Arachnophobia is the term used to describe a person who is afraid of spiders. Sometimes the sufferer is overcome by an uncontrollable panic attack.
Irrational fear can arise not only when a spider is visible, but also when the sufferer sees its web or even, in some extreme cases, a picture of a spider. This condition can become quite an obsession and affect the daily life of the person.
Although most spiders are harmless, this type of phobia is one of the most common. The word Arachnophobia comes from the Greek: 'arachne' meaning spider, and 'phobos' meaning fear. According to legend, Arachne was a beautiful Greek lady who learned weaving from the Goddess Athena. She became more skilled than her teacher, so the goddess turned herself into an old woman and tricked Arachne into weaving unflattering pictures of the Gods. Athena killed Arachne, but later poured a magic potion on her body, turning her into a spider, so that she could continue with her weaving.
During the Middle Ages, people believed that all spiders were poisonous and could infect anything, even water, if they fell in it. At one point Europeans thought that spiders were causing the plague, even though the real infection was spreading through fleas carried by rats. Recent studies suggest that the modern phobia of spiders evolved from the fear and disgust felt during the Middle Ages.