Fear of Birds May Be Irrational But Not Uncommon
Dear Dr. LeCrone:
I have a severe fear of birds and I have lived with this fear for most of my life. This includes all kinds of birds — from parakeets to chickens to American (bald) eagles.
Many of my friends and family make fun of me when I begin to shiver, freeze up or even cry over the sight or thought of a bird. Needless to say, I won’t eat fowl of any kind and become terrified if a bird flies near me in my yard.
When I was a child I tried to pick an egg out of a bird’s nest and was attacked by the mother bird. Shortly after that, I became hysterical when a pigeon pecked me on my hand while I was feeding it popcorn. This may have been when my fear of birds began.
Is there any help for my problem? — A Reader
It sounds like you have a condition known as ornithophobia, a fear of birds.
Most people suffering from phobias understand their fears are unreasonable, but are not able to overcome them without professional help.
Ornithophobia is not uncommon and because birds are prevalent in many areas of daily living, this fear can be very self-limiting. People fearful of birds often go out of their way to avoid any contact with these creatures.
For example, they avoid buildings, streets or shopping centers where pigeons, grackles or starlings congregate.
Women are more likely than men to develop specific phobias, which usually develop in childhood. In the case of bird phobia, a direct, negative, physical encounter is not necessary to initiate the anxiety.
A bird flying into a home, causing a family uproar or one hitting the windshield of a moving car, causing an accident, can be a sufficient trigger. The precipitating event sometimes is unknown.
A common legend in books and movies is that birds are the harbingers of death. This belief can be at the root of some cases of ornithophobia. Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds” is well remembered by many of us as a disturbing story of birds run amok.
Fortunately, specific phobias are very treatable using psychotherapy. This therapy may include such techniques as cognitive behavior therapy and hypnosis.
I encourage you to consider seeking treatment from a mental health professional who is experienced in treating phobias.
Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright ©2012