This fear is technically referred to as ophidiophobia and more commonly as snakephobia. It is one of the most common phobias that people suffer from.
Which means that any image of a snake on TV, in a picture, as a thought, or in dreams will instill the same degree of fear as that when one comes in direct contact with the snake.
Scientists have wondered why most people suffer from this fear even though they have probably never come in direct contact with a snake. It has been seen that this fear is a kind of evolutionary phobia that was developed because it had at its base the very instinct of survival.
When man lived in the wild (which must have coincided with the snake habitat) and had a whole lot of elements to battle against in order to survive, there was the element of snakes as well. A fear of snakes forced mankind to avoid the snakes and thereby increase their chances of survival. Thus the fear seems to stem from the very genes.
Different people will react to their fear in different ways. Some of the common symptoms of this fear include a racing heart, sweating, heavy breathing, clammy hands, and cold hands and feet among others. For some, it might be more intense and might even be accompanied with an anxiety attack, a nervous breakdown, or even losing consciousness.
Some people might even experience a displacement or a generalization of this fear and begin to fear things that are not directly related to a snake or the image of a snake―like avoiding the road that has a snake park.
Overcoming the Fear
It has to be understood that it is not always possible to avoid snakes or things that are related to snakes, and therefore it becomes necessary to learn how to overcome the fear itself. No matter how fierce the fear one has harbored in their psyche, it is possible to overcome it.
Understanding Different Snakes
The main thing that needs to be understood is that not all snakes are dangerous. That is why identifying snakes is important. Of all the species of snakes, only a small percent (about 15%) are said to be dangerous to humans. So just because a snake crosses your path does not mean that it is going to attack.
Add to the fact that most snakes will only attack if they fear you causing them some harm. A study of the kind of snakes that are dangerous and those that are not will help ease that fear a little. More than that, it will prevent you from attacking a snake just because you fear it.
This one's a bit tricky, but it's known to work. Contact authorities that have snakes of varied sizes and ask them to help you handle the different types of snakes. Start off with simply touching the snakes so that you can get used to the feel and the texture.
Then when you realize that they are not dangerous or don't attack, move onto bigger snakes. This takes a lot from you, but if you're able to do it successfully, then there's nothing quite like it to get rid of the fear, at least to some extent.
Make sure that you have professional help as far as possible when you try this. Also, try and understand the varied aspects that go into identifying snakes based on their characteristics from these professionals so that the unsupported fear of snakes is gotten rid of.
One other method that is known to work really well is self affirmations and autosuggestions. Right before you sleep and just after you wake up, keep feeding yourself with positive affirmations that ring to the effect of 'snakes are not dangerous', 'there is nothing to be afraid of' or 'I'm not scared of snakes'.
These have shown to affect the subconscious mind and bring in a change wherein there is a complete change in attitude and the fear is tackled at the very base.
There are several therapies that help treat this fear as well. These include hypnotherapy in which hypnosis is used to treat this fear. This technique involves a professional. Or the method of professional counseling is used in which the assembling of the fear is explained (classical conditioning) and thereby the solutions become easier to find.
The fear of snakes, though might seem crippling in the present, can be handled effectively. Even when the fear is not irrational and has a serious incident that leads to it at its base, there are ways in which it can be overcome. A fear of any sort is a handicap to live with and therefore all the necessary steps should be taken to overcome it.