Okay, we'll admit it ... bats are kind of odd. They look sort of like mice or rats (although they're not rodents), and they're the only mammal capable of actual flight. If that weren't odd enough, they also have poor eyesight and navigate around through the use of echolocation. Bats often live in places that we already think of as creepy, such as caves and abandoned mines. Still, if you stay away from caves and other places where they're known to live, you probably don't have to worry much about actually getting up close and personal with a bat. Not that a bat would want to do anything but get away from you, of course.
Of course, if you have chiroptophobia, you may fear that those bats you see flying across the sky will make their way into your home (which can happen, but very rarely). Maybe you're worried that they'll bite you and suck your blood, but it's unfair to paint all bats with the same bloody stroke. There are only three species of bat that drink blood, and it's true that they're known as vampire bats. They all live in Latin America (although there is speculation that they may come further north due to climate change), and they don't usually bite humans — just animals like birds, horses and pigs. You might also worry that bats carry rabies, but according to a 2011 study conducted at the University of Calgary, less than 1 percent of the average bat population does. Knowing these things, however, makes no difference when you're consumed by thoughts of bat bites.
Wisdom From Dr. Zasio: Exposure Therapy
Dr. Zasio treats patients with animal phobias through exposure therapy. This is a system by which people slowly come in contact with their feared animal, starting with words associated with the animal. According to Dr. Zasio, "We have them rate their anxiety level when they look at each one of those words. We have a scale of zero to 10 — zero is 'I have no anxiety' and ten is 'complete panic.'"
Patients look at the words until their anxiety is a zero. They may also listen to animal noises, look at pictures of them or get stuffed animals. By the end of the treatment, Dr. Zasio brings them closer to the real animal. She says that they look "from a distance until their anxiety level comes down, then they slowly and systematically move closer to the animal. Once they are desensitized, ideally they would get that animal as a pet if it's possible." Of course, most people don't get pet bats or sharks!