, the fear of canine-like animals. However, the relationship between early humans when these archetypes were stored was ambivalent, and most people in Europe separated this ambivalence into the "good" because of subjugated dog and the "bad" because of uncontrolled wolf.

The dog understands humans better than any other animal, and much better than humans dogs. No animal is therefore suitable for the object of human projections, and dog phobias often show that these are social fears.

Therapy is about finding out what the phobic fears about dogs. Does he fear that the dogs will bite? Does he suppress his sexuality? This is also possible, because the "bitch in heat" was a picture of unbridled sexuality in different cultures.

Fear of dogs is essentially justified, because the dog is a larger carnivore, and individuals of many breeds are physically capable of killing a person, and there are fatal incidents with dogs in every society.


If the dog phobia is based on a traumatic experience with a dog, it is not a phobia in the scientific sense, but a trauma. As with all fears of an animal, learning through confrontation is helpful.

With a trained dog, the frightened person learns to overcome his fear step by step. The stronger the fear, the more the unwanted will resist the encounter with reality, but at least the person concerned learns to no longer fear certain dogs. Such therapy begins with showing the person concerned pictures of dogs or watching films about dogs with him. Then the therapist brings him into distant contact with dogs, for example by walking with a dog on a leash at a safe distance. If the therapy turns out to be cheap, in the end the person concerned may dare to pet a dog.

Such therapy with dogs is particularly successful in phobics who learned their fear from their parents. The situation in therapy alone helps here, in which the caregivers who are scaring are not present.

In dog phobias, which express a different trauma, the therapy on the model is not very successful: dogs seek physical contact and are very group-related. If, for example, the person concerned has sociophobia, i.e. if he shuns group situations and isolates himself from other people, he will keep this phobia even if he gets his fear of dogs under control. The phobia persists.

When analyzing the dream of dog phobics, it is important to take into account the cultural background and individual experiences. The dog is like all animals, also an archetype that shows itself in REM sleep. The human brain inserts such archetypes into the experiences of the individual and they are also shaped by a cultural superstructure. A Muslim who suffers from dog phobia and grew up with dogs being unclean develops a different world of symbols than a dog phobia in a large German city, where dogs are considered family members.

For example, dog phobics dream of dogs attacking them. The dog is the animal that is closest to us, so it symbolizes the tamed drive, which is also strong. Is the scared maybe afraid not to control his instincts?

Dog phobias can also be specific and occur even in people who grew up with dogs. For example, the son of a village teacher, whose father himself had a Weimaraner, developed fear of German shepherds that grew so large that he did not dare to walk past the properties in the village on which German shepherds lived. He had seen a documentary about German shepherds that mangled the prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps, and at the same time scared him of the mentality of the reactionary farmers in the village.

Wolf phobia

"They don't belong in densely populated Germany"; "The number must be reduced drastically"; "Our children can no longer go out of the house"; “Cuddlers sneak them across the border in the trunk”; "I have nothing against her, but ..."; "They are uncivilizable robbers"; “Cosmopolitan city dwellers are doing a field trial, the rural people are paying the bill”; "The government is covering up the damage"; "They eat everything away;" "Now we have to protect ourselves". Such sentences are used by racists when they stir up to the pogrom.

This time, however, the object of hatred is not (only) for immigrants on two, but on four legs: Brown populists find a new enemy, unnoticed by right-wing extremism research: the wolf. The target group of hate propaganda are shepherds, horse owners and the rural people.

The FB profiles of the loudest on pages such as "Wolf-No thanks" give a clear picture: Holocaust denial, the NPD demand "death penalty for child molesters", advertising for Pegida, agitation against migrants; everything is there that makes the brown swamp stink.

The wolf is the perfect example of a culturally transmitted fear. Wolves have been living in Germany again since 2002 after having disappeared 150 years ago, and the old fears filled the headlines of the tabloid press from the start.

In some wolf areas, residents no longer dare to go into the forest, and if they do, only with pepper spray. Wolf haters represent factual information about the wolf, which is actually harmless to humans, as an embellishment, and this propaganda is linked to fears that can be called up.

Destruction fantasies developed by the Wolfhetzers clearly show the projection: The wolf is a great predator - just like humans. That is why human warriors have always defined themselves over him.

The wolf also shows how phobias can be fueled by myths, lurid reports in the Yello Press and unreflected archetypes of the unconscious. Wolf phobics behave like other fear aficionados. They are largely resistant to education. They wipe out factual information as a conspiracy of conservationists who would make their money with the wolf and outperform themselves in citing wolf attacks on people who at best make an elephant out of a mosquito and a monster out of an animal.

Openly racist pamphlets of so-called wolf skeptics and classic conspiracy fantasies show that excessive wolf fear is a general anxiety disorder.

