A serious case

Magazine: A serious case

My friend is afraid of spiders. This isn't very unusual; a lot of people are afraid of spiders. But my friend isn't just afraid of spiders, she is totally, completely and utterly terrified of them …

Do the preparation task first. Then read the story and do the exercises.

I have a friend who is afraid of spiders. This isn't very unusual; a lot of people are afraid of spiders. I don't really like spiders much myself. I don't mind them if I see them outside in the garden, as long as they're not too big. But if one comes in the house, especially if it's one of those really big spiders with furry legs and little red eyes, then I go 'Yeeucch' and I try to get rid of it. Usually I'll use a brush to get rid of the spider, but if I feel brave then I'll put a glass over the top of it, slide a piece of paper under the glass and then take it outside.

This is quite normal, I think. But my friend isn't afraid of spiders in any normal way. She isn't just afraid of spiders, she is totally, completely and utterly terrified of them. When my friend sees a spider, she doesn't just go 'Uurgghh!' or run away or ask someone else to get rid of the horrible creepy-crawly. No, she screams as loud as she possibly can. She screams so loud that her neighbours worry about her and think about calling the police. When she sees a spider, she shivers all over and sometimes she freezes completely – she can't move at all because she is so terrified. Sometimes she even faints.

But my friend had a surprise for me when we met for coffee last week.

'Guess what?' she asked me.

'What?' I said.

'I've got a new pet!'

'Great,' I said. 'What is it? A dog? A cat?'


'A budgie?'


'A rabbit?'


'What then?'

'I've got a pet spider.'

'I don't believe you!'

'It's true! I decided that it was time I did something about my phobia, so I went to visit a doctor, a special doctor. A psychiatrist. This psychiatrist specialises in phobias – helping people who have irrational fears to get better and live normally. He told me I suffered from "arachnophobia".'

'It's an irrational fear of spiders,' he said. 'About one in fifty people suffer from a severe form of arachnophobia. It's not very uncommon.'

'Thanks,' said my friend. 'But that doesn't help me much ...'

'There are lots of different ways we can try to cure your phobia,' said the psychiatrist. 'First, there is traditional analysis.'

'What does that mean?' asked my friend.

'This means lots of talking. We try to find out exactly why you have such a terrible fear of spiders. Perhaps it's linked to something that happened to you when you were a child.'

'Oh dear,' said my friend. 'That sounds quite worrying.'

'It can take a long time,' said the psychiatrist. 'Years, sometimes, and you can never be certain that it will be successful.'

'Are there any other methods?'

'Yes – some psychiatrists use hypnosis along with traditional analysis.'

My friend didn't like the idea of being hypnotised. 'I'm worried about what things will come out of my subconscious mind!' she said. 'Are there any other methods?'

'Well,' said the psychiatrist, 'there is what we call the "behavioural" approach.'

'What's the behavioural approach?' asked my friend.

'Well,' said the psychiatrist, 'it's like this ...'

The psychiatrist got out a small spider from his desk. It wasn't a real spider. It was made of plastic. Even though it was only a plastic spider, my friend screamed when she saw it.

'Don't worry,' said the psychiatrist. 'It's not a real spider.'

'I know,' said my friend. 'But I'm afraid of it just the same.'

'Hmm,' said the psychiatrist. 'A serious case ...' He put the plastic spider on the desk. When my friend stopped screaming, the psychiatrist told her to touch it. When she stopped screaming again – the idea of touching the plastic spider was enough to make her scream – she touched it. At first she touched it for just one second. She shivered all over, but at least she managed to touch it.

'OK,' said the psychiatrist. 'That's all for today. Thanks. You can go home now.'

'That's it?' asked my friend.


'That's all?'

'Yes, for today. This is the behavioural approach. Come back tomorrow.'

My friend went back the next day, and this time the plastic spider was already on the doctor's desk. This time she touched it and held it for five minutes. Then the doctor told her to go home and come back the next day. The next day she went back and the plastic spider was on her chair. She had to move the spider so she could sit down. The next day she held the spider in her hand while she sat in her chair. The next day, the doctor gave her the plastic spider and told her to take it home with her.

'Where do spiders appear in your house?' asked the psychiatrist.

'In the bath, usually,' said my friend.

'Put the spider in the bath,' he told her.

My friend was terrified of the spider in the bath, but she managed not to scream when she saw it there.

'It's only a plastic spider,' she told herself.

