In Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 American horror-thriller film “The Birds”, the story revolves around flocks of birds who violently attack people in Bodega Bay, California.
It got the honor and distinction as the seventh greatest thriller in American Cinema by the American Film Institute.
Birds, in general, have been a source of inspiration. Think of the Wright brothers who turned to gliding birds, for solutions to the problems of flight in the 1900s.
But their portrayal as wild and terrifying winged-animals in movies, made some people fearful of them.
And for some, the mere sight of a bird is enough to cause them discomfort and fear. This condition, or the fear of birds is known as Ornithophobia.
Signs and Symptoms of Ornithophobia
- How do we find out if a person is suffering from Ornithophobia? What are the usual signs or symptoms that they exhibit whenever they are confronted with their fear?
- Here are the major symptoms that are usually experienced by people with ornithophobia:
- Refusal to go to places where birds are known to be around such as parks, zoos, pet shops, and other similar places.
- Fear of seeing birds preserved by taxidermists. In some extreme cases, even pictures or images of birds in books or magazines, and even feathers make then anxious.
- Persons with ornithophobia breaks in a cold sweat, shakes or trembles, cries or screams, experience rapid heartbeat or palpitations, and being paralyzed at the sight of birds.
- The urge to run away or flee at the sight of birds.
Causes and Common Triggers of Ornithophobia
Nobody is born to fear birds. But as a child grows and becomes exposed to the world, an incident or encounter may have triggered the fear.
Below are some of the causes and common triggers of ornithophobia:
- Encounter with large and aggressive birds such as hawks, swans, or vultures and feel threatened by them. This can develop the fear of birds in young children.
- It can be acquired or learned from a parent or older sibling who has a fear of birds. Even in other phobias, children learn from the people around them how to react to different stimuli. They will easily pick up that birds are to be feared, when people close to them show such fears.
- The media, especially movies such as Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, which portray birds as aggressive and terrifying animals can also contribute.
Treatments of Ornithophobia
Most phobias do not require treatment especially if it’s in its mild form, and the person is still able to function normally in life. The person can adjust to his or her phobia and keep it under control.
A treatment is strongly advised if the phobia affects the person’s way of life, whether personally or at work, and his or her relationship with friends, family, and colleagues suffer.
Psychotherapy is the recommended treatment on these types of situations where the person can talk about his/her fear of birds freely, with a person that he or she knows is a professional that can help him or her. Hypnosis can sometimes help especially in extreme cases.
Aside from Psychotherapy, here are the other acceptable treatments for people with ornithophobia. Studies have shown that these treatments have helped lessen the fear in most patients:
For most phobias, exposure therapy is said to be the most successful. There are several studies conducted about treatments of phobias using imaginal exposure. This means for people with Ornithophobia, they will be gradually exposed to images that imply or depicts death. Based on the same studies, 90% of subjected to the treatment exhibited a considerable fear reduction. And around 65% no longer experienced any symptoms of their phobias.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is another form of treatment for persons with phobias. It is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health. What it does is it helps the patient to challenge or change their thoughts or beliefs, in addressing their problems. This treatment was originally meant to treat depression, but has since been expanded to treat other conditions including anxiety, which is common and exhibited by most or all phobic people.
Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT)
In this type of therapy, the patient is given a simulated experience using computer programs and artificially created environments. They use Virtual Reality gadgets to provide the patient a controlled stimuli as part of the treatment. They then monitor the patient’s reaction. It’s a series of VR-based treatment where it involves adjusting the virtual environment. Sometimes smell or adding vibrations allow the clinician to determine the level of the patient's reaction to the stimuli. Replaying virtual scenes multiple times with or without adjustment depending on the patient's reaction.
Societal and Cultural Impact of Ornithophobia
Persons suffering from ornithophobia may find themselves unable to function normally in society. They might refuse to eat in open-air restaurants even if they want to, for fear of a bird landing beside him or her. They may stop going to parks for fear of seeing pigeons or other birds. They may no longer go to the beach where they might see a hawk or seagull flying over. In worst cases, the person may even become a recluse and stop going out of his or her house.
How Common Is Ornithophobia?
Some estimate that 5% of people suffer from ornithophobia. But there are no scientific data to support this claim so we will never know. As with other phobias, some people do not acknowledge that they suffer from a phobia for fear of being ridiculed or laughed at.
What Should You Do If You Have Ornithophobia?
As with any type of phobia, the best thing to do is seek medical or professional help. Joining online support groups related to your phobia may also help, as you will be able to find other people that are experiencing the same fears as you.
Ornithophobia, as with any type of phobia, is a mental condition that can be treated. The first step to treating it is acknowledging to oneself that he or she has it. And with the many successful treatment of persons with different phobias, ornithophobia can be conquered.