Successful education, especially among young people, shows that traditional fears do not automatically end in phobias.

Cat phobia

Millions of cats live in Germany and millions of people around the world are afraid of them. Generals who fearlessly conquered foreign countries were afraid of a harmless predator - including Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great.

Most cat phobics are men. The zoologist Desmond Morris consequently interpreted the fear of cats as a fear of female sexuality; worldwide, the cat is a symbol of woman's lust.

The Germanic goddess of fertility Freya rode a wagon drawn by wildcats, and the European wildcat, whose rolling cries were unmistakable, was the symbol of physical love for the Germanic people. The Christian churches kept this symbolism and literally demonized it. Lust was the work of the devil, and the witch, who had sexual intercourse with the body, turned into a cat to investigate her misdeeds.

To defeat the devil, the witch hunters burned live cats at the stake, drowned them in rivers, or threw them down the church tower.

Cat fears are likely to be more widespread in countries where cats have a bad reputation. In Iran, for example, cats rarely live in the family, they fight their way through the streets, they are tortured, beaten with stones, or their babies are thrown into the desert.

Such contempt is not the same as phobia. Some cat phobics like cats, feel when the animals are tortured and put food for stray cats. But when they are in a flat with a cat, their hearts race, sweat breaks out and at night they dream of cats that jump on them.

Cat anxiety can be treated as well as dog anxiety through desensitization. Zuerst sieht der Therapeut mit dem Betroffenen Bilder und Filme über Katzen an, erklärt ihnen sachlich deren Verhalten, dann beobachten beide zusammen Katzen aus sicherem Abstand und tasten sich Schritt für Schritt an Katzen heran, sitzen, wenn es gut läuft, irgendwann gemeinsam mit einer Katze im Zimmer, und im besten Fall, streichelt der Angshthaber am Ende die Katze.


Die Angst vor Reptilien bezieht sich selten auf einen bestimmte Art von Echsen, sondern auf alles, was echsenartig aussieht. Häufig ist dies auch mit einer Phobie gegenüber Fröschen und Kröten verbunden.

Eine Grundangst kann kulturell überliefert sein. In Ostafrika zum Beispiel fürchten Einheimische die harmlosen Chamäleons: Die Tiere bewegen die Augen unabhängig voneinander, wechseln die Farbe und gelten deswegen als gefährliche Zauberer.

In Europa ordneten die Christen Echsen, Schlangen und Kröten dem Teufel zu. Unser älterer Teil des Gehirns heißt treffend auch Reptiliengehirn. Hier sitzen die archetypischen Impulse wie Angst, Kampf, Flucht oder Fortpflanzung. Reptilien stehen für unsere “niederen” animalischen Triebe in ihrer archaischen Form, und wer sich vor Reptilien fürchtet, diese als glitischig ansieht und zudem Probleme mit seinen eigenen Körpersäften hat, auf extreme Reinlichkeit Wert legt und in der Natur Angst hat, sich schmutzig zu machen, spaltet vermutlich seine Körperlichkeit ab.

Das zeigt exemplarisch die christliche Kultur, die nicht nur Reptilien, sondern alles Körperliche im Wortsinn verteufelte und die körperlose Geistigkeit als Ideal erhob.

Angst vor Ungeziefer

Läuse, Flöhe, Wanzen, Ratten und Mäuse sind Tiere. Die Angst vor solchem “Ungeziefer” lässt sich zwar ebenfalls als Tierangst bezeichnen, hat aber mit einer spezifischen Angst vor bestimmten Tieren wenig zu tun.

Die Vorsicht gegenüber Lebewesen, die stechen, Blut saugen, kratzen und Krankheiten verursachen, ist berechtigt. Phobikern reicht es aber nicht, die Wohnung zu saugen und sich die Plagegeister vom Leib zu halten.

Sie können nachts nicht schlafen, weil sie Angst haben, dass Mäuse unter dem Bett sind; wenn es kratzt, vermuten sie wie ein Hypochonder einen Floh am Werk. Ein unbekannter Geruch im Kleiderschrank deutet auf Wanzen oder schlimmeres.

In harten Fällen lassen sie keine Fremden ins Haus, weil die “Ungeziefer” mit schleppen könnten. Sie lassen ihre Kinder nicht zu Freunden, weil die mit Läusen zurück kehren könnten. Sie nötigen Gäste, sich intensiv zu waschen, wenn sie die Wohnung betreten, sie waschen panisch ihre Kleidung und duschen mehrmals täglich; sie gehen nicht in den Wald aus Angst vor Zecken.

Solche Menschen haben ein extrem entfremdetes Verhältnis zur nichtmenschlichen Natur.


Manche Tierphobiker wissen, dass sie ein Problem haben, und dass sie, und nicht die Tiere, die Quelle ihrer Angst sind. Bei dieser Einsicht ist eine Therapie möglich.

