Alektorophobia is a rare condition that is characterized by the intense fear of chickens.
The word ‘Alektorophobia” was coined from two Greek words- “Alektor” meaning “Rooster or chickens and Phobos/ phobia meaning fear.
Alektorophobia is often considered one of the numerous specific phobias that we have. As the name implies, a specific phobia is the fear of a particular place, object, or situation.
People with phobias often realize that their anxiety is entirely irrational; however, they seem paralyzed when confronted with the object of their fears.
Hence, we can say that alektorophobia is a type of anxiety that falls under specific phobias.
People who suffer from alektorophobia experience an uncontrollable and intense fear when confronted with chickens or hens.
In some, it can get so bad that just the mere thought of a chicken, the sight of chickens, or the picture of a chicken can cause them to begin to show symptoms of alektorophobia.
For some patients, their phobia can extend to even their choice of food and side dishes. Some alektorophobics can even find it very difficult to have chicken in their food plan.
Causes of Alektorophobia
Just like other phobias, the exact cause of alektorophobia is not known. However, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), most causes of phobias, including alektorophobia, can be attributed mainly to two distinct factors which include;
Our genes are what basically makes us up. From the color of our hair, eyes, skin to everything that makes up even the tiniest part of our body is as a result of the types of genes we carry.
Our genes are usually gotten from our parents, and it has been passed down from one generation to another.
In other words, for a person to develop any phobia, including alektorophobia, the person has to be genetically positioned or susceptible to it as a result of his/her family history.
This means that if a person has a family member (either distant or immediate) that has been seen to develop any form of mental or anxiety disorder, then the person has a higher chance of developing a mental or anxiety disorder.
However, it is essential to note that although a person may be genetically predisposed as a family member(s) has a record of anxiety and/or mental disorders; the person may not necessarily develop the exact condition as that of the family member.
For example, suppose a person’s immediate family member has a history of mental disorders such as schizophrenia or any anxiety disorder (e.g., selacophobia).
In that case, the patiemt may not develop either selachophobia or schizophrenia. Instead, the patient may end up developing other anxiety disorders such as alektorophobia.
It is also important to note that, although a patient may be genetically predisposed to developing alektorophobia, without the adequate environmental conditions to act as a trigger, the person would not develop any symptoms associated with alektorophobia.
Most people who have a fear of alektorophobia don’t remember how or when their fears started.
All they know is that they went from being calm or super caring of chickens to being extremely afraid of them.
As earlier stated, once a person is genetically predisposed to developing alektorophobia, the patient still needs a trigger(in this case, environmental factors) to cause his/her generic predispositions to begin to manifest symptoms.
Generally, there is a particular part of our brain that records and stores any type of occurrence that we experience.
Whatever experience that you have had even as a young child till an adult is stored in a particular part of the brain known as the amygdala.
The amygdala not only records your experiences but also records all your reactions to those occurrences.
Hence, if a patient who has been previously predisposed to developing an anxiety disorder has a negative experience with chickens and hens, he or she would likely go on to develop alektorophobia.
Once the amygdala registers the patient’s negative experience with a chicken(which may have probably happened as a child), any time the patient sees a chicken, the amygdala begins to replay his/her previous experience with a chicken, and then the patient starts to have an adverse reaction, hence developing an intense phobia for chicken(alektorophobia).
It is important to note that alektorophobia is not a very common phobia. People don’t just develop this phobia; it often occurs as a result of some bad experiences that may have happened with live birds or chickens.
According to research, people who have this fear majorly live on farms or have one point in their lives on a farm or beside one.
Symptoms of Alektorophobia
As with other phobias, the symptoms of alektorophobia ranges from being physical to becoming psychological.
These symptoms also have the capacity to be mild, severe, or incapacitating, as the case may be.
The extent of the symptoms largely depends on their varying levels of fear.
Some of the physical symptoms can primarily be as a result of the effects of adrenaline as a response to a situation of fight or flight.
Fear has the capacity of inducing a response of adrenaline rush to a person and, as such, lead to specific physical symptoms such as;
- Fainting, light-headedness, or dizziness.
- Increased heartbeats or palpitations
- Increased breathing rates.
- Increased production of sweat
- Severe chest tightness that can lead to shortness of breath
- Severe chest pains
- Dry mouth
- Visible shaking(trembling)
The patient would likely experience some psychological symptoms, which can include;
– Visible avoidance of chickens. People who experience alektorophobia would try their possible best in order to stay clear of the sights of chickens.
