Terrified of Spiders? This New AR App Can Help With Your Arachnophobia

Freder/iStock via Getty Images
Freder/iStock via Getty Images / Freder/iStock via Getty Images

Though your first instinct may be to run from the things that scare you, exposure therapy is one of the best ways to conquer your fears. That may be easy for people who are afraid of heights or the dark, but it's not as simple when you suffer from arachnophobia. A new app aims to change that. As Smithsonian reports, Phobys helps arachnophobes confront their fear without exposing them to a live spider.

The app uses augmented reality to implement exposure therapy tactics in a controlled environment. After downloading Phobys onto their device, users launch the camera. The app generates a digital spider that appears to scurry around the real world. Users can watch the spider on the surface in front of them, or, if they're feeling extra brave, they can make it crawl across their hand.

The app's effectiveness is backed by science. A group of researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland developed Phobys and tested it on 66 people over the course of two weeks. At the end of the trial, participants were shown a real spider in a transparent box and asked to report their reactions. According to the researchers' study, which was published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, the app reportedly "led to reductions in fear, disgust[,] and avoidance behavior at medium effect sizes when tested in a real-life situation."

The scientists now hope their invention will help people outside a trial setting. Anyone can download the app and progress through the 10 levels of therapy it has to offer. Just bear in mind that the tech is intended for “those who suffer from a mild, clinically insignificant fear of spiders who are at least 16 years of age.” So, if the sight of a spider triggers a panic attack instead of a case of the creepy crawlies, Phobys may not be right for you. In that case, you should first consult a specialist about using the app or pursuing other forms of therapy.

Phobys offers a free level for people to test the severity of their phobia, but unlocking higher levels costs $5. You can download it today for iOS or Android.

[h/t Smithsonian]