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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