Why Are We Scared of Cockroaches?

Why-Are-We-Scared-Of-CockroachesDo you get goosebumps thinking a roach might be sitting next to you? If so, you’re among the many people who have katsaridaphobia, a phobia of cockroaches. But not everyone has this phobia; some just find them disgusting.

There are many reasons why we are scared of cockroaches. It could be how these bugs look, the dirty places they live, how they move, and their regeneration and flying abilities. The fear of cockroaches has been instilled in our brains since childhood. Not only that, but any past trauma of roaches also keeps haunting us till our death.

Fearing cockroaches is normal, and many things can help you overcome this fear.

What Is Katsaridaphobia?

Katsaridaphobia, in simpler words, is the fear of cockroaches. People with this phobia will do anything to remove the roaches from their sight or their homes. Katsaridaphobia mainly affects those who feel threatened by the presence of cockroaches within their premises.

Some instances leading to katsaridaphobia include:

  • Waking up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water and see a cockroach jumping in the water jug.
  • A roach jumping on the food someone is about to eat
  • Swallowing a roach
  • Seeing a roach on your bed the first thing in the morning
  • Getting a cockroach stuck in your hair

Encountering such traumatic events can lead to developing katsaridaphobia.

The Fear of Cockroaches Dates Back to the Ancient Times

People haven’t just started despising these bugs. Instead, history takes us back to the ancient Egyptian period when people used to take help from mystical creatures to ward off cockroaches.

In this period, the ancient Egyptians learned unique spells to implore “Khnum,” the ram-headed god, to eliminate roaches. Moreover, Pliny the Elder penned about the roaches’ disgusting traits in ancient Rome.

Not only that, but Jamestown’s John Smith talked about the “cacarooch’s bad-scented dung.” These pests instantly made their place in the New World by the 19th Century. These bugs significantly increased their populations in this period.

When we see it logically, it doesn’t make sense to be scared of these bugs. These insects don’t spread diseases directly, like mosquitoes or ticks. We don’t scream whenever we see a mosquito, although they’re the deadliest animals in the world.

But, of course, cockroaches aren’t as innocent as we may have portrayed them. They can spread disease-causing bacteria when they roam around your home.

How To Know If You Just Dislike Roaches or Have Katsaridaphobia?

While many people view cockroaches as unsightly, they are not actually afraid of them. These people may not have katsaridaphobia. Phobias can lead to extreme paranoia or anxiety. If you just change your way after seeing roaches or smash them with your foot, you’re not phobic of them.

The Harvard Medical School defines phobia as fears that are:

  • Unrealistic
  • Persistent
  • Excessive

So, look for these signs when seeing a cockroach to know you have katsaridaphobia:

  • It makes you super stressed and anxious
  • You start thinking about the worst situations you may get into
  • You react irrationally and strongly
  • You can’t perform your daily life activities knowing that a roach is watching you

These are just a few common examples, and there could be more. It’s pretty challenging for people with katsaridaphobia to continue living. This is why most seek therapies and other treatment methods to handle the phobia.

Most people generally fear roaches. It is a natural and common occurrence since humans are naturally afraid of unnatural movement and living beings that breed in large quantities. Unfortunately, roaches display both of these things.

Many people may also fear roaches because of their anatomy. These include:

  • Twitching antennas
  • Spikey limbs
  • Buggy eyes
  • Weak wings

For most of us, these features resemble an alien. Plus, they can even flutter their wings and fly! They also make strange noises.

Although these bugs don’t harm us directly, our natural instincts make us wary of roaches to the extent that we become scared of them.

Remember that being a little scared of cockroaches is normal. However, when the fear is intense, it is katsaridaphobia.

What Causes Fear of Cockroaches?

Fear of cockroaches or other insects and animals is connected to different aspects of the human body. Experts have researched and studied various viewpoints to explain why people fear cockroaches.

