Fears Episode 18: Ornithophobia

The following blog post serves as the inspiration for the entire Fears blog:


“It’s not all birds, just most. I’d say crow and bigger. I get really uncomfortable and just want to get away. I tried to get indoors somewhere or completely avoid the area. I get really paranoid walking in cities or parks. I almost never, ever go to the beach even though I love the beach. People often poke fun at me over it, and I get how it can be funny, but it’s really not. I’ve gotten better at controlling myself – definitely a lot better than when I was younger – but I still can’t help it. It’s just very frustrating because I know that they can’t actually hurt me, but something just comes over me when I’m around them. My parents think they know why, but I don’t have memory of a reason. They say that when I was a few years old we were on a beach in the Bahamas and my mom took out some chips. All of a sudden, a swarm of seagulls swooped down towards the food and she says that when I looked up there was pure terror in my eyes. I have no idea if it that’s what it is or not, but whatever has made me like this has sure had a huge impact on my life.”

Ornithophobia is defined as an abnormal, irrational fear of birds. It is termed an irrational phobia. It is relatively uncommon, affecting approximately 0.9% of the U.S. population. Signs and symptoms of Ornithophobia vary depending its severity. While some people may fear only large or wild birds, some may be afraid of birds who have undergone taxidermy. In more extreme cases, an Ornithophobe may even fear pictures or videos of birds. Possible signs and symptoms when forced to confront a bird may include shaking, crying, freezing in place, running away, attempting to hide, and/or even anticipatory anxiety in the days leading up to a likely confrontation with birds, among many others. Possible causes of Ornithophobia could include a negative encounter with a bird. Many birds can be somewhat aggressive in hunting for food, and childhood run-ins with pigeons or seagulls bent on stealing popcorn or other snacks are common. Many people, whether or not they have a full-blown phobia, are wary of snacking in areas with large bird populations. Sometimes these encounters are not so direct. Birds sometimes fly through open windows or down chimneys, causing an uproar in the home. Seeing the reaction of a loved one, such as a parent or sibling, could be enough to trigger a phobia. Throughout history and popular culture, birds have been portrayed various way. Depictions that may trigger forms of Ornithophobia include their association with symbols of death, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 film The Birds, and Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Raven”. As of right now, there does not seem to be any major evolutionary basis behind Ornithophobia. Potential treatments for Ornithophobia may include cognitive-behavioral therapy, consulting a trained therapist, positive self-talk, relaxation techniques, systematic desensitization, hypnosis, and/or medications.

Fun Fact: The Ornithophobe featured in this episode is yours truly.


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Civic Issues Blog

Gender/Sexuality/Rights – Third suspect arrested in alleged Panama City gang rape

In mid-March, among the height of Spring Break season in Panama City Beach, Florida, a woman was sexually assaulted by four men while passed out on the beach. The assault was caught on videotape which aired on the news, and the victim, who has no memory of the attack, recognized her tattoos in the blurred footage and contacted authorities.

At 11 p.m. on Tuesday, a third suspect who had been identified in the video of the gang rape was arrested. He had been tracked down visiting family in Georgia, although he is originally from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and is enrolled at Middle Tennessee State University. Two other men had already been arrested and charged with sexual battery by multiple perpetrators.

According to Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen, the video of the rape shows suspects pushing the victim’s hand aside and holding her legs down. Even more disturbing, the beach was crowded by fellow spring-breakers, many standing just two feet away. “There’s hundreds, hundreds of people standing there — watching, looking, seeing, hearing what’s going on,” Sheriff McKeithen said. “And yet our culture and our society and our young people have got to the point where obviously this is acceptable somewhere. I will tell you it is not acceptable in Bay County.” Authorities have three sworn statements from witnesses stating that the assault happened.

As if the story couldn’t be more horrific, Sheriff McKeithen has also stated that it is just one of several videos of incoherent, often drugged, young girls being assaulted on the beaches of Panama City with countless witnesses standing around. This spring break season, the beach community has also seen criminal arrests for various crimes almost triple. McKeithen disgustedly added, “This is not the first video we’ve recovered. It’s not the second video. It’s not the third video. There’s a number of videos we’ve recovered with things similar to this, and I can only imagine how many things we haven’t recovered.”


