Treating entomophobia during the cicada emergence

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MIAMI VALLEY, Ohio (WDTN) – The mating call of the cicada is getting louder as the population of Brood X continues to grow above ground. Dr. Christina Waite said the hype around the emergence can increase anxiety surrounding the bugs.

Dr. Waite is the Medical Director for Psychiatry at Miami Valley Hospital. She said the large population can be overwhelming.

“We’re not used to seeing these critters in such large numbers and they’re loud,” Dr. Waite said. “I think social media this time has been more involved in the anticipation. So, I think there’s more anxiety than I’ve experienced in my former two exposures.”

The fear of bugs is called entomophobia. Dr. Waite said it can be so severe that people have a difficult time functioning or going to work.

“The good news is it’s very treatable and even curable,” Dr. Waite said. “For most cases it works really well just to desensitize yourself.”

She said the first step is to start looking at pictures.

“I would probably start with reading about the fascinating aspects of this creature because they really are interesting,” Dr. Waite said. “Who else can live in the ground for 17 years come up and do their thing and then die.”

“It’s something that only happens every 17 years and you’ve got to grab a hold of it and you’ve got to experience every bit of it and see it for what it is,” Sherri Raderstorf said. “Which to me is a miracle.”

Raderstorf said she wanted to work with her grandkids to make sure they aren’t scared of the cicadas.

“We had quite an emergence and these guys came over and we explored,” Raderstorf said. “We even did some dissecting of some that didn’t quite make it. We just got really excited this week when so many came out.”

Before the emergence she read a book called “Cecily the Cicada” to the kids.

 “It’s just a really fun book that talks about the life of the cicada,” Raderstorf said.

 Dr. Waite said the next step to overcoming a phobia is watching videos. She said after you feel comfortable watching videos of moving cicadas you can start to interact with a few outside.

“I think the key is to have (children) with someone they trust. Start with a comfortable distance at first so they don’t feel really frightened,” Dr. Waite said. “It really does work. I’ve had several adults tell me, ‘they didn’t believe this when I first talked about it, but it does work.'”

“I just wanted to make sure that my grandkids were not the least bit afraid or concerned about it,” Raderstorf said. “So, we’ve just been having a lot of fun talking about them.”

“I would say they’re kind of scary at first but you just got to make yourself do it,” Emma Richardson said, “and then you’ll get used to it.”

Richardson is one of Raderstorf’s grandchildren.   

“I got to see one come out of it’s shell one time and it’s kind of amazing because they’re really big when they’re born,” Richardson said. “I was shocked how they fit in that tiny little shell.”

“I think it’s a miracle,” Raderstorf said. “The whole processes I think is miraculous and I think it’s important for kids to have an appreciation of creation and how amazing this world is.”  

She said Richardson didn’t want to interact with the cicadas very much at first.

“By the time you left you put one on my head and on my shoulder,” Raderstorf said. “You realized they were harmless and they can’t do anything to you.”

Dr. Waite said there is medication that can help if exposure isn’t working.

“You can actually go for an evaluation obviously and get some treatment in place for severe anxiety,” Dr. Waite said. “We use antidepressants. We use beta blockers like blood pressure medication to help prevent the heart palpitations and all of that panic feeling you get.”

She said some fears are genetic.

“Some people have needle phobias and actually pass out when they see needles or blood,” Dr. Waite said. “They can’t do anything about it themselves without treatment. So it can certainly be genetic.”

A lot of phobias are also developed during childhood.

“You can learn it from your parents and siblings if they act frightened obviously,” Dr. Waite said. “You need to just go through these steps with the kids and if you are frightened maybe have an adult, who can calm the child, and who’s not phobic, talk to the child and show them pictures and explain things.”

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