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Arachnophobia app tackles spider phobia

Reduced to a trembling wreck by the mere sight of a spider? Never fear - a new app believes it can help

An new iPhone app is hoping to help people combat arachnophobia, by showing pictures of spiders every day. 

Virtually Free's new Phobia Free App aims to help arachnophobes through an interactive 'systematic desensitisation', initially using an unrealistic cartoon of eight-legged 'Itsy'. This is followed by a series of cartoon spiders that steadily become more realistic and therefore 'scary'.

Created with the help of a specialist psychiatrist, users begin with desensitisation sessions one to three, before progressing to pictures of a 'low fear spider'. By session seven, the user is faced with an image of a tarantula in augmented reality, "which looks and behaves like the real thing".

In the final session, the user is expected to take pictures of real spiders using their phone or iPad. The app also allows users to engage with other people who share their fear.

Using cartoons to cure a severe phobia may seem far-fetched, but NHS England have reviewed and endorsed it.

The app promises: "Systematic desensitisation deals with your fear of spiders by teaching you to be relaxed and then getting you to progressively closer to the spider until you are able to touch it without fear.

"It sounds impossible but this technique has been successfully used in therapy for many, many years now." 

And for those who find looking at the animated arachnids a tad distressing, the Phobia Free 'Stress app' is thrown in for good measure.

Arachnophobia is an acute and persistent fear of spiders and affects approximately one in six people around the world.