Fears Episode 15: Glossophobia

Glossophobia is defined as the fear of public speaking or of speaking in general. It is categorized as irrational. It is thought that approximately 74% of the world population has some form of Glossophobia, one of the most common phobias. However, it is important to note that there are many levels of speech anxiety, social phobias, or social anxiety orders. Most of those who claim to have Glossophobia may not in fact suffer from the actual phobia. Possible signs and symptoms of Glossophobia may include intense anxiety at even thought of having to verbally communicate with any group, avoidance of events where such an instance is a possibility, physical distress, nausea, feelings of panic, trembling, sweating, stomachache, acute breathing, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, dilated pupils, increased perspiration, increased oxygen intake, stiffening of neck/upper back muscles, dry mouth, a tense voice, a quivering voice, vocalized pauses for comfort, and/or inability to speak. One of the most commonly-known symptoms of Glossophobia is Stage Fright. Possible causes of Glossophobia may be a traumatic life event, for example, an embarrassing moment concerning speaking in public at a young age or in early adulthood. Other causes include low self-esteem or expectation of failure. A lack of confidence and/or experience is a major cause of this. It has even been speculated that there is an evolutionary aspect behind Glossophobia; since early humans depended upon each other for survival, social rejection meant almost certain death – and poor public speaking can greatly magnify the opportunity for social rejection.  Possible treatments for Glossophobia may include, but are not limited to: training courses in public speaking, self-help materials, temporary drugs such as beta-blockers, practice and/or gaining experience, among many others.

Fun Fact: Some surveys have shown that most people fear public speaking more than they fear death.





RCL Blogs

Issue Brief Rough Draft Start

Infectious Disease: Returning Medical Personnel, Hospital Readiness, and Funding for Research


Every year the U.S. sees hundreds of different diseases and infections affect its population. However, the worst of these tend to be those brought into the country from foreign regions. In order to greatly strengthen our nation’s ability to effectively battle these agents, a public policy should be implemented focusing on three core areas of our front. First, stricter regulations on the handling of medical personnel returning to the U.S. from disease-infected areas should be enforced. Second, our hospitals need to be armed and prepared with the proper equipment and training to deal with any possible outbreak. Lastly, funding needs to be increased for research in the early detection and treatment of these infectious diseases.

When medical personnel return from working in a foreign area that is affected with infectious disease, the monitoring and prevention of any symptoms or signs of contraction must be quick but effective. The main problem with how the U.S. currently carries out this process is that there is no uniform federal policy. Instead, there is what has been called a “messy patchwork” of individual responses on a state-by state level. This was the largest issue at hand when the Ebola crisis occurred in the fall of 2014. While states such as New York and New Jersey instituted very tough measures, many other states did not seem to be working enough. A federal policy was proposed in late October that required returning workers to a one-time in person-checkup and phone call from a local public health authority. This much more lenient than the stricter regulations that other states felt the need to enforce. In states such as New Jersey, depending on the level of risk the worker is categorized into upon arriving at an international airport, the response may be as strict as a mandatory set quarantine in their home. This policy was seen as overactive by most public-health experts but the general public, including those of other states, were very satisfied with these strict measures. Other states such as Maryland decided that they may prohibit returning heath workers from public transit or large gatherings for their first 3 weeks back home while their potential symptoms are being monitored. Based on these various policies, a public policy should be proposed mandating a 21-day at-home quarantine on health workers returning from infectious disease-affected areas. The lack of a current federal quarantine has caused a loss of control over the assessment and release of possibly-affected individuals. Those against a quarantine say that it is medically proven to be unnecessary and is a suffocation of civil liberties. Many health officials have also expressed concern that stricter regulations and a mandatory quarantine would discourage medical workers from leaving the U.S. and travelling to areas in need of their help. However, in some states health workers are already being required to sign agreements that restrict their activities. Those who are found to have broken protective protocol in any way were immediately subject to the quarantine. In addition, the new policy should have the workers sign an agreement to their awareness of what they are exposing themselves to, and the possibility of a mandatory quarantine upon their return.

Civic Issues Blog

Deliberation Reflection

On Friday, February 27th, I attended another deliberation called “The Problem: Dealing with Heroin in PA”. Since this was the day before our class’s deliberations, I specifically was looking to take notes on what to do and what not to do while hosting a deliberation to maximize everyone’s experience. I saw that they had both a pre-survey and a questionnaire. They also used the whiteboard to take notes which helped a lot during the summary portion. I noticed that there was some confusion in the beginning about which group was which and finding seating for everyone. I thought that it was often hard to hear people speaking, even the hosts. I also observed that it was the same few people speaking and contributing their ideas.

