What is alektorophobia?
Alektorophobia is a rare condition characterized by an intense fear of chickens. The word comes from the Greek words “alektor,” which means rooster, and “phobos,” which means fear.
It’s considered a specific phobia. This refers to an irrational fear of a specific object, place, or situation. People with phobias usually understand that their fear is irrational, but they’re unable to control their intense physical or psychological reaction.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of specific phobias vary from person to person. In some people, a phobia may cause mild fear or discomfort. For others, it can involve debilitating panic attacks. Depending on where you live and work, alektorophobia can impact your daily life and cause significant distress.
Alektorophobia symptoms occur when exposed to chickens or when just thinking about them. Symptoms include:
- immediate, intense fear
- severe anxiety
- rapid heart rate
- chest tightness
- difficulty breathing
- lightheadedness or dizziness
- shaking or trembling
Children with alektorophobia may experience:
- clinging to parent
Who gets it?
Certain things make some people more likely to develop this phobia. Risk factors include:
- Where you currently live or grew up. If you live or grew up in a more rural area with lots of chickens, you’re more likely to develop a fear of them.
- Your age. Specific phobias typically appear by age 10, but can occur later in life.
- A frightening experience. People who experienced or observed a traumatic event involving chickens are more likely to have alektorophobia.
- Your family history. If someone in your family has this phobia, you’re also more likely to have it.
What causes it?
Doctors still aren’t sure about the exact causes of specific phobias. In addition, many people with specific phobias can’t recall how, when, or why their phobias developed. However, the following may actually cause some cases of alektorophobia:
- Negative experience. Many animal-related phobias stem from a negative experience with that animal, even if you can’t remember the experience. For example, you may have encountered an aggressive chicken as a very young child and forgot about it.
- Genetics and environment. Young children learn many behaviors from their parents, including those related to fear and anxiety. If your parents felt anxious around chickens, you may have picked up on their behavior when you were young and developed a similar reaction.
How is it diagnosed?
To make a formal diagnosis, your doctor may use the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The DSM-5 has criteria that distinguishes phobias from typical fears and other anxiety-related conditions. For alektorophobia, this list includes:
- an immediate feeling of intense fear, panic, and anxiety nearly every time you see a chicken or think about chickens
- feelings of anxiety that get worse when you know you’re about to encounter a chicken
- doing everything possible to avoid seeing or thinking about chickens
- feeling a sense of fear that’s out of proportion with the actual threat that chickens pose to you
- symptoms that interfere with your normal daily functioning at home or work
- feelings of fear and anxiety lasting at least 6 months or avoiding chickens for at least 6 months
- feeling of fear and anxiety that can’t be linked to another mental health condition, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder
How is it treated?
Treating specific phobias often involves a combination of treatment options. The goal of treatment is to improve your quality of life and prevent your fear of chickens from disrupting your daily life.
Exposure therapy is the leading treatment option for specific phobias. The goal is to desensitize yourself to chickens.
You work to gradually introduce chickens into your life by thinking about them, looking at pictures, or watching videos. Virtual reality technology is becoming an increasingly popular tool for exposure therapy as well.
As you learn to manage your fear and anxiety, you’ll gradually progress to physical exposure to real chickens.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of behavioral therapy that can help reduce anxiety. It involves working with a therapist to learn how to identify your own irrationally fearful thoughts and replace them with more rational ones. It’s often done together with exposure therapy.
Specific phobias rarely require long-term medication unless they’re accompanied by other disorders, such as generalized anxiety or depression. Medication may also be helpful for people who have difficulty with exposure therapy.
Frequently used medications include:
- Anti-anxiety drugs. Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium), can reduce anxiety levels and prevent panic attacks.
- Beta-blockers. These drugs block the effects of adrenaline, which floods your system when you’re anxious, causing your heart to pound and hands to shake.
Chickens are a fairly common animal and food source, which makes having a fear of them difficult to manage. If you think you have alektorophobia, try to find a doctor who has experience working with phobias. They can help you find the right mix of therapy or medication to reduce your symptoms and restore your quality of life.