Do you fear birds? Have you always despised these flying creatures? Do you hate it when they shit on your car? Or maybe you’ve been attacked by a bird before?
Not all men are fond of birds. In this article, we’ll take a look at what science says about the fear of birds. And we’ll also suggest ways to overcome this fear.
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Defining fear of birds
Ornithophobia is the abnormal and recurring fear of birds. It comes from the Greek word ‘ornitho,’ which means anything that pertains to birds.
Like other types of phobias, the symptoms of ornithophobia vary. It’s possible that a person may fear only big birds like eagles or falcons.
Others fear certain specimens. But in some cases, people with ornithophobia are afraid of all representations of birds. They may even hate seeing photos of birds!
There’s no estimate or figure as to the number of people who have a phobia of birds. But there are celebrities who reportedly fear birds. These include actress Scarlett Johansson, rapper Eminem, and soccer superstar David Beckham.
Symptoms of ornithophobia
The symptoms of ornithophobia can be categorized into two– physical and psychological.
People who experience psychological symptoms of ornithophobia usually feel the need to run away when they interact with birds. They may also feel too anxious whenever there’s a bird around them.
At times, the fear is so overwhelming that they feel like they’re losing control of the situation.
If you feel that your anxiety when around birds feel like an exaggeration but real, then you likely have ornithophobia.
Phobia of birds can also manifest physically.
If you sweat a lot when around birds, then you likely have ornithophobia. You may also experience a racing heartbeat when a bird circles around you. You may even be shaking or having difficulty breathing!
Other physical symptoms of this phobia include tightness of chest, dry mouth, nausea, and dizziness.
Emotional and Physical Impacts
Since birds are everywhere, even in urban areas, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to avoid them.
If you live in the countryside, perhaps a day won’t pass by without you encountering a bird. This may force you to limit your activities.
For example, you may not even leave your house because you fear seeing a bird. You may even avoid going outdoors for picnics and other related activities. And you could likely be avoiding pet stores.
People who have ornithophobia often suffer from a lack of social life.
They would likely avoid eating in open-air restaurants because they fear of birds flying around. They may avoid beaches for fear of seagulls. In short, this type of phobia can cause significant emotional and physical impact.
Causes of Ornithophobia
As in the case of most animal phobias, the fear of birds is often due to a negative encounter with this type of animal.
If you have a fear of birds, it may be because you had a frightening experience with a pigeon, for example. Perhaps a pigeon tried to steal your popcorn when you were young. Or maybe a bird bites you hard when you were petting it at the zoo.
It is also possible that you witnessed a loved one hurt or scared by a bird. Your parents may have been hurt because of an attack by a crow or a gull. Or you may have experienced a bird flying down the chimney at home. This could have scared your parents. Worse, it might have caused them to slip or get hurt.
At times, the fear of a bird could develop from the stories of other people. Take the case of actor Jake Gyllenhaal who fears ostriches.
According to him, he developed fear during the shoot of the movie “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.” During the shooting of the said movie, a colleague once told him that ostriches could “rip out his heart.”
It’s also possible that you saw one movie or TV program which made you hate birds. Perhaps you saw a clip on YouTube showing birds attacking humans. Or you saw on National Geographic how birds could be ruthless on its prey. These images can be harrowing and cause you to have an irrational fear of birds.
The irrational fear of birds could also be due to stories you have heard from your folks.
Have you heard the superstition that it is bad luck to see an owl during the day? If so, this could have caused you to fear not only owls but birds in general. There’s another superstition stating that seeing six crows will lead to death. It’s a scary thought that could have left you with a negative impression of birds.
These superstitions could have been a result of the strong paranormal connect of birds. Birds such as raven and crow, for instance, have historically been associated with bad omen.
With its black plumage, the raven has been associated with death. The crow, meanwhile, has been linked with witches. In India, the house crow is said to represent departed souls.
Treatment Options for Fear of Birds
Now that you have a clearer idea of the symptoms and causes of bird fear, the next question you might have in mind is: “what are the treatment options for ornithophobia?”
The good news is that unlike some phobias that can never be cured, it is possible to treat bird phobia.
Phobia treatment depends on various factors, including the severity of the condition. You can try to live with the condition if you only fear big and harmful birds like vultures. The same goes for birds that live in the wild like eagles.
But if the phobia has affected your day-to-day living, then you should consider seeking professional help.
You’ll need to seek the help of a physician if the symptoms discussed above have been recurrent for more than six months. An extended period of suffering from bird phobia could lead to a lower quality of life.
Treatment of bird phobia involves the use of psychotherapies. One of these is exposure therapy and relaxation. This is a psychological treatment for enabling people to confront their fears.
When a person is afraid of birds, he or she will skip activities or situations that can lead to a bird encounter. While this might reduce fear and anxiety in the short term, it can have a detrimental effect in the long run. Experts say that this will only worsen the fear.
In exposure therapy and relaxation, a psychologist prepares and manages an exposure therapy program. It is designed to negate the pattern of fear.
The therapy form usually has the psychologist creating a safe environment where the patient is exposed. The goal is to decrease avoidance and reduce the fear of the patient to feared objects, in this case, birds.
For example, a psychologist would flash an image of a real bird to the person with bird phobia.
The specialist will then record and study the reactions of the individual. The psychologist could also teach various ways to deal with anxiety. This includes controlled breathing and visualizations. These are techniques that can come in handy when a person eventually learns to be tolerant of birds.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is another option for people who are irrationally scared of birds.
Also called CBT, it aims to modify or change the negative perceptions and behavior towards birds. This is a short-term psychotherapy approach that is also used in treating other issues such as difficulty in sleeping and alcohol abuse.
In treating ornithophobia, the therapist would usually talk with the person to release his or her negative thoughts regarding birds. The professional could also create a schedule of sharing sessions to achieve the goal.
In the end, the person with ornithophobia should develop a positive outlook. He or she should also be able to regain a normal life.
If the psychotherapy options are not plausible, then the specialist may recommend the use of medications. These medications are prescribed to lessen the feelings of panic and anxiety due to phobia. The medication options range from antidepressants, beta-blockers, and sedatives.
Anti-depressants such as Prozac and Paxil can help in treating anxiety. These medications change the serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical that is said to control a person’s mood.
Sedatives or benzodiazepines can also be prescribed to a person with ornithophobia. It can help a person feel calm and relaxed. But it should be used only on a short-term basis. Some examples of sedatives are valium and Xanax.
While beta-blockers are used for treating cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease, these medications can also treat anxiety related to phobia.
If a person experiences a rapid heartbeat upon encountering birds, then he or she can take beta-blockers.
In conclusion, ornithophobia is the irrational fright of birds. It’s a condition that might sound harmless on the surface. Yet a closer introspection reveals it can negatively affect a person’s quality of life.
Fortunately, it is a condition that’s treatable through therapy and medications.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What causes the fear of birds?
The cause of ornithophobia can vary from one person to another. However, it is commonly due to a traumatic experience or encounter with birds.
2. Is it normal to be scared of birds?
Yes, it is normal to be scared of fowls, especially large and harmful ones like vultures, pelicans, and ostriches. But if the fear and anxiety hamper your day-to-day living, then it is considered to be abnormal.
3. What is the meaning of Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia?
It’s not related to birds but this is the phobia of long words.
4. What is Ophidiophobia?
This is the phobia or fear of snakes.