For our deliberation, I made sure I told our group all of the above. We added more to our questionnaire. We focused on seating even before most of our guests arrived. We spoke up and were also able to hear everyone else who spoke. I think that almost everyone who attended contributed to the deliberation. When it came time for me to summarize, I used the whiteboard notes to refresh and as a visual for the attendees to follow along. I’m really glad that I attended another deliberation before ours.


Fears Episode 14: Koumpounophobia

Koumpounophobia is defined as the fear of buttons. It is classified as an irrational phobia. This phobia is relatively rare, affecting approximately less that 1% of the U.S. population, but is still more common that one would think. Signs ad symptoms of Koumpounophobia may include, but are not limited to, being unable to stand the sight, sounds, or texture of buttons, freaking out or losing control, nausea, hysteria, crying, screaming, panic, anxiety, increased heart rate, and/or trembling. There does not seem to be any known historical and/or evolutionary cause behind Koumpounophobia in particular. However, some psychologists could argue that it is tied to another fear that many scientists believe is evolutionary. The fear of circular objects is believed to have been gripping humans for thousands of years, as they remind us of ideas such as holes, resemble skin rashes, or and trigger thoughts of pits containing the unknown. Other possible causes could include a genetic predisposition to the fear or a close relative with the fear. Most likely of all, however, is a traumatic or negative experience in childhood involving buttons; such as choking on a button, being mocked for not knowing how to button, or even childhood abuse or neglect by someone wearing clothes with buttons. Potential treatments for Koumpounophobia may include talk therapy, cognitive/behavioral therapy, virtual reality exposure, help groups, and/or hypnotherapy.

Fun Fact: It is believed that Steve Jobs had Koumpounophobia.


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Civic Issues Blog

Gender/Sexuality/Rights 3 – Wellesley College to accept transgender women

Wellesley College, a women’s liberal arts college west of Boston, will for the first time ever admit transgender students who identify as women, or more specifically, any applicant who “lives as a woman and consistently identifies as a woman.” However, women who identify as men are not eligible for admission. The school did state that if a student during her time at Wellesley no longer identifies as a woman, the student will still be allowed to graduate if they continue to meet academic standards.

The policy will take effect in the next admission cycle, for the potential class of 2020. The new policy is believed to be a result comes of a committee President H. Kim Bottomly formed last fall to study “educational, social, legal and medical considerations about gender identity” according to the college. Bottomly said in a phone interview that a lot of thought was put into this move as a part of the college’s “mission-driven thinking”.

Wellesley is now the third local women’s college to create a more inclusive admissions policy by deciding to admit transgender students. Mount Holyoke College, in South Hadley, and Simmons College go one step above Wellesley and also accept women who identify as men. Each college says that they are responding to societal changes that are redefining how individuals, particularly young people, identify themselves. Bottomly stated that the new policy specifically at Wellesley is designed to reaffirm the college’s commitment to education women, as he believes that the need for a women’s college is “as valid today as it has been at any time in the past”.

The college will also be open to assisting students who would like to transfer due to their no longer identifying women. Bottomly made Wellesley’s position clear, saying, “We will support all the students who are at Wellesley and all of their kinds of finding themselves in all of the ways that we can”.


Fears Episode 13: Atychiphobia

Atychiphobia is defined as the the abnormal, unwarranted, and persistent fear of failure. It is classified as a type of specific phobia, which means that it amounts to an irrational fear. Between 2 and 5 percent of the American population is affected by it. However, as is the case with many phobias, this represents the number of people who have an actual phobia of failure. Especially with Atychiphobia, we must once again note that the severity of a fear can range quite widely – and most often than not may not even be technically classified as a “fear”. For instance, it would be hard to come across an individual who liked the idea of failure, but still those affected by the phobia are much more rare. Possible signs and symptoms of Atychiphobia may include irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, nausea, overall feelings of dread, nervousness, stomach disorders, flushing of the face, perspiration, muscle tension, tremulousness, and faintness. An Atychiphobe could have an impaired willingness to attempt certain activities thus leading to a loss of self-confidence and motivation, and therefore even depression. Possible causes of Atychiphobia could include demeaning parents or family members, traumatic and/or embarrassing events that arise from minor failure early in life, or an individual experiencing a significant failure and being ill-equipped to effectively cope with it. In addition, some individuals who struggle with phobias have a genetic predisposition toward anxiety, exacerbating their Atychiphobia. Society also plays a role by being inherently competitive, and thus creating another climate where failure has large implications. Society also places much emphasis on perfection, causing an Atychiphobe to base themselves solely on this value. Possible treatments of Atychiphobia may include among others self-help, Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SRI), a combination of behavioral /cognitive and medicinal therapies, counseling, the development of healthier belief systems, or more serious and general methods such as hypnotherapy and systematic desensitization.

