A phobia is an irrational fear of something. Irrational. The reason people have a fear of reptiles is because of a lack of understanding. This is either a terrifying phobia, called Herpetophobia, or a simple apprehension or aversion to being in close proximity to a reptile.
Having been to dozens of reptile expos, I can say unequivocally that *most* people don’t know anything about reptiles and have some fear, whether paralyzing or simply cautionary. Even people interested in keeping them!
“Is it slimy?” “Is it poisonous?” “Do they jump?” “Are their claws sharp?” — notice that all these questions are experiential. If they held one, they’d know the answers!
Even the cutest, most harmless little gecko is met with a knee-jerk response of fear when it decides to take a jump. Watch this little Uroplatus gecko take a grown man to his knees.
Odds are pretty good that for those reading this article, you want to help a friend, loved one (or potential loved one 😉 ) get over their irrational fear. The best way to get over a fear of reptiles is to become exposed to them with baby steps.
Step 1: Acceptance: Look at pictures of cute, friendly, harmless reptiles. Everyone loves the baby form of just about any animal! Look at pictures of other people holding reptiles, and you will begin to accept that all the reptiles people keep as pets are generally harmless. Once you get an ‘awwww’, you’ve made some progress.
Step 2: Educate: Once your instinct to be repulsed is gone, learn a little more about them. The best way to overcome your lingering fear of reptiles is to watch some excellent documentaries about reptiles, such as Life in Cold Blood by BBC’s David Attenborough. There are also many on YouTube.
Step 3: Controlled exposure: Hold something easy, like a crested gecko. Feed a tortoise. Let a chameleon crawl on you. Pet a bearded dragon. Let a gecko lick some honey off your finger. Let a snake crawl over your legs as you sit down. This interaction will reinforce your newfound affection for reptiles. This spa in India even offers Snake Massage!