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 anjali mohandas on Mon, 20/04/2020 - 14:44

Some of you may find this really funny, but I am terrified of pigeon and chicken. when I am near any of these my reaction will be almost similar to the girl in the story. My husband always ask me not to make a big deal out of it, and always take care of the "vicious" birds for me. I really hope that one day I will be able to face my fears like the friend of the narrator, just not yet

Submitted by Nanya on Sun, 19/04/2020 - 21:58

Can't help but laugh when I read the last paragraph. A funny story. I like it. Moreover, I like the paragraph which describes her fears of spider, it's delicate and vivid.

Submitted by Cotufa84 on Fri, 17/04/2020 - 09:51

I'm afraid of speaking english with non-native people specially if they are Spanish native speakers. My uncle was living in the USA for 30 years and he speak english better than a native speaker. He studied in Canada and later he took classes to lose his spanish accent. He always tell me that speak with him but I can't do it. I always think that he could think I am a disaster speaking english and that terrify me.

Submitted by ragaamostafa on Tue, 14/04/2020 - 16:51

I'm terrified Of cats , electricity and insects but i don't fill into faint but actually i fell faintly embarrassed if i was with people.

Submitted by zabiullah on Mon, 13/04/2020 - 10:53

i think every person around the world has different phobia and fears. this story really insipired me to get rid of my phobia. actually we must fight our fears to live without any problems. this days covid 19 is a big phobia all across the globe. someone has bad terrified of this desease before gets infection i thought this kind of fears take a long time to remove our mind. i am afriad of snake because when i was a young man i walked with my friend on my own farm. suddenly a snake attacked me i screamed loudly that time i dont know what should i do but my friend said me everything is right. after 5 minutes i got normal life. i saw around our environment all things were good. after that; until this time when i see a snake suddenly all my body shever. i decide to remove our fear....

Submitted by Stela Stoycheva on Wed, 08/04/2020 - 14:05

ooo, I think everyone have any fears.... even when don`t tell :) Phhh and I have in spiders, frog, rat, mice..... When I see ooo, it`s so funny for people around me.... :D

Submitted by Alina Polevaya on Sun, 05/04/2020 - 09:53

I wonder what happened with a girl in her childhood that she afraids od spiders so much... I am not afraid of anything or anybody. I could say that I am a brave person. But it depends on mood. For example if I am in a very very bad and anxious mood and I go out in dark time, I will be afraid of any leaf rustle. Luckily, it happens not often!

Submitted by aysesila on Thu, 26/03/2020 - 10:34

I'm afraid of spiders too. Actually I'm terrifed of all kind of insect (the butterflies , spiders , bees and the others...) when I see them I start to itch and I feel temperature on my body and I wanna get out of there or rid of it but I can't rid of it by my own I need help from somebody

Submitted by sky. on Thu, 26/03/2020 - 09:49

I can't remember something i'm afraid of

Submitted by Malek Sultan on Mon, 23/03/2020 - 15:38

what a lovely story, I really like it and its make me laughing at the end hhhh, personally I am truly afraid of geckoes, once time I just walked on my roof for health you know then suddenly I showed something go fast near for me at this instant I leaped panicky.

Submitted by Faez0906 on Wed, 18/03/2020 - 01:59

I'm afraid of speaking in front other people. I'm very afraid of doing presentation because when I stand front the other people, my voice become slow and sometimes my voice will shivering. For now I think that I must change my personalty and improve my public speaking but I dont know how to practise it. I'll keep on searching tips and practise my public speaking now...hehheheh

Submitted by Nhungskun on Tue, 10/03/2020 - 03:50

I'm afraid of Caterpillars, When i see a caterpillar with a full furry body, I startle and shive all over then i try to run far away. I feel terrified when they creepy-crawly.

Submitted by Vittorio on Thu, 23/01/2020 - 15:23

I'm afraid of darkness,I hate it.

Submitted by Sam_ali on Wed, 25/12/2019 - 13:50

I am afraid of rats, reptiles and insects. Specially lizards, spiders and cockroaches. Whenever I see any of them my body starts shivering. It feels like they are crawling all over my body.

Submitted by Smiley1 on Thu, 19/12/2019 - 02:48

When I see a spider in the morning and afternoon, I catch it and let it go from the window. It’s believed that it’s a good luck!