The next day the psychiatrist told her to put the spider in her living room. My friend put it on top of the television. At first she thought the spider was watching her and she felt afraid. Then she told herself that it was only a plastic spider.

The next day the psychiatrist told her to put the spider in her bed.

'No way!' she said. 'Absolutely not!'

'Why not?' asked the psychiatrist.

'It's a spider!' replied my friend.

'No, it's not,' said the psychiatrist, 'It's a plastic spider. It's not a real one.'

My friend realised that her doctor was right. She put the plastic spider in her bed and she slept there all night with it in her bed. She only felt a little bit afraid.

The next day, she went back to the psychiatrist. This time, she had a shock … a big shock. Sitting in the middle of the doctor's desk there was a spider. And this time it was a real spider.

My friend was about to scream and run away, but she didn't. She sat on the other side of the room, as far away as possible from the spider, for about five minutes, then she got up and left the room.

'See you tomorrow!' shouted the psychiatrist to her as she left.

The next day she went back, and this time the psychiatrist let the spider run around on his desk. Again, my friend stayed about five minutes, then left. The next day she stayed for ten minutes, and the day after that, fifteen. Eventually, the psychiatrist held the spider, the real spider with long furry legs and little eyes, in his hand. He asked my friend to come and touch it. At first she refused, but the doctor insisted. Eventually she touched the spider, just for a second. The next day she touched it for a few seconds, then for a few minutes, and after that she held the spider in her own hand.

Then she took the spider home and let it run around in her house. She didn't feel afraid. Well, OK, she did feel afraid, but only a tiny bit.

'So now I've got a pet spider!' she told me again.

'Well done!' I said.

'There's only one problem,' she said, and as she spoke I noticed that she was shivering all over. Then she screamed and climbed up on the chair. She was pointing to something on the floor.

'Over there!' she screamed. 'Look! It's a beetle!'

Chris Rose

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Submitted by faaz on Fri, 14/01/2022 - 16:26


I'm afraid of reptiles , whenever I see any crawling creatures I just get freak out .

Submitted by npt on Sun, 22/08/2021 - 16:46

i am afraid of insects such as thoes spiders with furry legs and red eyes, cockroaches, beetles, crickets, grasshoppers,.. when i see them i always try to keep the longest distance from them. Some of my cousins know that so sometimes they tease me by showing these terrible things in front of my face. if i am asked what my scarest thing is, i wil say "alone".

Submitted by May Nine on Fri, 05/03/2021 - 12:21

Absolutely , I have a big fear of cockroach.I think it's concerned with my childhood 's diary . I only have a little bit afraid when I see the dead cockroach . But , when it comes to the real one , I shiver all over . Don't worry , I don't have that serious fear like the narrator's friend . I only give a loud shout for one time .That's all.

Submitted by Karthika on Tue, 02/03/2021 - 17:16

This story was very nice and starting I am reading not interested to much but then had been reading it's really nice. And eventually I am enjoy.

Submitted by yusra on Thu, 11/02/2021 - 07:37

Maybe this a little weird, but I'm afraid of vomiting.

Submitted by Pann Nilar Htun on Tue, 09/02/2021 - 07:56

I don't afraid any creatures in the world. How brave am I?

Submitted by ilayda muduroglu on Wed, 13/01/2021 - 20:20

I loved this text. We must strive to get rid of our phobias. But sometimes these efforts just don't work.

Submitted by Eda on Wed, 13/01/2021 - 19:52

What interested me the most in this text was that someone who was afraid of insects gave such different reactions. At first the text was not very interesting to me. Then I continued reading the text because I was wondering how to get rid of her phobia. But no matter how hard we try, we may not escape our fears.

Submitted by Prasticha on Wed, 13/01/2021 - 07:07

Yes I have, i'm so afraid of reptiles, escpecially a snake. when i saw snake or catterpillar or maggot or anything that was creeping up, uurrggh i was sivered all over. and i have a phobia, it is tripophobia, when i saw tripophobia pict by my phone, i always throw it away. i mean throw my phone away

Submitted by Prasticha on Wed, 13/01/2021 - 07:04

Yes I have, i'm so afraid of reptiles, escpecially a snake. when i saw snake or catterpillar or maggot or anything that was creeping up, uurrggh i was sivered all over. and i have a phobia, it is tripophobia, when i saw tripophobia pict by my phone, i always trought it away. i mean trought my phone away

Submitted by gracemetni on Fri, 08/01/2021 - 13:24

I'm totally, completely , utterly terrified of snakes. I even turn off the TV if I see one in a film. I just hate them and I think they are hypocrite , quite when they crawl and spontanious when they attack! They are very creepy reptiles!

