Anyone who has seen Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic movie ‘The Birds’ can understand how a fear of birds can develop. Indeed, many people are wary of being pecked, or swooped down on by a bird hungry for their chips. However, for someone with Ornithophobia, the mere mention of birds can set off a severe panic attack.
Ornithophobia, derived from the Ancient Greek word for birds, Ornithos, can take many forms, and varies in severity. Many sufferers only fear certain species, such as birds of prey, but for a small percentage, any kind of bird induces terror. It may not necessarily be the fear of attack either. Some sufferers claim that they just cannot stand the way birds look, with an emphasis on the eyes and feathers.
While certainly not one of the more common phobias, it can have a strong impact on people, who may avoid leaving the house for fear of encountering a bird. Others have reported turning down jobs due to the amount of birds in the vicinity. It is possible to overcome, and several proven treatments are available.
CAUSES OF ORNITHOPHOBIA
As with several other animal related phobias, the vast majority of Ornithophobics are likely to have suffered from a traumatic event, most likely in childhood. From being honked at by an angry goose, or being stuck in a room with a bird trapped inside, there are many possible scenarios that can lead to Ornithophobia.
Witnessed events, such as panicked parents reacting badly to a bird in the house can also grow into a phobia. Likewise, a child can learn to fear birds from those around them. If they are constantly told to be careful and avoid birds, it’s only natural to develop a fear.
Cultural references to birds may also be responsible for Ornithophobia. Certain types of birds are often linked to superstition, bad luck and evil. Crows, ravens and a host of others are frequently depicted of harbingers of death, or bad omens. To a young mind, fixated on these myths, it seems perfectly logical to fear, and avoid birds. Superstition aside, movies or news reports of birds attacking people can also induce fear.
SYMPTOMS OF ORNITHOPHOBIA
As with many other specific phobias, Ornithophobics may suffer strong anxiety attacks when confronted with a bird. In more extreme cases, images, feathers or even thinking about birds can result in the following symptoms.
- Crying and screaming
- Running away
- Increased heartbeat
- Hot or cold flushes
- Profuse sweating
- Freezing to the spot
Sufferers may also go to extreme lengths to avoid any potential bird encounters, which can lead to isolation and a reluctance to leave the house. If an encounter seems inevitable, the days leading up to the event may be spent in a state of tension and unease.
When your fear gets to the point that you’re scared to leave the house, or your daily life is being disrupted, it’s vital to seek help.
Exposure Therapy builds up a tolerance to birds, through gradual exposure to your fear. Guided by a professional in a controlled environment, the patient will be exposed first to images of birds, and eventually the real thing. Relaxation techniques are practiced during this time, which eventually replace fear responses.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) involves talk therapy sessions, whereby the therapist will help you to discover the origins of your fear. In this way, you’re guided towards rebuilding your image of birds.
Hypnosis is another technique often employed, and is recommended for more severe cases, who do not feel able to talk about, or expose themselves to birds in anyway. Hypnotherapy can be carried out in conjunction with other techniques, or completed at home as a self-help course, via CD or audio download.
Affirmations or mantras, can also be carried out at home, with positive self-talk helping to change the way you deal with anxiety. Similarly, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) exercises are designed to reprogram the ‘faults’ in your mind. These Audio Therapies can help you change the way you deal with fear and anxiety in general.
In today’s digital world, there are even apps or audio therapy sessions such as subliminals you can download to help rid you of your phobia.
BENEFITS OF OVERCOMING FEAR OF BIRDS
Simply put, it’s very difficult to avoid birds. Regardless of where you live, there will be some type of creature soaring through the sky or waddling around. By overcoming your fear of birds, you allow yourself to embrace the world around you. Social events you might once have avoided, can now be enjoyed, opening a world of new possibilities.
Places like the beach, zoos, farms and parks will no longer be off limit. The feeling of power and control you will gain through treating your phobia is unrivalled. Without the restraints of anxiety, you’re likely to gain a boost in all areas of your life.