The Journal of Clinical Psychology compiles all these results as follows:

Behavioral Aspect

The behavioral viewpoint states that phobias develop from a traumatic event a person faces at any point in their life. These experiences keep haunting them whenever they encounter roaches. Some common examples of such frightening events include:

  • Spotting a bug on food
  • When a cockroach flies towards you

Many people shared their roach-related traumas and reasons why they hate these bugs on Quora. Here are a few interesting ones of them:

  • Someone was scared of roaches because of their wings and unpredictable nature. He thought flying bugs were trying to take revenge since he killed a few bugs with an insecticide. But regardless of any reason, he just hated these bugs!
  • Another person shared her awful experience. She says once she forgot to rinse her kettle before brewing coffee in it. When she sat in her bedroom to enjoy the coffee and sipped it without looking at it, she instantly spat it out and saw a big black roach. Until now, she shudders just by recalling that event.
  • One person explained how her childhood trauma with roaches keeps haunting her in adulthood. She used to live in a place with roach infestations, and these bugs would always crawl on her. That period was so traumatic for her that she has now developed katsaridaphobia. She becomes anxious just by seeing one roach in the house and can’t see or kill them.

Katsaridaphobia can also develop or trigger by small things. For instance, you opened a kitchen cabinet, and a roach jumped on you. Since then, the thought of opening a cabinet has triggered anxiety in you.

Another behavioral viewpoint of hating roaches may relate to the general reaction toward bugs taught by our ancestors.

Humans are quick learners with high adaptability. The chances are that you have developed a fear of roaches from your parents, friends, or caregivers. How these people react to cockroaches may have translated to you from childhood.

You grew up with similar behavior without knowing why you’re screaming after seeing a roach.

Cultural Aspect

It is similar to the behavioral aspect in that people can learn specific reactions or feelings from others. The primary difference between both is from whom and where you learned the phobia.

Under the cultural aspect, cockroach phobia develops from understanding and observing the behavior of people in your community. These people don’t have to be related to you in any form.

Let’s say your community is very vocal about cockroaches, their benefits, and their health hazards. You have been listening to these thoughts for years. Thus, you may start expressing similar feelings, eventually leading to katsaridaphobia.

Cognitive Aspect

The cognitive aspect states that a person can develop a phobia depending on the way they cognitively interpret an event. The best example is a flying cockroach. Whenever you see one flying, you assume it will attack you.

Interpreting a flying cockroach as a threat triggers fear, leading to anxiety. When it continues to happen, you may develop a phobia of cockroaches, especially the flying ones.

In the other case, you may see a flying cockroach as just an object blocking your path. You simply move away from it or hit it with your hand and continue performing your daily life activities. In this situation, you didn’t entice the phobia.

Psychoanalytic Aspect

This aspect primarily discusses the childhood experiences one had with cockroaches. These experiences included something hidden, such as unconscious feelings or deliberate brainwashing about the dangers of roaches.

From the psychoanalytic viewpoint, you’re not phobic of cockroaches because you’re scared of them. Instead, your phobia is a mix-up of irrational thoughts or feelings towards any other thing.

This viewpoint is quite complicated, and treating it is even more challenging. Thus, people tend to mask these inappropriate thoughts or feelings as a phobia. That’s why the psychoanalytic aspect has now become outdated.

Genetic Aspect

A theory suggests that a few people can inherit genes for katsaridaphobia. However, it is a far-fetched thought as there hasn’t been any such gene identified yet.

Researchers often associate this condition with neurosis, a personality trait transferred genetically. Neurosis can make a person vulnerable to developing phobias, katsaridaphobia being one.

Biochemical Aspect

Every individual has different brain chemistry and thought processing. The biochemical aspect discusses this very thing.

According to it, cockroach phobia isn’t something in our genes. Instead, some people have brain chemicals that cause them to develop katsaridaphobia.

For example, suppose you and your friend experienced the same frightening event. Your brain doesn’t produce special brain chemicals that lead to phobias. But your friend’s brain did, and now she deals with a phobia from that event for the rest of her life.

How To Stop Being Scared of Cockroaches?