Some would go to great lengths to avoid the sites of chicken, and as such, their fear can affect some of their major life decisions and their daily life.
– Some patients would begin to experience self-blame and guilt over their irrational fear of chickens.
Some patients tend to feel embarrassed that they are having alektorophobia and, as such, may not want to seek help or even talk about it with outsiders.
– Some patients who are suffering from alektorophobia would avoid having anything to do with a farm.
The mention of a farm would throw such a patient into visible disarray and can even cause them to start exhibiting physical symptoms.
Diagnosis of Alektorophobia
As it is often said, proper diagnosis is the first step to successful treatment.
For alektorophobia to be properly diagnosed, the patient has to see a registered and well-trained psychologist.
Your psychologist would use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders(DSM-5).
This manual will help your doctor diagnose appropriately if you are experiencing a phobia(alektorophobia), fear, or a simple anxiety disorder.
For alektorophobia, this manual states that; the patient should experience immediate and intense fear when confronted with thoughts and pictures of chickens and hens.
- The patient should experience immediate and intense fear when confronted with thoughts and pictures of chickens and hens.
- Feelings of anxiety worsens when the patient is told that a chicken is about to be brought into the room or place where the patient is.
- The patient would physically try all within his/her capacity to ensure that they avoid chickens at all cost.
- The patient would experience feelings of fear that are often exaggerated when an actual chicken is brought close.
- The patient experiences symptoms of alektorophobia that is severe enough to interrupt the person’s daily routine.
- The patient has been seen to have avoided chickens for at least 6months.
- The patient is seen to experience such intense levels of fear that can’t be linked to other conditions, such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders(OCD) or Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD).
Treatment of Alektorophobia
Like other phobias, there is no defined medication or treatment that can be used for the treatment of alektorophobia.
However, there are specific treatment methods that, when combined, have been seen to help the patient relieve and, in some cases, deal with their fears. This treatment plan may include;
Talk therapy or Cognitive behavior therapy is a treatment plan that involves the patient having deep conversations with the psychologist.
As pointed out earlier, some people dealing with alektorophobia may not even know when their fear started. Hence, talk therapy helps the patient identify his/her fears, when they started, and how they started.
It also involves the therapist helping the patient identify his or her fearful thoughts and replace them with more rational ones.
Exposure therapy(desensitization therapy)
As the name implies, this form of therapy has to do with exposing the patient to their fears(chickens) in a controlled environment.
The primary goal of this is to desensitize the patient from his/her fear and also to make the patient see that their fear is simply irrational.
Exposure therapy often works alongside talk therapy, and according to APA, it is the leading treatment option that is often used for specific phobias.
After desensitizing the patient from their fears via cognitive behavioral therapy, the patient is then gradually exposed to the ideas of chickens.
The patient may be given a picture of a chicken to view or videos of the chicken to see.
After the patient has successfully been able to familiarize his/herself with the idea of chickens, One may eventually bring a chicken into the room.
The use of medications
Often, The therapist may give drugs to the patient depending on the severity of their physical symptoms.
It is, however, essential to note that these medications don’t treat the phobia itself; rather, they help to relieve the patient of his/her physical symptoms and prolong the patient’s quality of life.
Also, medications can be introduced if the patient experiences difficulty in one of the therapy sessions, especially the exposure therapy session.
Some of the medications used include;
Antidepressants and antianxiety drugs
These drugs include benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax.
The primary role of these drugs is to prevent the patient from developing panic attacks and also to reduce the level of anxiety the patient is experiencing.
The main need for this type of medication is to prevent the surge of adrenaline rush as well as their effects when the patient experiences alektorophobia.
A combination of these drugs when prescribed by the therapist or the family doctor can help relieve the patient’s physical symptoms.
However, one must be careful when prescribing these drugs in order to prevent drug addiction.
Hypnotherapy or hypnoanalysis
Hypnotherapy has been proven to be a helpful tool in helping the patient identify the source of their fears.
Hypnotherapy also helps the patient develop new ways and ideas to help them deal with their fears.
In 1958, the American Medical Association approved this type of treatment, and it has been used to treat many phobias since then.
Neuro-Linguistic programming is another proven useful method used for treating alektorophobia.
This type of science is based on the principle that most individuals who are dealing with phobias will likely coin words that is related to his/her phobia.
Once the word(s) have been coined, he or she will continue to use and rethink them every time, therefore, causing fear in the first instance.
Therapists who practice this method do this by studying the patient’s facial expressions and eventually proceed to help them to remodel their thoughts when they are faced with the object of their fears.