Ornithophobia: Definition, Causes, Characteristics, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Fear of birds is a relatively common phenomenon in society.

People with ornithophobia have an excessive fear of birds and experience severe anxiety when they are exposed to them.

As a result of their fear, an ornithophobic will always try to avoid contact with these animals. This is an essential part of the disorder and disrupts the expected behavior of the patient.

Causes of ornithophobia

Ornithophobia is now thought to be a mental health condition that is caused by several factors:

  • Traumatic experiences with birds.
  • Observe images or receive damaging information about birds.
  • Genetic factors.
  • Anxious personality.
  • Thought patterns of the presence of a threat.


Ornithophobia is a well-studied and established anxiety condition known as a specific phobia.

Ornithophobia is disproportionate, excessive, and irrationally fearful of birds, and this can negatively affect the well-being of the patient.

Ornithophobia occurs when someone is so afraid of birds that they begin to develop a phobia and experience symptoms.


The most obvious is severe anxiety every time the patient sees a bird. In addition, this phobia can be detected by the modification and the negative effect it has on the individual’s behavior, avoiding at all costs to come into contact with the birds.

Depending on the context, permanently avoiding birds can be tricky as birds live in urban and rural settings.

Fear of birds can originate from birds of prey, which are robust and threatening. If someone is afraid of raptors, they may develop a fear of birds in general.

Being afraid of a specific type of bird, or just being suspicious of them in general, does not necessarily mean that you have ornithophobia.

For the condition to be diagnosed as ornithophobia, the individual’s fear must be severe enough to be phobic.

In general, when those who have this phobia see a bird, they experience feelings of extreme fear.

Of course, raptors, such as vultures and owls, are considered more threatening and cause more significant feelings of fear than other animals such as parakeets or smaller birds.

However, logical thinking cannot rationalize the fear associated with ornithophobia, so this fear can be directed at any bird.

For this fear to be ornithophobic, it must correspond to the following characteristics:

Excessive fear

Birds can present different threat levels depending on the particular type of bird and the context.

Of course, encountering an eagle or vulture in the middle of the forest is something that would terrify most people, and understandably since they pose a significant threat to humans.

For this fear to be diagnosed as ornithophobia, it must be excessive in every situation in which it appears.

Generally, this severe fear also appears before harmless birds.

Irrational fear

Excessive and irrational fear can be explained by the cognitive mechanisms responsible for controlling anxiety.

Bird phobia is irrational; These feelings of fear do not have a basis in rational or coherent thought.

The patient knows that their fear is excessive and unjustified, yet they continue to experience it whenever exposed to birds.

Uncontrollable fear

While the individual is often aware that their fear is irrational, this is not a strong enough reason to allow them to overcome their fear.

The fear that accompanies ornithophobia is entirely uncontrollable.

Fear that causes avoidance

Out of fear, they try to avoid all kinds of contact with birds, this being one of the most important criteria for diagnosing ornithophobia.

Persistent fear

An ornithopod will persistently experience phobic fear, regardless of the situation or context.

Sufferers of this disorder always show signs of severe distress when they contact birds.

Fear that is not related to age

It is usual for children to fear animals and birds in particular. During infancy and childhood, this fear is usually greater than usual.

However, ornithophobia is a condition that is not related to age.

Symptoms of ornithophobia

According to diagnostic manuals, ornithophobia is a disorder whose main symptoms are anxiety when exposed to the feared object.

Individuals with this condition experience heightened feelings of anxiety, although it rarely turns into panic.

The symptoms of ornithophobia can be grouped into three categories:


Ornithophobia, as with any other anxiety disorder, causes changes in the patient’s physical functioning.

The manifestations of this anxiety differ from person to person, but in general, it occurs:

  • Incrise of cardiac frecuency.
  • Accelerated breathing.
  • Palpitations, tachycardia.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Stomach and headache pain.
  • Pupillary dilation.
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dry mouth, nausea, dizziness, vomiting.


The main character is an irrational fear, dominated by various dysfunctional and distorted thoughts.

The cognitive symptoms of the disorder are the irrational thoughts of an ornithophobia patient when they are around birds.

These thoughts come in many forms and can involve many different scenarios, but they consistently reinforce a negative image of birds and the patient’s ability to cope with them.

The appearance of irrational thoughts reinforces physical symptoms and increases anxiety.


Finally, ornithophobia is a condition that affects the behavior of the individual. Behavioral symptoms can be divided into two groups: avoidance and escape.

Avoidance refers to all the behaviors of the individual that ensure that they avoid birds.

These behaviors can negatively affect your life as you may be forced to change your everyday habits.


Exposure to the phobic stimulus invariably elicits an instantaneous anxiety response. Those who have ornithophobia realize that this fear is excessive and irrational.

The phobic stimulus is avoided or confronted but accompanied by intense anxiety or distress. In those under 18, these symptoms should have been present for at least six months.

Any other psychological disorder cannot explain the symptoms of anxiety and avoidance tactics the patient may have.

Ornithophobia treatment

The first treatment option for ornithophobia is psychotherapy, which is much more effective than medication in treating this disorder.

Cognitive therapy is used to change irrational thoughts about birds.

In particular, ornithopods often respond well to cognitive behavioral therapy. The therapist will design a plan so that the subject can learn how to cope with their fear while controlling their anxiety and getting used to being around them.

Another tool like the relaxation technique is also recommended to reduce anxiety.