Submitted by Hadiii on Tue, 29/12/2020 - 12:15

in fact i really afraid of snake because have secret eyes and i don't know more about that.

Submitted by Enrique Rangel on Sun, 13/12/2020 - 00:37

Well this is so personal but I´, afraid to many things... It's no like that I stay in my house all the day and never go out but there are things that put me very nervous like on this moment my English exam of the next week.

Submitted by Thinthinmyoe on Tue, 08/12/2020 - 09:27

I'm so afraid the little mice.When l see them suddenly in my house, I feel really terrified and unpleasant.

Submitted by Kiera nguyen on Sat, 05/12/2020 - 14:31

um the same . i'm very afraid of spiders . they look so....

Submitted by BlaiChan on Sun, 29/11/2020 - 07:23

I'm afraid of snakes. If I see one, which can hurt people seriously, i"ll run away from them. Is it a phobia? I've got no idea. But I think it's not as some snakes are dangerous to people. Only a few who are trying to catch them, aren't terrified I guess. I'm always afraid of touching even it's dead already.

Submitted by Habiba Kadous on Sat, 28/11/2020 - 01:31

I am really afraid of cats . I think it's a phobia . Because when I was kid , the cat climbed my dress and I started crying and since this moment I had the phobia.
I think you don't need to be afraid of cats. First, you can familiarize yourself by watching cat videos. Then when you feel ready, you can take care of and love cats on the street. You can even own a cat.

Submitted by Mouad Fatnaoui on Sat, 07/11/2020 - 01:29

Do I have a phobia? Hmm, I don't know if this is a phobia or not, but I hate cockroaches. I don't like their shape, color, sight, and behavior. They seem dirty for me. And when it happens that a cockroach touches me, I jump out of my place and hurry up to clean the part that the cockroach touches. Additionally, I think that cockroaches are very rude insects. They may cross over your body, fly towards you, or jump on you without your permission. One day, I tried to overcome this fear by watching people, especially the Chinese, eating cockroaches, but it didn't work I still don't like them.

Submitted by Davis on Fri, 06/11/2020 - 14:53

I am afraid of spiders and bat. They are very creepy creatures. I wouldn't know what to do if I see them inside at home. Probably, I would burn all my home.

Submitted by danisep on Tue, 03/11/2020 - 20:15

I'm afraid of disgusting animals like cockroaches. I hate that insect especially when flying. maybe a cousin afraid me with one when I was kid. I really hate that animal. For that reason there must always be insecticide in my house.

Submitted by John A. on Mon, 02/11/2020 - 13:22

Hi guys, I'm not really afraid of something is particular...but the idea to loose relatives, have a bad health or have regrets could afraid me.

Submitted by SALA on Thu, 15/10/2020 - 19:08

In fact, I'm afraid of heights because I'm stunned and I close my eyes

Submitted by loveiseverything on Wed, 14/10/2020 - 03:55

I am afraid of cats and some other furry animals.

Submitted by Smiley1 on Thu, 01/10/2020 - 14:09

Actually, I’m afraid of my fear... for nothing.

Submitted by alphazero on Wed, 30/09/2020 - 07:51

Well, to be honest, I'm extremely afraid of blood, which is what you might call 'Hemophobia'. Basically, whenever I see blood puddles from my wound, horror movies and games or anything else. I tend to have a hatred and my bones are chilled. So really blood is the most abhorrent thing that I never want to see in every situations.

Submitted by Yel on Wed, 23/09/2020 - 10:23

I am afraid of spiders but its not like a phobia. I am thankful that i dont have any phobia..

Submitted by Kaung Zan Bo on Tue, 22/09/2020 - 10:30

I am afraid people.

Submitted by bambangarynugroho on Thu, 03/09/2020 - 08:08

i am afraid a caterpillar,because it very disgusting

Submitted by maede99 on Mon, 24/08/2020 - 22:39

i'm afraid of all the animals but i really don't like this feature of myself! i wish i could be brave and hug cute small dogs!
I think it's up to you to be brave. You can try to be able to love animals gradually. For example, you can first give them something to eat and get used to it. Then you can hug as many animals as you want.

