DEAR KELLY: I’m crazy afraid of frogs – and it’s not a joke. They freak me out. My friends say there’s a problem with me, but I don’t know why I feel this way. I was never bitten by a frog or anything like that, so I can’t explain it. People say I’m over-reacting, but I’m serious about being terrified if I see or even hear them croaking. I worry when I’m around people if I see a frog if I will embarrass myself and scream or cry. What do you think? Am I the only person who has this frog thing?
DEAR DC: Don’t worry. You are not alone. People have phobias and fears of so many things. The fear of frogs is called ranidaphobia, an extreme aversion to frogs. A lot of people squirm or jump if they see frogs, but people with ranidaphobia have severe reactions to frogs and can experience intense anxiety or panic attacks by the sight, sound, presence or even thoughts of frogs. Since frogs are good at blending into their environment and can surprise us at any time by jumping out of bushes or trees, people who suffer from ranidaphobia can become anxious being outside or at places they believe frogs may be hiding.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment the fear started, but most of the time there is something around frogs that you witnessed or experienced that created the feelings you have when you see a frog. Since our early memories of being a toddler are typically not strong, you may not remember if something happened. For many people, their fear of frogs developed from watching a frog die violently. But it doesn’t have to be a big traumatic moment, but just a moment that somehow equated uncomfortableness or unease with frogs. Little life moments can create large life fears.
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The goal should be that while you may never love frogs or be excited to hold one, they don’t create the reaction in you that happens right now and feels terrifying and overwhelming. If the fear grows from just disliking frogs to avoiding situations where frogs may be present, then you need to probably consider speaking with a professional to help you deal with your aversion. When the phobia causes us to change our daily life patterns or prevents us from living our lives with freedom to go where we want to, it may be playing a larger role in your life than you know. A trained professional who specializes in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or hypnotherapy may help overcome this fear and help you to let go of the irrational thoughts that surround your fear.
Phobias are learned behaviors. Our brains are made to recognize dangers and respond in a way that protects us from potential harm. This helps in situations that pose real threat and danger, but can become distressing and restricting when there is no real danger or when the danger can be handled in a way that is safe and poses no threat. Because they are learned behaviors, they can also be unlearned if the right approach is used and you develop safe feelings when dealing with frogs.
How you move forward depends on how fearful you are. If you can freak out at the sight of a frog even if it’s on paper or TV, you could benefit from having a professional help you work through the reaction and the feelings connected. If it’s more like, “I just don’t like frogs because they are ugly little creatures and have weird legs but they don’t cause me to panic if I see one,” then you may just need to be OK with not being a fan of frogs, just like people hate spiders or lizards. If you feel embarrassed or like you need to hide your fear, go talk with someone so you don’t carry the shame around and let it infuse into other areas of your life. Recognizing that most everyone has fears and working through the feelings associated with your fears can help you move forward and no longer experience the intensity of emotion around exposure to whatever scares you.
The good news is that your fear can be managed if you reach out and get help with your feelings. You aren’t silly or dumb for feeling the way you do – it feels very valid to you. Ask your parents for help with your fear and let them know that it is a common phobia called ranidaphobia, and that with professional help, you can let go of your anxiety and no longer be worried about facing frogs.