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Health Fusion: Afraid of spiders and snakes? Getting connected to nature may help those phobias

What's so scary about spiders and snakes? For some people those animals trigger extreme fear and anxiety. In this episode of NewsMD's "Health Fusion," Viv Williams explores a study that shows how a connection to nature may help ease those phobias.

Spider
Fear of spiders is a common animal phobia (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
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ROCHESTER — This story is for one of my friends who has a true spider phobia. She's terrified of them. The fear, at times, trashes her quality of life. I've know her to avoid social events and suffer panic attacks at the thought of running into a spider when heading to the basement to do a load of laundry.

Animal phobias are real and considered a type of anxiety disorder for which there's treatment.

Researchers from Hungary, the Czech Republic and Portugal did a study that shows feeling connection to nature is linked to a lower risk of spider and snake phobias.

They say this information could mean that a connection to nature might be protective against spider and snake phobias, which are two of the most common animal phobias.

“Analysis of our data showed one clear picture: the more you like nature and feel a part of it, the less you are at risk of developing a snake or spider phobia, an anxiety disorders which can significantly lower your quality of life,” says Dr Jakub Polák, study co-author from Charles University in the Czech Republic.

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The researchers say it may be a chicken and egg thing — a connection to nature might cause less fear and/or people with low fear are more interested in nature.

Either way, they say their research is one more example of the health benefits of nature for mind and body.

The study is published in the British Ecological Society journal, People and Nature.

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Follow the  Health Fusion podcast on  Apple,   Spotify and  Google podcasts. For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at  vwilliams@newsmd.com. Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.

MORE HEALTH FUSION:
A dog's sense of smell has helped to find missing people, detect drugs at airports and find the tiniest morsel of food dropped from a toddler's highchair. A new study shows that dogs may also be able to sniff out when you're stressed out.

Opinion by Viv Williams
Viv Williams hosts the NewsMD podcast and column, "Health Fusion." She is an Emmy (and other) award-winning health and medical reporter whose stories have run on TV, digital and newspaper outlets nationwide. Viv is passionate about boosting people's health and happiness by helping them access credible, reliable and research-based health information from top experts. She regularly interviews experts and patients from leading medical institutions, such as Mayo Clinic.
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