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Arachnophobia
A Real Success Story

by Caroline Compton
(Take A Break, 4 June 1998, Issue 22)


Kathy was usually fearless but spiders terrified her. Then she went to the zoo...

Kathy Warlow pushed open the barn door and stepped inside. It was cool and dark. She could hear the dog barking in the distance, the sheep bleating in the end fields.

'Jennifer,' she called, are you in here?'
Silence. Then the straw rustled. Kathy wheeled round. 'Jennifer?'
But it was just a rat, scuttling away.

Rats didn't bother Kathy. Seeing the occasional rodent was all part of growing up on a farm. Seven-year-old Kathy and her older sister weren't afraid of any of the animals, not the bullocks nor the pigs. Not even the snakes which sometimes slithered across the grass.

There was just one thing that frightened them...Aaaggh!' Jennifer leapt out from behind the feed sacks. 'It's a spider. It's in my hair. Do something.' But Kathy had already turned and fled.

In the farmhouse kitchen their mother was nursing their baby sister. 'Don't be so daft, it's only a spider,' she said. 'Honestly, I don't know where you get this from. If you go on like this you'll make Caroline frightened of them too.'

She was right. In time Caroline, like her sisters, grew up terrified of spiders. Years later Kathy met Roy Watts. They married. He accepted her the way she was, spider phobia and all. 'I don't know why I'm so scared of them,' she told him', 'but I've been like this for as long as I can remember.'

If Roy heard Kathy give an ear-splitting shriek he knew there was a spider in the room If she saw one on television she rushed out in blind panic.
Their son Tom didn't mind spiders. 'Don't worry, Mum, they can't hurt you,' he'd say.

But it seemed nothing could rid Kathy of her irrational fear.
It was bad enough at home - but spiders get everywhere. If she saw one in a shop she'd rush out into the street, screaming. Her heart pounded, her body shook and she was soaked in sweat.

'It's so embarrassing,' she told Roy.'Everyone must think I'm mad.'

Deep down she began to worry that one day she'd see spider and collapse heart attack.

Then, Kathy, of Goodwick Square, Fishguard, Clwyd, read about a special programme being run at London Zoo. It promised to cure arachnophobia in just a few hours. 'If only...' she thought.

Roy was sceptical when he saw Kathy off on the London train. After all, she'd tried hypnosis twice and that hadn't helped.
Tom was more positive.'You'll beat it if you really want to, Mum,' he said.

'There were 20 people in all on the Friendly Spider programme. After a talk about spiders they met a hypnotist.

'Just imagine your biggest fear is floating away on a balloon,' he said. 'Far away, never to return...'

He brought them out of the trance.

Kathy still felt apprehensive when it was time to walk to the spider house. She didn't think she could come eyeball to eyeball with a spider.
'I don't think it's worked,' she whispered to the lady walking next to her.
'Neither do I,' came the nervous reply.
In the spider house they were shown a little glass box. Inside was a small brown house spider. People were invited to reach inside, catch the spider with a glass and then let it go. And one by one everyone did. Even Kathy. She felt elated.
Then the keeper brought out a tarantula.

Back home that evening Kathy showed Roy the photograph. There she was,
with something the size of a furry orange with legs sitting in her hands.
'If anyone had told me I'd one day be able to hold a tarantula, I'd have said they were crackers,' she said.

Since then Kathy, 46, has astonished herself by catching several spiders in the house and putting them outside. She still jumps when she sees one - but they no longer terrify her.

The other day she rang Jennifer. 'It worked for me,' she said. 'Now I want you and Caroline to make the trip to London Zoo. Then we'll all be cured.'

To find out more about the Friendly Spider programme call 0171 449 6470. The contact there is Paul Pearce Kelley. For information about anxiety and phobias you can write to the Psychiatry Research Trust, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London SE5 8AF.


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