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Why do I have a fear of birds?

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

When we think about phobias, often our minds won’t go to a fear of birds, but spiders, heights or perhaps public speaking. But, a fear of winged creatures is no less a phobia than those, in fact, there are even some similarities. In this article, we are going to focus on the often asked question: why do I have a fear of … (in this case, birds).

Ornithophobia, or as it is more commonly known, a fear of birds, is the abnormal and irrational fear of birds. While some sufferers may fear they will be attacked by a bird, others may be triggered by being around them. Unfortunately, as is the case with virtually all other phobias, there is no definitive cause of ornithophobia. Be that as it may, there are four schools of thought on what may trigger an onset.

  1. Personal trauma: Like many animal phobias, the most common cause of ornithophobia is a negative encounter with the feared animal.This could include certain traumatic events, such as being surprised or attacked by a bird. It is also possible to be triggered by a bird flying into a home, or building. Many birds can be somewhat aggressive in hunting for food, and it's not uncommon for people to have unpleasant run-ins with pigeons or seagulls, for instance. Experts find that you don't have to experience the negative encounter directly, but being in the vicinity of others being bothered can be enough.

  2. Having an immediate relative with the phobia: If you are related to someone who has the fear of birds, some researchers have found that the phobia is three times more likely to affect you or any of the other members in the family due to observational learning. So, if your parents were afraid of birds, for example, this could be enough to trigger a phobia through a learned response. Studies have found that phobias and other mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and panic disorder have genetic influences.

  3. Genetics: Some people are born with the genes that have the tendency to trigger anxiety disorders and related conditions such as phobias. In the instance of ornithophobia, if you are genetically predisposed to anxiousness, a somewhat innocuous encounter with a bird could be enough to trigger high levels of anxiety, and as a result, a fear of birds.

  4. Informational: While more unlikely than the previous three, if you have heard or read something negative about birds, or a life-threatening situation caused by them, it may cause a person to fear them. Media and what we see plays a role in developing this irrational fear of birds. Whether you saw videos of, or heard about incidents where birds get aggressive, or you learned about how some birds of prey can be a threat to human life, information can lead to the development of bird phobia.

Although we do not definitively know what causes ornithophobia to develop, the consensus among most mental health professionals is that genetics, a person’s environment and their history play significant roles in the development of virtually any given mental disorder. Therefore, taking a closer look at those different parameters may reveal whether or not you may be at risk for developing ornithophobia.

In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about ornithophobia, why not have a read of this article from our Blog? It takes a look at the challenges that those with a phobia of birds go through, like so many other phobias. Alternatively, take the free fear of birds test.

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