Submitted by Rohit on Wed, 18/12/2019 - 19:37

I like evey animals but I don't like insect's. Even I don't like spider too. How that girl touched the spider ?? This is nice story and I have got all correct except 3. Overall, I easily understand this story and enjoyed while reading. Thanks you all.

Submitted by Fateme Saeb on Tue, 17/12/2019 - 05:25

Hi, How can I get the audio file fore these stories? I wish to download them on my cell phone so that I can listen to them when I,m doing the chores at home. I remember the audio files were available on the website some years ago but now I coudn,t find any. Where are they? Have you totally picked them off the website?

Submitted by olo on Sun, 24/11/2019 - 06:46

I afraid bees, not because of phobia, but because bees can be dangerous. If a bee stings you in the neck you can problem with breathing, which is dangerous situations for your life. So for that reason I try to be very careful in the summer time especially when I eat something sweet outside.

Submitted by Raffiky on Thu, 17/10/2019 - 07:42

I like all animals and insects. I enjoy reading about it. Those creatures are the inspiration of the recent inventions in all branches. I will not keep one at home because I believe that like us, they deserve freedom.

Submitted by Smiley1 on Thu, 03/10/2019 - 06:46

I’m afraid of snakes...!!! I don’t like the way they move with their tongue stretching. ssssssssssSSS !!!

Submitted by Elif on Wed, 02/10/2019 - 20:48

I am afraid of all reptilien and small animals like insects etc. But reptilians are my nightmare. It will kill me some day

Submitted by Smartsosty on Tue, 27/08/2019 - 02:51

I'm afraid sometimes by dogs, for examples; the pitbulls, Dobermans and Rottweilers.

Submitted by sajith k on Sun, 21/07/2019 - 12:39

i am not afraid of animal or other creature but some time frighted by some mysterious dreams .when my body weak after heavy physical or mental work those frightening dream are coming to mind .mostly like i trapped in a unknown places with full of unfamiliar creature,who is began coming to my near surroundings and gazing at my eyes without doing anything .then i will start run as quickly as i can .soon i became tired of running and suddenly stuck somewhere unable to move .then became frighten and jumped out of the bed .
I think you may suffer night terror. I have recently read about it,it stated that night terror is not the same with nightmare.you can read more about it in this web https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.psychologytoday.com/intl/basics/dreaming%3famp

Submitted by yas on Thu, 11/07/2019 - 09:13

mmm, i am actually afraid of lots of things , all animals but small animals no , narrow places , higher places ,and the severe one is i am always afraid to do things without studied very well and that makes me come back more than steps , i am trying to be a hard worker person , but i am always afraid to take severe step , so if someone has the number for this psychiatrist give it to me hhh. please some can tell me about my writing is good or what and how can i improve it ???

Submitted by parisaach on Tue, 09/07/2019 - 10:31

I am afraid of many things mostly insects like cackrouch, specilly flying cockrouches. I like to find a way to conquer fear . I've always wanted to be a brave person like my father . I've never seen him to be frightened. He doesn't afraid of anything . I remember the time some mouces entered in our home while all of us afraid of 'em my father slept tight next to them. He can hold all these nasty insects by his hands, don't afraid of snakes,thieves... anything. I wish insects were disapear off the face of the earth. snakes too . actually I'm afraid of reptiles too. I'm afraid of all these creepy, nasty creatures. I don't know how some people keep snakes on their home. That's really frightening and disgusting. If insects and reptiles didn't exist in the word maybe I could named myself a brave person. But now though I'm not a coward person . I don't afraid of many things. I can do dangerous tasks, but I never can say that I am brave

Submitted by Madhusudan Mishra on Mon, 08/07/2019 - 11:15

He i am afraid of Dogs & snakes , when i See the dogs sitting in the streets i used to change the way or usually keep as much away as i can while passing the dogs. as for as fear regarding snakes is concerned if i got something beneath of my legs i imagine that may be snakes so i can said that i have fear of Dogs & snakes . on more thin i would like to tell you all that i also have fear of Narrow space . some time i feels that i am passing through the some narrow space and i can pass that area so i feel scared thats it for today .