Fun Fact: Atyches, the root of Atychiphobia, is Greek for “unfortunate”.



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Civic Issues Blog

Gender/Sexuality/Rights 2 – Abortion – “Tennessee AG weighs in on how far abortion restrictions can go”

On November 1st, Amendment 1 passed in Tennessee. This amendment paved the way for more abortion-related restrictions that any lawmaker has been able to enact in nearly 15 years. Voters even approved the addition of new language to the state constitution that would explicitly eliminate the right to an abortion.

Since November, legislators have not hesitated to introduce a plethora of bills furthering the regulation of abortions. But how far can those legislators go without betraying the U.S. Constitution? Tenessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III has written a 5-page legal analysis detailing just that. Already, Republican State Representative Rick Womick said Tuesday that he is working on a bill that require abortion providers to perform ultrasounds, describe to a woman what is shown in the ultrasounds and turn up the volume so she can listen to the fetal heartbeat if one exists. However, his newer version will require abortion providers to offer the choice to a woman on whether she would opt to do so or not, an effort he hopes will survive a legal challenge. State Senator Mae Beavers, another Republican, has proposed a measure to reinstate a required medical counseling law previously struck down by the state’s Supreme Court. Senator Mark Green, also Republican, introduced a bill that would require medical and surgical abortion care to be performed in a “licensed ambulatory surgical treatment center.” Other representatives have voiced support behind a bill to require a 48-hour mandatory waiting period before any abortionary procedure.

But getting all of these new bills and proposals through congress will still not be easy. Even with the Tennessee Constitution more flexible than ever, Slatery has reminded the state that any new law has to meet standards established by the U.S. Supreme Court that it does not impose an “undue burden” on a woman seeking an abortion. Under this “undue burden” rule, proposals to impose physician-required counseling of women, two-day waiting periods, and many other requirements have been found unconstitutional. In addition, Slatery noted that different courts have reached different decisions using that analysis.

Those who support abortion rights in Tennessee find Slatery’s opinions “heartening”. Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee said, “The attorney general is saying ‘don’t rush to pass laws’ that duplicate what was on the books prior to the 2000 Tennessee Supreme Court decision”. That decision concluded that there was a fundamental right to abortion for women in the Tennessee Constitution, a right that Amendment 1 has since removed.



Fears Episode 12: Sciurophobia

Sciurophobia is defined as the fear of squirrels. Although it is a less common phobia, it is more common than one would think, affecting over 250,000 Americans. However, especially in the case of this phobia, it should be noted that only the most severe forms of a fear of squirrels can be termed Sciurophobia, as many people may simply dislike them or prefer to avoid them. A few possible signs and symptoms of Sciurophobia may include an increase in heart rate, sweating palms, rapid breathing, and knots in the stomach. However, these symptoms can be present in varying degrees, and are not the only possibilities. The potential causes of Sciurophobia are where this fear’s traits become a bit hazy. This is due to the fact that although the fear has become widely known and discussed, and although it is still scientifically treated, research on it is still being conducted and there is still major research left to do. Although some scientists are claiming that some causes of Sciurophobia may be genetic, through years of evolution, there is no real evidence there are any historical or evolutionary bases behind this phobia. However some psychologists are discussing the possible effect of Sciurophobia becoming a social trend, as seen through viral videos and much posting throughout the internet. Of course, there is always the most feasible cause, which is psychological trauma linked to squirrels, possible due to an imprinting incident of some kind. Possible treatments for Sciurophobia may include Exposure Therapy, Self-Help, Talk Therapy, Behavioral Therapy, and some medicines.

Fun Fact: The species of squirrel that has become such a legend at Penn State is the Eastern Gray Squirrel.


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