Everything About the Fear of Cockroaches (Katsaridaphobia) & How to Overcome It


Last Updated on 2023-03-23 , 2:59 pm

All of us know the pain of fumigation days and the dead (or alive) cockroaches sprawled everywhere. This pesky insect is the bane of everyone’s existence, with slippers and sprays being pulled out immediately upon anyone finding them in the house.

But, what exactly makes us so terrified of an insect so much smaller than us? And is there a way to overcome that fear of cockroaches, in which the name of the phobia is called katsaridaphobia?

Well, you’re in luck. Though the research was very scarring, this writer has picked up more information about the fear of cockroaches and what methods you could possibly try to overcome them.

If you prefer to watch a video about this topic instead, here’s one we’ve done (warning: you’d be seeing lots of cockroaches):

The Biology of Cockroaches

Cockroaches are just about the least harmful insect if you think about them. Mosquitos, ticks and fleas are far more dangerous, sucking our blood and carrying diseases.

Yet, we smack mosquitos to death without a second thought but scream at the sight of cockroaches.


In deciphering this mystery, some experts suggest that we are not simply scared of cockroaches, but are disgusted by their features.

Think about those dirty and greasy places, the smell of a secondary school toilet, or things that scutter around in the night. They all evoke feelings that make us feel disturbed and fearful whenever we encounter them.

Some experts think that cockroaches ignite our hardwired reflexes of fear and disgust because of their biology, which makes a lot of sense.

Cockroaches are dirty and greasy, there’s a crunching sound when you step on them, and they can smell like toilets due to the uric acid in them—a major component of human urine. All these cover our reflex of disgust.


Plus, cockroaches are one of the fastest land creatures for their size. They skitter about everywhere, startling us whenever they leave their hiding spot. That contributes to our fear of them.

Monkey See Monkey Do

Remember the good old days before the internet? Children used to go out and trap spiders, follow a trail of ants and chase after butterflies.

Now, they look at their screens and play Among Us.

Where exactly did all our courage go as kids? Did we all suddenly develop fears as we grew up?

Actually, kind of. Experts say that children learn from their environment, be it through negative experiences or mimicking your parents’ actions.

Meaning that, if your mum screamed and pulled out the Baygon spray at the sight of a cockroach, you likely learnt that cockroaches were bad from her.

“Growing up, the fear reactions that young kids experience of others around them actually contribute to the development of childhood fears,” explained Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, the Chief Executive of Science Centre Singapore.

So the next time your parents ask you to get rid of the cockroach, you can blame them for not being brave enough to.

Inherited Fear of Cockroaches: Katsaridaphobia

Apart from your fear of cockroaches being a product of your environment, you could have actually inherited this fear too.

Associate Professor Lim noted that people might inherit the gene responsible for katsaridaphobia, or the fear of cockroaches, through the experiences of their ancestors.


Unlike mimicking, this is all an internal process.

Apparently, scientists have found that mice can pass on learned information about a traumatic experience to subsequent generations. In the same way, people suffer from irrational phobias because they inherited them from the experiences of their ancestors.

So maybe blame your ancestors next time.

Developing Fear of Cockroaches

One other source of fear would be traumatic experiences, which can occur at any point in your life.

Ms Jolene Hwee, a psychologist and psychotherapist said that “[n]ew fears may develop because of unexpected situations and the person’s inability to cope with that specific situation.”

For instance, having a cockroach crawl up your arm or seeing a dead one in your food. This is similar to individuals who develop claustrophobia after being trapped in a malfunctioning train or elevator.



How To Conquer The Fear of Cockroaches

I have to say, this section really isn’t for me because I am glad to keep away from cockroaches forever.

But if you’re one of the courageous individuals who are looking to overcome your fear, I wish you all the best, brave brethren.

Exposure Therapy

Many experts recommend that the first step in a treatment process for phobia would be to expose the individual to whatever they’re scared of.

Huh? That sounds pretty terrifying and totally insane—wouldn’t that just scare them even more?


But it doesn’t have anything big like touching a cockroach or killing everyone that you see.

Ms Hwee suggests starting off by talking about cockroaches and looking at images of them. Then you can progress from seeing completely harmless and dead specimens in museums to the actual thing.

The number of cockroach images I have seen in doing this research should already count as exposure therapy.

Ultimately, your main goal is to be used to seeing cockroaches over and over again till it becomes boring and commonplace! That’s how you defeat a phobia.

Using Augmented Reality

Another method is to make use of augmented reality as part of your exposure therapy. In fact, there’s one specifically made to help people get over their fear of cockroaches!

A university in Spain made use of a Google VR headset combined with six degrees of freedom tracking system to create a vision of cockroaches running over the wearer’s actual hand.

The cockroaches were able to skitter, wave their antennae and even change their size.

Turns out, this method was quite effective; the six participants were initially unable to stand being in a room with cockroaches, and all suffered from debilitating fears of the insect.


One lady wanted to sell her apartment because of it, while others reported a “complete loss of control” when seeing a cockroach.


During the simulation, their anxiety levels started to decline and were able to stick their finger into a container with a live cockroach after the treatment.

According to the BBC, 12 months after the original treatment, the participants still maintained those improvements.

Desensitising Therapy

Last but not the least, you could try desensitising yourself to cockroaches.

One way to do this is to familiarise yourself with a cockroach by understanding how it lives. This helps address any immediate triggers causing your fear of the insect. When you learn more about them, you might eventually realise that there is nothing to be afraid of!

Just like exposure therapy, you should do it slowly and in small increments. This could be exposing yourself to a cockroach for a short time, and progressing to killing one later on.

There are also mobile apps to help increase your exposure to “cockroaches” by making them appear on your screen. Eventually, the fear will wear down and you might be able to face one in real life.

Hopefully, this article has taught you some useful information regarding your fears and who knows? Maybe a year from now, you’ll be deemed as the cockroach killer in your family.

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