This is a specific phobia of chickens. The Greek word ‘alketor’ means chicken and ‘phobos’ refers to fear, thus an intense fear of chickens. A sufferer of this phobia will not just be fearful of physically being near a chicken but just the very thought of them can trigger extreme anxiety, which can lead to full blown panic attacks.
These people try to avoid chickens because of the unpleasant feelings or state it puts the person into. This avoidance seems an easy way to escape the fearful stimulus, but in reality, this causes the person a lot of disadvantage. in the long run.
In certain unavoidable situations, one must start feeling anxious or nauseous at times, because of their inability to escape the place. Therefore, this further adds to the threat that the situation is inescapable.
Specific phobias have no definite age at which they might start to form, but it is relatively assumed/claimed that the phobic symptoms start to appear around the age of 10 years, but still can occur anytime during a person’s life.
Childhood events have an impact on the future behavior of a person leading them to develop phobic symptoms of any specific phobia. Though, if someone in the family has a history of the same/different phobia, an individual is more likely to develop that same/different phobia in the future.
Alektorophobia is a unique fear of chickens. It is a specific phobia and the fear is irrational, related to even the place where the presence of chickens is expected.
SYMPTOMS OF ALKETOROPHOBUA
Like in the case of all other specific phobias, someone suffering from Alketorophobia will experience extreme anxiety in the presence of chickens. If the phobia gets too intense, this extreme anxiety can also cause full blown panic attacks.
An Alektorophobia sufferer might not just avoid the very presence of chickens or the thought of it, but they will also avoid foods that contain chicken. Even the pictures of chickens can be a source of triggering their phobic symptoms.
Mentioned below are the symptoms of Alketorophobia:
- Extreme anxiety when seeing/thinking about chickens
- Avoidance of chickens
- Inability to contain their anxious feelings
- Full blown panic attacks
- Increase in muscle tension
- Increased sweating
- Increased heartbeat
- Difficulty in breathing
- Feeling of dizziness
Phobias, like all other mental disorders are diagnosed by a doctor (Psychiatrist/psychologist) with the help of the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The DSM-5 has a criterion (list of symptoms) that differentiates common fear with phobias.
According to the DSM-5 criteria, feelings of fear/anxiety should be present for at least 6 months or avoiding chickens for at least 6months. The symptoms, such as anxiety or muscle tensions should affect the social and occupational functioning of a person’s life (day-day routine and interaction with people).
To diagnose a person with Alketorophobia, at least 3-5 of these symptoms should be present. Anxiety should always be the main symptom one looks for in diagnosing a phobia.
CAUSES OF ALKETOPHOBIA
There is no real cause of Alketorophobia, but like with all other specific phobias, this phobia too has two main explanations for its emergence.
Genetics plays a very important role for causing phobias. Someone who has a family history or a genetic predisposition of Alketorophobia (or any other specific phobia) will be more susceptible to having developed phobia later in their life.
Genes causing phobias are passed on from one generation to the next. Though it is not necessary for one to develop the same/different phobia if one of their family members has it. They are just more likely to have it as compared to someone who doesn’t have a family history.
Apart from just genetics, environmental factors play a very crucial role in the development of a phobia. Someone who has had an unpleasant encounter with a chicken during their childhood might develop fear which can take the form of Alketorophobia, if the fear intensifies and anxiety increases.
For example, a child might be attacked by a chicken or had an encounter with an aggressive chicken. These incidents can be the root cause due to which one developed Alektorophobia.
As the social learning theory suggests, children learn various acts or behaviors through imitation. They imitate their parents or siblings, learning from them the way they act or behave in certain situations. For example, if a child sees their parent being afraid of a certain animal/stimulus (chicken as in this phobia), they will also start developing feelings of fear for the same thing/animal. Because they have seen their parents do it. And this gives them a negative image of that thing or animal, making them feel threatened and see the stimuli as potentially harmful to them.
Therefore, phobias are caused by both genetic and environmental factors.
TREATMENT OF ALKETOROPHOBIA
Alketorophobia like all other specific phobias has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed just for the purpose. Like all the other specific phobias, Alketorophobia is treated by Exposure Therapy, Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT) and or medications that reduces the anxiety or other physical symptoms.
• Exposure Therapy
It is one of the most frequently used ways of treating patients with Alketorophobia (or any other kind of specific phobia). In this therapy, the patient is exposed to the source of his/her fear over a certain span of time. To begin with the therapy, the therapist exposes the patient to the least triggering stimuli, a picture for example, of a chicken.
As the therapy progresses and the patient is able to control his anxious feelings, imagery can be used to take the treatment a step further. In this part of the treatment the patient is asked to visualize/imagine a situation in which he sees a chicken or is in a chicken coup. During the process of imagery, one actually feels being in that particular situation or place, experiencing various senses.
Once the person successfully, without feeling anxious clears this step of the therapy, he/she is then exposed to a real chicken (for example, is either told to eat a food containing chicken or is taken into a chicken coup).
While the patient is being exposed to different intensities of stimuli during the various stages of therapy, the therapist simultaneously teaches them coping exercises. These include, breathing techniques or muscle relaxation methods to lower their anxiety, when in an actual fear/anxiety causing situation. This teaches them how to remain calm when exposed to the feared stimuli.
