Ornithophobia (fear of birds): symptoms and causes

One of the most common types of phobia is irrational fear of animals. Although technically fear can develop in any animal – and indeed in any stimulus in general – in this article we will analyze one of the most common phobias: ornithophobia or fear of birds.

We will focus on defining the main characteristics of ornithophobia: its definition, its relationship to other disorders, its characteristic symptoms and most common causes. We will also do a brief review of other animal phobias (or zoophobias).

    What is ornithophobia?

    Ornithophobia is defined as a intense and irrational fear of birds. In the presence of a bird, the phobic person reacts with a physiological and / or cognitive response to anxiety; in some cases there may be anxiety attacks (commonly known as “panic attacks”).

    In the DSM textbooks, the fear of birds is classified in the diagnostic category of specific phobia. To meet the criteria for this disorder, the fear must be excessive or irrational, last for more than 6 months, and significantly interfere with a person’s life or cause a high degree of discomfort.

    According to the DSM-IV, there are several types of specific phobias depending on the phobic stimulus: situational (driving, claustrophobia …), natural environment (now, darkness …), of the “blood / injections / wounds” type ( which often causes drops in blood pressure) and animals, including ornithophobia. There is also the residual subcategory “Other type”.

    Meaning of the term

    The word “ornithophobia” comes from ancient Greek: the root “ornithos” means “bird” and “phobos” translates to “panic”, so it literally translates to “panic in birds”.

    Sometimes the term is used more broadly to refer to one intense dissatisfaction with certain types of birds, Like those who abound in the cities. In these cases, the meaning of the word moves away from the connotation of fear, having a use closer to that of concepts such as “homophobia” or “xenophobia”, which “phobia” comes to mean “rejection”.

      Common symptoms and manifestations

      Besides the intense fear of the presence or anticipation of the phobic stimulus, the other basic criterion for the diagnosis of specific phobia according to the DSM-IV is the appearance of intense symptoms of anxiety which can lead to panic attacks. .

      Anxiety attacks are short periods of fear and discomfort which usually start abruptly. They are characterized by physiological and cognitive symptoms; among these is the fear of dying and losing control, while the physical signs include the onset of palpitations, sweating, dizziness, nausea, tremors, and difficulty breathing.

      What does he fear?

      Fear may arise with regard to a single species of bird, birds of the same family, or be only a partial manifestation of a larger phobia of animals; in this case, we would speak of zoophobia. Anxiety can only appear in the presence of predatory birds, Like eagles, or with much smaller and harmless species.

      People with animal-type phobias are generally afraid of movements, especially when they are sudden; thus, in the case of ornithophobia, feelings of intense anxiety may arise if a flying pigeon suddenly appears, for example – or worse, a whole flock.

      While in some cases the person is afraid of experiencing pain, in other cases they are simply afraid of being ridiculed or suffering from physical issues due to their own anxiety. Feelings of disgust in addition to anxiety may appearBut this is more common in other animal phobias, especially small ones like insects.

        Causes of ornithophobia

        According to a study by Lipsitz et al., About 90% of animal-type phobias they start in childhood, more precisely before the age of 12. It affects more women, which is common in cases of specific phobia.

        Most phobias develop as a result of one or more traumatic situations. In the case of ornithophobia, events such as the bite of a duck or a goose are typical examples of the contexts in which these fears tend to appear.

        However, not all phobias are acquired directly: fears sometimes appear observing or listening to the experiences of others. For example, a little girl may develop ornithophobia after watching the Alfred Hitchcock film “The Birds,” in which the birds begin to exterminate people.

        On the other hand, Seligman’s theory of biological preparation states that humans are phylogenetically predisposed to associate certain types of stimuli with phobic responses. At the evolutionary level, many animals have posed a threat to survival, either because of the possibility of attacking or transmitting disease.

        Other zoophobias (animal phobias)

        The extreme fear of animals is known as “zoophobia”. This term can be used to describe both an animal-specific phobia in general and its meaning as a category of disorder, equivalent to the type of animal described in the DSM.

        Below we will mention the most common phobic stimuli in this set of animal fears, along with the name used to refer to them.

        • To dogs (cynophobia)
        • In cats (aelurophobia)
        • In rats, mice and other rodents (musophobia)
        • Insects (entomophobia); includes fear of bees (apiphobia), cockroaches (cataridaphobia) and moths (motephobia)
        • In spiders (arachnophobia)
        • In snakes (ofidiophobia)
        • In frogs, toads and other amphibians (jester phobia)
        • In worms (vermifobia)

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