Experiencing katsaridaphobia is not something unusual. It is a scientifically identified condition, so you shouldn’t feel like an alien. You can easily seek help from experts and follow different methods to overcome this fear of cockroaches.

A few effective methods include:

Making Lifestyle Changes

The first-hand treatment for katsaridaphobia is making some lifestyle changes. These habits can reduce your anxious thoughts and fear related to roaches and other bugs. Some of these changes include:

Nutritious Meals

The first rule is curbing down stimulants like carbonated energy drinks, tea, or coffee. Doing so will reduce the chances of having panic attacks, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath, all of which are signs of anxiety.

Make sure to have a healthy diet filled with nutritious meals. Also, don’t forget to exercise regularly to keep yourself active and avoid thinking about phobia.

Relaxation Techniques

Practicing relaxation techniques clears up one’s mind and reduces anxiety symptoms. These methods include:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Breathing exercises
  • Massages

In fact, completing your 8-hour sleep cycle can also help you unwind and act calm in certain situations.

Self-Help Groups

In addition to the above, you can also participate in self-help groups and talk things out with others dealing with the same situation. These groups offer a supportive environment, meaning you don’t feel alone. You can interact with these people and learn how they cope with their fear.

Seeking Therapy for Phobias

You can’t completely get rid of your fears by only making lifestyle changes. Sometimes, you may not see the desired result even after weeks of practicing the new routine. In such cases, you need to take help from others.

There are many types of therapies that help people with phobias. Typically, a phobia comes under anxiety disorders, so therapies can help you overcome it effectively. But the question is: “Which therapy is the best for katsaridaphobia?”

A therapeutics and Clinical Pharmacology doctor, Dr. Ananya Mandal, gathered information about different therapies that are most effective for katsaridaphobia. These include:


It is a typical one-on-one session with a trained therapist. They will listen to you and guide you on ways to cope with the situation in multiple sessions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

People whose phobia is connected with a particular trigger should go for CBT. The therapist will help you disconnect your fear from specific objects or situations by gradually exposing you to these things.

Then, they will enable you to develop thought patterns that replace your realistic feelings (fears). You’ll feel less anxious when seeing a cockroach within a few sessions.


This form of counseling will help you overcome the belittled self-talk you do related to your phobia. During the sessions, the therapist will work on removing all the pessimistic thoughts from your mind and replacing them with optimistic ones.

Downloading Mobile Apps

Using apps like AR cockroaches helps you practice self-practice by exposing you to several cockroaches on your floor. All you have to do is face your fears of touching a roach and tap on each bug to remove them. These apps are free to install, and you can use them anytime.

This technique works on the “facing your fears” approach, helping people to reduce their phobic symptoms. You can spend significant time on this app to develop a tolerance level and desensitize yourself from the triggers.

But remember that this method is not a replacement for therapies. Instead, it goes side by side with them.


What Does Fear of Cockroaches Mean?

Fear of cockroaches means to despise the presence of these bugs around you. You can’t see or touch them and just want them away from your sight. If you spot cockroaches on your food or bedroom, you just want to throw the food away or change the bedsheets.

Is It Normal To Be Scared of Cockroaches?

Yes, it is entirely normal to be scared of cockroaches. These bugs are disgusting and creepy crawlers, so it’s understandable if you can’t stand them near to yourself. But if these bugs trigger an intense reaction and make you super stressed, it is not a common fear but a phobia called “katsaridaphobia.”


People fear cockroaches for many reasons. Many just dislike their presence, while others show a more intense reaction and become anxious. The first behavior is normal, and most of us display it, but the latter isn’t usual and is called “katsaridaphobia,” a phobia of roaches.

Experts say that people fear roaches because:

  • They have unusual anatomy, including wings, buggy eyes, spikey legs, and antennae.
  • Since childhood, our ancestors and community members have made us react a certain way to roaches.
  • We experienced a traumatic event related to roaches and haven’t forgotten it for years.
  • We have inherited genes with neurosis, which makes a person susceptible to developing specific phobias.
  • Some people’s brains perform chemical activities that develop katsaridaphobia.
  • People interpret roaches differently.