Although chickens do not usually pose a serious risk to humans, people with Alektorophobia have an intense and irrational fear of them.
When patients have a phobia, they have an overwhelming fear or a particular thing, place or situation. In the case of Alektorophobia, patients have an extreme fear of chickens. Even in mild cases, the fear associated with Alektorophobia is greater than the potential danger posed by chickens.
Although the fear may be irrational, patients are unable to control their fear response and may react with extreme anxiety if they are exposed to a chicken. Whilst chickens may elicit this fear response from patients with Alektorophobia, other similar stimuli may also produce the same effect. If patients are near an empty chicken coop, for example, they may exhibit increased anxiety or suffer from a panic attack.
In most cases, patients with Alektorophobia will avoid being around chickens. Depending on the severity of the condition, they may be unable to look at pictures of chickens or enter into conversations about chickens.
If a patient with Alektorophobia is exposed to chickens, they will experience an intense reaction. Due to the severity of this reaction, other people will often be aware of their discomfort and the patient may try to flee the situation in order to reduce their level of fear.
Although phobias are common, Alektorophobia is a fairly rare phobia and its cause is not fully known. It is believed that people who grew up in rural areas are more likely to develop Alektorophobia as they may have had more exposure to chickens in their formative years.
Animal phobias, such as Alektorophobia, often occur because the individual has had a negative experience with the animal. If a child was chased by a chicken or forced to face their fear at a young age, for example, they may go on to develop Alektorophobia in later life.
Alternatively, if an individual is exposed to other people with a fear or phobia of chickens, they may adopt this fear and exhibit symptoms of Alektorophobia. If a young child has a caregiver with Alektorophobia, they too may learn to be afraid of chickens and avoid them in the future.
When patients first visit a physician or therapist, they will be asked to describe their condition. The following issues may lead to a diagnosis of Alektorophobia being made:
Although the above symptoms can indicate that Alektorophobia is present, physicians may also ask whether the patient’s fear is affecting their day-to-day life before diagnosing them with Alektorophobia. In addition to this, patients may not be diagnosed with Alektorophobia until the condition has been present for a period of more than six months.
Whilst it may be clear that the patient is suffering from Alektorophobia, therapists and physicians should also rule out any other conditions which could be causing the patient’s fear, such as OCD or PTSD.
If patients choose to seek help for their Alektorophobia (fear of chickens), there are various treatments available. These may include:
When patients are diagnosed with Alektorophobia, medication may be an appropriate form of treatment. Although anti-anxiety medication won’t directly reduce the patient’s fear of chickens, it can reduce their level of general anxiety. Long-term anti-anxiety medications are most commonly used when a phobia is affecting a patient’s day-to-day life but short-term medications, such as benzodiazepines, are sometimes used for specific situations.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is often used to treat phobias and can be effective in treating patients with Alektorophobia. In simple terms, cognitive behavioral therapy involves looking at the mind as a form of computer. By changing the data which is being input into your mind, you can also change the output. By substituting negative thoughts relating to chickens into neutral ones, the patient can reduce their fear response over time.
Often referred to as an alternative therapy, neurolinguistic therapy is concerned with the language used by the patient and the subsequent effect it has on their behavior. Therapists will aim to help patients disassociate with previous negative experiences relating to chickens and encourage them to focus on a positive outcome if they are exposed to their feared stimulus.
A relatively new form of treatment, eye-movement desensitization and reprogramming (EMDR) therapy is also being used to treat phobias, such as Alektorophobia. Most useful in helping patients who have suffered previous traumatic experiences, EMDR can help patients to process these memories and relieve the anxiety associated with them.
Whilst patients are often very resistant to exposure therapy, it can be extremely effective in treating phobias. Exposure therapy has been shown to be particularly successful in treating specific phobias, such as Alektorophobia. Although this form of treatment involves exposing the patient to their feared stimuli, this is done gradually so the patient is not overwhelmed. For example, a patient may first build up to looking at a picture of a chicken and, once this can be done without provoking a fear response, they may move on to watching a video of chickens. As the therapy takes effect, the patient will increase their exposure without experiencing a fear response at all.
Often, effective treatment involves various types of therapies and patients may try various forms of treatment before they find a combination which suits them. Although Alektorophobia is somewhat rare, it can be treated in the same way as other specific phobias and is, therefore, highly treatable.
As many phobias, including Alektorophobia, stem from a previous traumatic event, the risk of developing Alektorophobia can be reduced if these incidents are dealt with when they occur. If someone is harmed or startled by a chicken, for example, they may want to take steps to overcome their discomfort straight away. By preventing the incident from becoming traumatic, the individual removes the basis of Alektorophobia and could prevent the condition from occurring.