Ophidiophobia is the term for the irrational fear of snakes, a subtype of zoophobia, a fear of animals and herpetophobia, a fear of reptiles.
Around one third of the human population is “ophidiophobic” meaning the fear of snakes is the most common known phobia.
Studies had shown, this is the case because mammals have a hardwired reaction to snakes and spiders, that make them reflexively flee from the vicinity of these animals.
This is an evolutionary response, that allows mammals to quickly identify and avoid the threat in order to survive.
Origin of the term
The condition was first coined as “ophidiophobia” in 1914.
The term is comprised of the Greek words ophis, which means snake, and –phobia, which means fear.
Charles Darwin tells an anecdote in his 1872 work, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, in which he recalls an occasion where he put his face closed to a puff-adder with the determination of not backing away from the animal, should it strike toward him. However, when this occurred, Darwin couldn’t help but jump away.
Spread of the term
During the 20th and the 21st century, further research had determined, that this is an adaptive phobia, which serves a function in survival.
Isaac Marks, Randolph M. Nesse and George C. Williams have found that people with deficient responses to these adaptive phobias are far more likely be temperamentally careless and find themselves in fatal accidents.
- Rehabs.com – Is Ophidiophobia an Evolutionary Trait?
- Healthline – What You Need to Know About Ophidiophobia: A Fear of Snakes