Fear of birds or ornithophobia is an irrational fear of particular objects, characteristics, or animals out of proportion to the existing circumstances. Therefore, ornithophobia, or fear of birds, makes people who suffer from it extremely uncomfortable around birds. For some individuals, this fear only targets raptors such as vultures, hawks, eagles, etc., while in other cases, even domestic birds such as parrots or parakeets, as well as the sight of their feathers, are enough to trigger an attack of anxiety.
Causes of ornithophobia
There may be different causes or reasons behind excessive fear of birds:
- Young children can develop ornithophobia if they have felt threatened by aggressive birds such as vultures, hawks, or geese.
- In some cases, the birds may not have shown any violence, but their mere presence at traumatic events such as funerals or accidents may be enough to trigger a phobia in a young child.
- Birds that fly into houses through an open window and cause disturbances may have made parents nervous, and this can trigger an anxiety attack in the child.
- Images of carnivorous birds attacking small prey like rabbits seen on television shows can sometimes develop a fear of birds in young minds.
- Most cases of childhood ornithophobia go away on their own, while others can persist even into adulthood.
Symptoms of Ornithophobia
The symptoms of this phobia vary depending on the severity of the condition. As with any other type of phobia, the symptoms of ornithophobia can be broadly categorized as mental, physical, or emotional.
- Some people refuse to eat in places where birds may be present for fear that birds will steal their food.
- Ornithophobia individuals are afraid of birds preserved by taxidermists and present in museums, etc. Others are afraid of all the images, photos, or even the birds’ feathers.
- Physical symptoms of this phobia typically include breaking out of a cold sweat, shivering, screaming or crying, increasing heart rate, freezing in place, or attempting to flee at the sight of birds.
- Some individuals are known to experience such anxiety attacks days before an actual confrontation with birds.
- Like many other types of phobias, the fear of birds can sometimes be severely debilitating; the individual may refuse to leave home entirely, thus affecting daily life.
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Treatment for fear of birds
- Overcoming Ornithophobia is essential, especially if it causes anxiety or depression.
- A severely disabling phobia needs professional treatment.
- In milder cases, one can develop and stick to self-help routines such as affirmations and positive visualizations, meditation, controlled deep breathing, etc.
- For people with severe anxiety, doctors may prescribe tranquilizers and other medications to reduce the severity of symptoms. However, care must be taken when using them.
- Weaning from such medications can cause withdrawal symptoms, and they don’t do much for the fear itself rather than provide symptomatic relief.
- Since most phobias are defined as “a conditional reflex or learning goes awry,” psychotherapists also recommend behavioral therapy to help the phobic individual unlearn these reflexes.
- Behavioral therapy is effective in nearly 9 out of 10 cases of Ornithophobia.
- Gradual desensitization is another effective method of treating fear of birds or fear of feathers. Ten to thirty sessions (depending on individual cases) can be used to expose the person to their objects of suspicion.
- The patient is shown slides or images of birds or their feathers; he is taught to imagine approaching the birds until, little by little, he learns to cope with the anguish.
- If you or someone you know has Ornithophobia so much that it is causing a lot of tension or anxiety, then one of the psychotherapies mentioned above will surely help you treat the condition successfully.
Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.