Do you have a fear of something that impacts your daily life? If so, then you might have a phobia. Phobias are actually very common, and a lot of people have a phobia that they aren’t getting treatment for. Phobias are actually quite serious because a severe phobia can be extremely disabling. People with severe phobias might find that they’re unable to leave their house because of it. Others might just have responses that they can live with and be mildly uncomfortable when they have to face their phobia.
What is a phobia
A phobia is related to anxiety. Anxiety is a feeling that most individuals experience. It helps you stay on the alert and learn things, but when it’s overactive, then anxiety starts to become an issue of apprehension that minimizes the amount of attention you have and decreases your performance in life. Anxiety, just like phobias, can be mild or acute, and many people may feel some shame about what they deem might be an overreaction to situations.
When you feel anxious, your body releases adrenaline and some other chemicals into your bloodstream, which triggers your fight- or- flight response. Your flight response is your choice to run away and your fight response is your choice to fight for your life.
A phobia is a disorder where your body reacts and extreme anxiety, which triggers your fight or flight response in a situation where you might not need this response. It’s basically like if your body told you that there was extreme danger even though the situation wasn’t threatening at all. No matter how harmless your phobia might be, the person’s reaction and fear is tangible. Most people with phobias know the reaction is irrational but it doesn’t make any difference because of the chemical reaction going on in their body.
Ornithophobia: Fear of Birds
Ornithophobia is an animal phobia, specifically of birds. Although this may sound pretty straightforward, this phobia can take many forms. For example, some people who have this phobia are only scared of birds of prey, like vultures or eagles. Others, however, may only be afraid of household pets, like parakeets or parrots. There are a lot of things to learn and understand about this phobia if you’re dealing with someone who has ornithophobia
What Causes Ornithophobia
If you don’t have ornithophobia, then it can be hard to understand how they developed this phobia. Most commonly, the reason for the phobia is due to a bad experience with a bird. Birds are aggressive creatures, especially when they’re hungry or hunting for food, which is why people with ornithophobia often develop a phobia following this interaction.
Sometimes, the negative interaction didn’t happen directly to them, but they were in the general area. If a bird flew through the window by surprise or attacked someone on the beach near you for their food, then the anxiety experienced during these events could develop into a phobia.
Young children are likely to have developed this phobia due to interactions with aggressive birds they see often, like geese. The goose doesn’t have to show violence, but their presence at events, like funerals or accidents, might be enough to trigger the bad feelings they might’ve had at these traumatic events.
If people have interactions with folklore stories or movies with birds that made them scared, then this also can cause them to develop a phobia. Some stories or movies show birds as bringers of death or vicious predators, and this can impact the opinion that listeners and viewers have about birds, especially in young children.
What Symptoms should I Watch for
The symptoms of this phobia vary from person to person, and it might change with the severity of the phobia. The symptoms can be categorized into mental, physical, and emotional symptoms, all of which can be equally impactful on their daily lives.
If you’re unsure of what these symptoms might look like, here are a few examples:
- Refusal to eat in public places because there might be birds present to steal the food
- Inability to go on outings to beaches because they know there will be birds present
- Preserved birds, even in museums locked up, trigger individuals since they bring up memories of past aggression and anxieties felt when they might have seen those birds
- Physical reactions of this phobia are displayed, such as breaking out in cold sweat, trembling and shaking, screaming and crying, a spiked heart rate, panic and stiffness, and an attempt to run at the sight of birds.
You might notice that birds are present in urban areas a lot, and you can’t go throughout the day without seeing a bird.Therefore, it’s not common for people with ornithophobia to restrict their activities as they notice their anxiety spike. For example, they might avoid picnics and other outdoor activities. They also might be unable to visit pet stores because of the birds they sell. Those with severe ornithophobia might become agoraphobia, which means they’ll be afraid to leave their house because they might see a bird.
Treating ornithophobia might be essential especially if it causes chronic anxiety and depression in an individual. The mental repercussions of phobia can be extremely taxing, and a severely crippling phobia might require professional treatment. In milder cases, you might not need professional treatment and you can develop some self help routines that you do daily, such as positive reaffirmations, a few minutes of visualizations, meditation techniques, or controlled deep breathing.
For those with severe anxiety, doctors might prescribe tranquilizers and other medicines to reduce the severity of the symptoms and allow for greater quality of life. These medications are serious, and users must understand that they’ll need adequate medical attention while they’re on them. Getting off these medications once you’ve been taking them for awhile can cause withdrawal symptoms, such as cold sweats, shaking, and nausea. These medications don’t take away your phobia, however your reactions will be milder and less extreme when you face it.
Behavioral therapy is also an option since a lot of these phobias are developed after an experience. 9 out of 10 cases of ornithophobia can be eased with behavioral therapy, so this is an option if you don’t want to take medication. If experts aren’t what you need, then you can try treating yourself, especially in mild cases.
There are ways you can attempt to help yourself treat your phobia.
Confront your triggers. Triggers are what causes the symptoms of your phobia to begin. This will make you uncomfortable, but you have to understand what makes you fear birds before you can treat it. You might want to think about the characteristics that make you fear the birds. If you are unsure, here are some common triggers for ornithophobia:
- Swooping down from above or from places where you can’t see them
- The sound of flapping wings
- The sounds the birds make
- The sharp beaks of the birds
- The size of some birds
Then, once you know what triggers your fear, you can use gradual desensitization, which is an effective method of treating the fear of birds or fear of feathers, which is the main trigger in some cases. Ten to thirty sessions of gradual desensitization might be necessary depending on the severity of the ornithophobia. This is used to expose the person to what they fear in a place of comfort so they can confront their feelings. Of course, you can’t just launch into seeing graphic objects of your fears.
After some time of confronting the triggers, the patient is given slides and images of birds or their feathers. This teaches them to imagine approaching the birds until they gradually learn to see these images and cope with the distress they encounter when they see these images.
If you want to do this on your own, there is a gradual series of self-exposure steps you can use to desensitize yourself. Here are the steps you can use:
Step 1: Draw a small shape of a bird on a piece of paper. The bird should be only a rough sketch with little detail. Do this until you feel comfortable and move on to the next step.
Step 2: Draw the most accurate version of the bird you can with a lot of detail. DO this step until you feel comfortable and notice a decrease in anxiety following the drawing.
Step 3: Now, look at black and white pictures of birds. Browse these a little a day until you feel comfortable with the pictures.
Step 4: Work up to looking at color photos of birds.
Step 5: Now, begin looking at videos.
The last step involves looking at birds outside your window or from a car. You can do this step until you’re comfortable enough to get out of your car.
Everyone is different, so don’t be upset if this takes time.
Ornithophobia isn’t weird or shameful, and people affected should know that there are always experts there to help them if they need help getting past their fear.