Submitted by taira on Thu, 13/08/2020 - 09:58

I'm afraid of changes. We said changes are a part of life and this is good,but also the change can be worse that all the things that we have, and loser more friends or important persons to all, include me.

Submitted by Shamar on Tue, 04/08/2020 - 01:39

I am afraid of snake. It sounds terrible. whenever I heard it’s name my leg become numb. and another thing I am scared to talk in English because if I made mistakes or stuck without remember the word and grammar. Sometimes I forget the grammar and words because of tension. Is there any ways to get rid of it?

Submitted by wahbi on Wed, 29/07/2020 - 06:44

When I was a child I had got a phobia from a snaks and some time imagine some snak behind me and some time saw it even in my dream. but now normal and I enjoying when I see it and be pretty happy even when I watch it in tv. I disposal it when I went to a psychiatrist.

Submitted by Smiley1 on Wed, 08/07/2020 - 14:39

I’m afraid of snakes!!

Submitted by AMOUGOU Abega … on Wed, 08/07/2020 - 09:59

although my relatives eat some species of snakes, I can't stand snakes, when i hear about the name "snake" i think about death. this phobia might come from my childhood, because at that time my neighbour died after being bitten by a snake, therefore when i see a snake i sometimes fraint, shiver and try to get out of this place very quickly.

Submitted by Itsmesvvd on Tue, 07/07/2020 - 02:44

It's a really useful course.

Submitted by nancy2018 on Fri, 03/07/2020 - 23:05

I think, I´m affraid of snakes although I never have seen one near to me. In places differents a zoo.

Submitted by Julia19 on Tue, 16/06/2020 - 15:21

Though all my family don't afraid of spiders, I feel realy fear of them. I realize that these tiny creatures can't do me anything, but I feel uncertain disgust when I see how they move on my room. I'd like not to have such attitude and since that I' ve managed with it a little. Now I don't afraid of them, but only have dislike of being them near me.

Submitted by r31s on Mon, 15/06/2020 - 04:43

I'm not sure if this can be called of "real fear", but I'm sure that many people must have that. I'm afraid of being alone. That's the only thing I can think I really have a fear. That's ironic, because I've been so much alone during a period of my life. Maybe it's the why, though.

Submitted by bassemtaha on Fri, 12/06/2020 - 13:43

Thanks for this interesting and useful story which really enriched my vocabulary. I'm not afraid from spiders or beetles. But I really feel terrified from mice.

Submitted by OlaIELTS on Tue, 09/06/2020 - 01:16

I' m afraid of wild animals like lion, tiger and so on. Yes. I had.

Submitted by MammadovAnar on Wed, 03/06/2020 - 11:13

What are you afraid of? Have you ever get over a serious fear of something? I am afraid of snakes. So, I think most of the people fear snakes. Although, I afraid snakes but I do not believe it is a phobia. That's why I think it is a normal case. However, some people do not afraid of snakes. And they can touch them and even they can hold their tail or head.

Submitted by Marik228 on Wed, 27/05/2020 - 13:39

I really like it, the text is very interesting and have fun end. I recomend to read it. I am afraid of them sometimes, but only when they are big.

Submitted by carmengurri on Tue, 26/05/2020 - 19:10

I am afraid of the tall of the things, when I am at the top of a building and I saw to the floor I feel very afraid, I can cross a bridge i is impossible for me, every time I feel that I fall to the floor I can walk I try everything like walk with someone a friend for example and talking try no to think that I am crossing a bridge but is impossible for me

Submitted by Bolle on Mon, 25/05/2020 - 13:46

I am afraid of chocolate chip cookie doughs

Submitted by Bhre Satriavi on Sun, 10/05/2020 - 05:46

hello, i would like share about by fear. i'm afraid of cockroach. it's quiet disgusting. it often appear in my home especially in my bathroom and kitchen. what make me very terrified is when i see that creepy animal is flying. wow such a horrible incident.

Submitted by Smiley1 on Fri, 08/05/2020 - 14:41

I’m afraid of snakes, I rarely see them, though. If I come across a snake, I’ll run like crazy from it!!!

Submitted by flavio on Thu, 07/05/2020 - 23:12

Hello, in my case, i am afraid to the spider too, I don´t like, in my house, when we see a spider I can´t stay in the same place, my wife clean y I can´t see them, cause them i am nihtmares, if its a small i dont have more problem, but if it is a big, furry or speed, i cant with that, I always try to fumigate my home. i hope some than one, read my opinion. regrats.