Andere Angsthaber verstehen überhaupt nicht, dass sie an einer Angststörung leiden. Sie finden ständig Bestätigung dafür, wie fürchterlich die entsprechenden Tiere sind. Sie misstrauen jeden, der ihre Angst vom Kopf auf die Füße stellt, Aufklärung betrachten sie als Angriff auf ihre Identität.

Derlei Gestörte haben nicht nur ein Problem, sie sind oft auch ein Problem für andere Menschen, insbesondere, wenn sich ihre Phobie auf Tiere richtet, die den Alltag mit Menschen teilen.

Ruft die Angst nämlich zur Tat, terrorisieren diese Hunde- und Katzenphobiker ihre Nachbarn, die Hunde oder Katzen halten. Sie rufen die Polizei, weil ein Hund sie im Park angeblich angreifen würde; sie beschweren sich beim Vermieter, damit der Nachbar seine Katze weg gibt. Sie unterstellen freundlichen Hunden, bissig zu sein und reden den Besitzern ein schlechtes Gewissen ein, stellen sie als rücksichtslos dar oder unterstellen ihnen finstere Absichten.

Bei einer spezifischen Angst vor Tieren des Alltags wie Pferden, Hunden, Katzen oder Spinnen bietet die Konfrontation den besten Erfolg. Sie erfolgt behutsam, eine “Schocktherapie”, in der ein Phobiker unvermittelt auf eine Spinne trifft zum Beispiel, zementiert die Furcht wahrscheinlich statt sie zu besänftigen.

Neben der direkten Konfrontation sollte eine Psychotherapie stattfinden. Zum einen geht der Analytiker mit dem Betroffenen dessen Bilder über das betroffene Tier durch und vergleicht sie mit der Wirklichkeit, klärt über das Verhalten der Tiere auf. Zum anderen untersucht, ob, und wenn dann welche symbolischen Ausdrücke sich hinter dem Tierbild verbergen. Dann gehen Betroffener und Analytiker diese Bilder systematisch durch. Es empfiehlt sich ein Traumtagebuch anzulegen.

Tierphobien bei Kindern

Die Behandlung von Tierphobien bei Kindern sind besonders wichtig, denn die meisten Tierphobien formen sich in den ersten Lebensjahren.

Ängste vor Tieren sind bei Kindern nicht nur normal, sondern gehören zu unserem stammesgeschichtlichem Erbe. Wie alle anderen Tiere war das menschliche Kleinkind in ständiger Gefahr gefressen zu werden. Archetypische Träume trainieren lebenswichtiges Verhalten, und deshalb ist es kein Zufall, dass Kinder, bevor sie kulturell erzogen werden, von Tiermonstern träumen, vor denen sie sich verstecken, die ihnen auflauern, und die sie fressen.

Viele Kinder entwickeln in den ersten Jahren zudem eine gesteigerte Angst vor bestimmten Tieren – sei es der schwarze Hund vom Nachbarn oder Papas Reithengst. Auch eine solche Angst, die sich sogar als Phobie bezeichnen lässt, ist völlig normal: Aus der Perspektive eines Dreijährigen erscheint ein Pferd riesig und ein großer Hund wie ein Löwe, eine Katze, die abends zum Fenster herein guckt wirkt wie der böse Troll aus dem Märchen.

Zudem trennen Kinder unter vier Jahren noch nicht zwischen dem magischen Erleben ihrer Träume und der äußeren Wirklichkeit. Wenn Kinder mit vielen Tieren aufwachsen und mit ihnen positive Erfahrungen machen, gibt es wenig Probleme; Angst entsteht aus Fremdheit.

Problematisch wird es, wenn Kinder erstens keinen engen Kontakt zu Haustieren haben und ihre Eltern Phobien auf die Kinder übertragen; dann wird eine beginnende Phobie schnell chronisch.

Therapeuten sollten Kinder langsam auf die Angsteinflössenden Tiere zuführen. Golden Retriever, Labradore oder Neufundländer eignen sich hervorragend, um die frühe Furcht in Begeisterung zu ändern.

Eltern, die selbst unter einer Tierphobie leiden, tragen eine besondere Verantwortung, reflektiert mit ihrer Angst umzugehen und zu vermeiden, dass die Kinder später ebenfalls darunter leiden. Mit Haustieren aufzuwachsen, wirkt sich nämlich ausgesprochen positiv aus. Die Kinder lernen nicht nur Verantwortung zu übernehmen, sie finden auch Partner, deren Wert gerade darin liegt, dass sie keine Menschen sind, sie lernen von Hunden bedingungslose Liebe und von Katzen Autonomie. Eine Phobie aber raubt ihnen einen fruchtbaren Teil ihrer Lebenswelt. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


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