Musophobia: The Extreme Fear Of Mice And Rodents In General


The universe of specific phobias is almost endless Let’s say that we could describe as many specific phobias as there are people in the world, the result of individual variability, which is why only the most frequent ones appear in nosological manuals.

For example, we can find people who are afraid of humans (anthropophobia), beards (pogonophobia), stairs (batmophobia), flowers (anthropophobia), dust and dirt (amatophobia) and many more, These phobias being rare.

In this article we are going to talk about a relatively common type of specific phobia, which can be categorized within animal phobias: musophobia

What is musophobia?

The DSM-IV-TR and DSM-5 distinguish different types of specific phobias (APA, 2000, 2013):

Thus, musophobia would consist of intense and persistent fear or anxiety that It is triggered by the presence of mice or rodents in general and/or the anticipation thereof. According to the DSM-5, anxiety must be disproportionate to the danger or threat involved in the situation and to the sociocultural context. Additionally, the phobia must last at least 6 months.

Symptoms of this phobia

People with musophobia are especially afraid of the movements of mice, especially if they are sudden; They may also fear their physical appearance, the sounds they make, and their tactile properties

One of the defining psychological elements of musophobia in people who suffer from it is that it appears both a disproportionate fear reaction (by focusing on perceived danger) and a feeling of disgust or disgust.

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Although the studies provide discordant data, the fear reaction seems to predominate over the disgust reaction. Furthermore, both reactions are reduced with Live Exposure, as we will see in the Treatment section.

To protect themselves from unexpected encounters, people with musophobia may use various defensive behaviors: excessively check sites to make sure there are no mice nearby or ask other people to do it, wear overprotective clothing when walking in the countryside, be accompanied by a trusted person and stay away from a mouse that you see.

Age of onset and prevalence

In epidemiological studies with adults, The average age of onset is 8-9 years for animal phobia There is no evidence of epidemiological data in relation to musophobia.

Considering the various types of EF, the lifetime prevalence data obtained in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (Stinson et al., 2007) were: natural environment (5.9%), situational (5.2%). , animal (4.7%) and SID (4.0%).

Causes (genesis and maintenance)

How does a person develop musophobia? Why do some children develop this fear? These questions can be answered following Barlow (2002), who differentiates three types of determining factors in developing a specific phobia such as musophobia:

1. Biological vulnerability

It consists of a genetically determined neurobiological hypersensitivity to stress and includes temperamental traits that have a strong genetic component. Among the main ones are neuroticism, introversion, negative affectivity (stable and heritable tendency to experience a wide range of negative feelings) and behavioral inhibition in the face of the unknown

2. Generalized psychological vulnerability

It is the perception, based on early experiences, that stressful situations and/or reactions to them are unpredictable and/or uncontrollable. Among the early experiences are the overprotective (hypercontrolling) educational style, rejection by parents, insecure attachment bonds occurrence of traumatic events in coexistence with ineffective strategies to cope with stress.

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3. Specific psychological vulnerability

It is based on the person’s learning experiences. Anxiety resulting from generalized biological and psychological vulnerability focuses on certain situations or events (e.g., mice), which come to be considered a threat or even dangerous. For example, a direct negative experience with a mouse in childhood can generate a learning experience that the animal is threatening and dangerous.

Psychological treatment of musophobia

Although it has been stated that phobic fears can subside without treatment in childhood and adolescence, the general trend does not seem to be this.

The most effective and well-known treatment is cognitive-behavioral with in vivo exposure (EV). Before starting the VE, it is advisable to provide information about the mice and correct possible erroneous beliefs about them.

An exposure hierarchy should also be made, taking into account the person’s subjective anxiety levels. Some ideas to work on feared and/or avoided situations are: talking about the animal, watching photos or videos of mice, going to pet stores where there are mice, touching and petting the mice and feeding them… Another option is employ exposure through virtual reality

Participant modeling to treat musophobia

VE can be used alone or combined with modeling, resulting in the procedure known as participant modeling; This combination has been really useful for treating animal-type phobias.

At each step of the hierarchy, the therapist or other model(s) repeatedly or prolongedly exemplifies the relevant activity, explains, if necessary, how to perform the activity, and provides information about the feared objects or situations (in our case, about the mice). ).

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After modeling a task, the therapist asks the client to perform it and Provides social reinforcement for progress and corrective feedback

If the person has difficulties or does not dare to carry out the task, various aids are provided. For example, in the case of musophobia the following could be cited: joint action with the therapist, limitation of mouse movements, means of protection (gloves), reducing the time required on the task, increasing the distance to the feared object, re-modeling the threatening activity, using multiple models, company of loved ones or pets.

These aids are withdrawn until the client is able to perform the task relatively calmly and on their own (self-directed practice); therefore the therapist should not be present. Self-directed practice should be performed in a variety of contexts to promote generalization.