Submitted by Nhungskun on Thu, 23/05/2019 - 03:39

I am afraid of caterpillars. this is not unusual, a lot of people are afraid of caterpillars. if i see them outside in the garden, or if one comes in the house, they creepy-crawly on the floor with a full furry body, and a little long horn. then i go "yeeuch", my body can shiver, and get goosebumps, then i will try run away far from them as fast as possible. sometime my mother also there, she witnessed all of my fear. Then she told: "What a cute animal is!" and she use branch to get rid of it. And me after that, whenever see them i will scream so loud and ask someone else helps to get rid of the horrible. -----" please help me fix some mistake grammar if have in above my story" Thanks
Hello Nhungskun Thanks for sharing your story! I'm afraid we don't provide corrections of our users' texts, though if you want to ask us about a specific phrase or sentence, please feel free. All the best Kirk The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by almabdullah88 on Mon, 20/05/2019 - 21:16

I do not have phobia with spider, but I do not like it. Maybe, when I see it, I will keep an anough distance. There is only thing which is I like it so much. The behavioural therapy is very useful. Step by step, you can help any person who have phobia.

Submitted by Rach on Sat, 11/05/2019 - 16:39

I'm afraid of high bulding

Submitted by Sarah-njzh on Sat, 09/03/2019 - 14:41

hello, everyone.I am afraid of most of mollusk, especially the snake, even the dead one.one day, I saw a dead snake in the street, then I cannt sleep at night because I was frightened. the next evening I had a nightmare there are many snakes on my bed around me.from then on I had a phobia of snakes till now.

Submitted by gozdeyesiltas on Sun, 17/02/2019 - 20:04

Thanks to you I finally know my skill level & have an opportunity to learn not only myself on readings (for now) and how I do on them, but also perfect contexts so that I get to know myself better 'cause I get to understand which subjects I like and have an interest in and those I truly, do not understand get confused and I have no experience on ..... This is amazing. I am totally grateful to you, all British Council! Best Regards, Gozde Yesiltas From Istanbul!

Submitted by walidel7 on Fri, 15/02/2019 - 02:47

Hello every one here I am very excited to learn english here in the great website. I well tell you about my fear itis a long story and I will try to brief it . in day in the past I decide going to sleep early , might 10 Pm (usually I am sleep at 2 am ) and close the light and tell to my wife go out and get our daughter to play because i dont like the disturbance during I am sleeping , she see ok and she swich off the light and go out , after one hour , she try to get some clothes for my daughter and open the door slowly , without turn on the light , after that I am feeling some one in room and I am cry (aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa) and go out the room fastly , some moment of fear after that I am calm and read some Holy Quran and calm and rest . after that I take shower and go out of the house to try to able to go to sleep again . after the day I am very afriad from the dark especially during the sleeping . I am happy to share my story in this website and i will try to get rid of fear. Best wishes for all

Submitted by Aksissou on Thu, 14/02/2019 - 23:27

YES spiders are very dangerous. Be careful

Submitted by eirini on Fri, 25/01/2019 - 13:27

Hello, i am afraid of doctors...I know every body afraids of them,but when i see a doctor i am sweating and shaking..If i have to visit a doctor i can't sleep the previous night because i am thinking of it continuously..

Submitted by Tamizh selvan on Thu, 17/01/2019 - 14:58

Hi! I have a normal fear of something like snakes ,spiders etc.., but I have two weird fears. Firstly, I feel disturbed when I am exposed to public places like bus stop, malls, cinemas etc.., I always feel like somebody watching me. This makes me very anxious and abnormal; At that time I couldn't breath normally. Though I know It's not real, I still couldn't be normal. I keep constantly pondering 'Why I am like this?' What I suppose is that, I live in a place where bullying is very common; So, my mind always pushes itself to stay alert and vigilant, so that I wouldn't be a victim. Another one thing I feel anxious is girls. When a girl stands beside me or a place where a lot of girls are present, It makes very anxious and excited that I even couldn't breath, speak, or see face-to-face normally.

Submitted by Sridhar reddy on Fri, 11/01/2019 - 10:16

I love this site,there is lots of content to explore.What makes it different from the other English learning sites is here we can clarify our doubts with some good teachers available to reply us back with best answers possible.

Hello Sridhar reddy

What a lovely comment -- thank you for telling us this! We hope you learn a lot in your time with us!

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Advaxendayi on Thu, 03/01/2019 - 16:51

I think it is interesting, this kind of phobia exist but for me it may happen with snakes: i know that even thought it would be a dead one, i cannot touch. so thanks to everyone, you are making my mind awoken.

Submitted by Yinuo0912 on Thu, 03/01/2019 - 05:49

Balloons!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don't get why people like it!