It's almost impossible to avoid birds — there are more than 10,000 species around the world, they exist on every continent and they evolved from the dinosaurs. Some have life spans as long as that of the average human. In other words, these winged animals are everywhere, and they're not going anywhere anytime soon, either. They're an integral part of our lives; we may eat some species, keep others as pets and observe still others as part of a hobby. So imagine how debilitating it would be to feel so afraid of birds that you are classified as having ornithophobia.
The Bird's the Word
As with many animal phobias, just the sight or sound of birds (or even a specific type of bird) can terrify people with this condition. It might also be a fear of being attacked by birds, although this rarely happens. Alfred Hitchcock, with his classic film The Birds, might bear some responsibility for a fear of bird attacks. In the movie, the bird attacks are completely unprovoked, and there's never an explanation as to why they choose to start dive-bombing people. Some bird species, such as pigeons living in urban areas, are thought to spread disease (although in actuality, getting a disease from pigeon droppings is rare). Some people with animal phobias suffer from other anxiety disorders, often ones with a cleanliness component.
"The most common co-morbid condition that I've seen is OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)," notes Dr. Zasio.
Wisdom From Dr. Zasio: More Extreme Cases
"I worked with one guy who ended up firing his manager because he had a certain type of dog. Anytime someone would bring the dog into his establishment, he would ask them to leave because he was so frightened. In other cases, people will literally determine their career path to avoid coming into contact with a particular animal. If they're afraid of dogs, for instance, which you may commonly see on a daily basis, they may become a computer programmer so they can work out of their home. Family members will protect them and help them to avoid animals. It really becomes very much a family problem."