Musophobia: The phobia of rats

Musophobia: What is it?

Musophobia or rat phobia is the excessive fear, aversion and rejection of rats or mice. They are traditionally associated with dirt, rot, and serious diseases.

People who have a phobia of rats experience terror and revulsion at the real or imagined presence of rats. In addition, their fear is disproportionate and irrational compared to the real danger that these animals pose.

Someone with a severe phobia of rats may avoid certain environments. And even stop doing the activities you used to do. In this way, your phobia ends up affecting your day-to-day life, giving rise to problems in the work, social and personal spheres.

When the pathology is present in a very advanced degree, fear can be present only when seeing an image of the animal. Either through television or in a photograph.


The symptoms of musophobia vary depending on the extent of the fear experienced by the phobia. Just like any other zoophobia, the fear of mice typically triggers physical and mental symptoms such as the following:

Yelling, crying, climbing on beds or tables/chairs

try to run away

Shaking, tremors and profuse sweating.

Have a fast heartbeat, breathe quickly, or wheeze

Feeling nauseated, vomiting, or having other signs of gastrointestinal upset

Musophobics may experience anxiety/panic attacks at the mere mention of mice, or even seeing them feeding on litter, or in pictures, on TV, etc.

Presence of intense fear or anxiety in the face of a stimulus that triggers it.

The phobic object or situation provokes an immediate fear or anxiety reaction. Virtually every time the stimulus is presented.

The person actively seeks to avoid or resist the object or situation.

Fear or anxiety presented elicits a response out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the trigger.

The presence of fear and anxiety are persistent, usually lasting six or more months.

It generates clinically significant discomfort, as well as deterioration in social, occupational and other areas of the person’s life.

Who is affected?

Although the idea that this phobia only affects women is widely spread, the idea is not correct. Since musophobia manifests itself in both men and women.

Musophobia: Causes

The thing about mice and rats is that it repels most people. Therefore, this phobia can be a fear learned from childhood. If someone in your house screamed in fear as soon as they saw a mouse, it is possible that you will develop imitation musophobia.

Although the most frequent causes for the appearance of a phobic disorder are conditioning due to traumatic experience and anxiety disorders.

On the other hand, rat phobia can also be caused by a first startle response (or «fright») to the unexpected appearance of the animal. If this experience is directly or indirectly linked to negative or unpleasant aspects. It is possible that the fear is established and little by little grows until it becomes a phobia.

Therefore, a phenomenon known as «classical conditioning» occurs in which the person becomes afraid of the rat by creating an association between the rat and a negative event that they experienced at the same time (finding the animal eating its food, inside its bed or hurt or frightened him).

Another way to acquire this phobia is through the transmission of threatening information, such as anecdotes, stories, or warnings from parents about the dangers of rats.

In reality, the causes of a phobia are very extensive, varied and complex. They interact with each other and are linked with other variables such as the individual’s personality, temperament, sensitivity to stress, susceptibility to disgust, social support, expectations


The most effective and well-known treatment is cognitive-behavioral with in vivo exposure (EV). Before starting the EV, it is convenient to give information about the mice and correct possible erroneous beliefs about them.

An exposure hierarchy should also be made, taking into account the person’s subjective levels of anxiety. Some ideas for working on feared and/or avoided situations are: talking about the animal, seeing photos or videos of mice, going to pet stores where there are mice, touching and petting the mice and feeding them. Another option is to use the exposure through virtual reality.

In the first phases, a hierarchy of situations that cause fear in relation to mice is drawn up, and work begins with those that cause least fear. It is taught to control anxiety, suffer it and let it disappear. First, the patient must be taught that the anxiety response is natural to human beings, but in some cases it is too sensitive.

Once the patient verifies that the photograph of a mouse or rat cannot cause any negative consequences. Fear and anxiety at pictures of mice or rats will decrease. In this way we will go up in the hierarchy, with fewer and fewer feared situations, until it finally disappears.


Regarding the pharmacological treatment of specific phobias, such as the fear of mice. Drugs are not considered effective against them. However, benzodiazepines and beta-blockers are occasionally used as a complement to exposure therapy.

On the other hand, recent studies show that d-cycloserine, an antibiotic used to treat tuberculosis, can improve exposure therapy. Finally, as we always say, the ideal will be to carry out a multidisciplinary treatment by going to the appropriate professionals. Without ever forgetting the psychological aspect to work properly on the causes of fear.