Before actually starting the exposure therapy, the therapist needs to figure out the intensity of the patient’s fear, as to deduce whether they will be able to undergo this treatment, without any physical or psychological harm caused to them during the exposure processes.
The therapy continues until they learn to undergo the situation without anxiety/panic attacks.
• Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
It is one of the most frequently used treatment for patients with almost all kinds of mental disorders. Alketorophobia is defined as the irrational fear of chickens. Thus, the therapist helps the patient in replacing these irrational thoughts with more rational ones. The patients are helped out in analyzing and justifying the way they feel about being exposed to a chicken. The therapists assist them in uncovering the reasons behind their fear and later they provide them with alternate, pleasant thoughts.
The patient is told to maintain a thought diary (with ABCD column) which provides them a replacement for every irrational thought they have, when thinking about a particular situation. The ABCD stands for:
i. A (antecedents) a situation or triggering event.
ii. B (belief) the thought that comes to one’s mind when in that triggering situation
iii. C (consequences) the symptoms/feelings caused by that event/thought
iv. D (dispute) alternate, rational thoughts provided by the therapist in an attempt to dispute/challenge those irrational beliefs.
This last section of the thought diary is what really plays a role in helping the person feel good/less anxious.
• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This is another effective therapy used to treat Alketorophobia. It is more commonly used with people suffering from personality disorders, but is also useful with patients of Alketorophobia. Coping skills are taught in the DBT group which lasts for about 6 months and can have a number of people (depending on how many join the group).
i. Half-smiling is the first module of DBT. It is a technique that is used with patients who are distressed because of their irrational thoughts. The technique is known as ‘Half-smiling’ because the person is first advised to think about the stimuli that fears or upsets them, and while doing so they are told to lift the corners of their mouths by subtly smiling.
ii. Mindfulness, the second module, is another technique used in DBT groups which helps the individual in getting rid of those negative thoughts. Individuals are told to focus on the present and be attentive to what is going on around them at the moment. This helps in breaking the link between their mind and any negative thought that might come to them then. For example, a person is told to focus on his breath or on the smell of a certain food presented to them, making use of their olfactory sense.
iii. The third technique or module of the DBT is distress tolerance skills. This module teaches people to calm themselves down in healthy ways when they are distressed or emotionally overwhelmed. Individuals are allowed to make wise, rational decisions and take immediate action, rather than being captured by emotionally destructive thoughts that might make the situation worse.
• Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR is a meditation therapy and is used to manage stress or anxiety. It is an 8-week program which includes group sessions. Mindfulness meditation and Hatha yoga are practiced in these sessions, lectures and group discussions are also done to talk about mental health and increase interactivity.
In mindfulness meditation the person is told to, for example to focus on the sensations felt while breathing or the rhythm of the chest rising and falling during the process. This distracts the person’s attention from something stressful to something which is neutral and soothing.
They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Alketorophobia, instead they are one of the most common ways of relaxation used by many people. Yoga tends to stimulate the meditative state of one’s mind while a person is in a particular yoga pose/position. Through yoga/meditation the mind is diverted towards something more productive and calmer, allowing the person to escape the negative, distress causing thoughts. Out of a number of yoga types, one can benefit from any yoga type/pose they like. Hatha yoga is one of the different types of yoga.
• Drug Therapy
Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Alketorophobia. Drugs are very quick in effectiveness, as they start showing progress in the patients’ health at least 2 weeks after the medicine is taken. This type of biological treatment is usually more effective if the cause of the phobia is only genetic. However, these drugs/medicines are not to be taken without a doctor’s prescription or consultation. Two types of drugs are used in the treatment of this phobia:
i. Anti-anxiety Drugs
These include medicines called as Diazepam. They are most commonly used with patients who experience panic attacks and also lowers the anxiety by binding to receptor cells of the brain that cause these unpleasant symptoms.
ii. Antidepressant Drugs
These drugs as the name suggest don’t only treat depression but are also very effective in treating phobias. Medicines like Zoloft reduce the anxious feelings of a person and makes him feel calm. They need to be taken on a daily basis but not without a doctor’s advice.
TITLES TO READ FROM
- Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks Fast
by Barry McDonagh and BMD Publishing
- The American Psychiatric Association Publishing Textbook of Anxiety, Trauma, and Ocd-related Disorders
by Edited by Naomi M. Simon, M.D., et al.
- Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective
by Aaron Beck, Gary Emery, et al.
- Anxiety and Its Disorders, Second Edition: The Nature and Treatment of Anxiety and Panic
by David H. Barlow
- Anxiety, Phobias, and Panic
by Reneau Peurifoy
Q1) Can chickens sense fear?
Yes. Many researches have been done on chickens and the findings suggest that chickens can smell fear or can differentiate between various odors. They can smell a person’s odor if he/she is afraid.
Q2) Do chickens attack?
Yes, they do. But they do so only if they’re wrongly triggered or instigated by another animal, human or situation. The damage caused is not severe, until and unless the situation goes out of hand the animal (chicken) becomes very aggressive.
Q3) How do I know if I have Alketorophobia?
The symptoms of Alketoropobia are quite similar to all the other specific phobias. If someone feels extreme anxiety when around a chicken or they undergo panic attack, one can say they have Alketorophobia. Though a person needs to consult a doctor (psychiatrist/psychologist) in order to be assessed by them and the problem identified for future treatment.
Q4) Is Alketorophobia treatable?
Yes. Like all other mental disrobers or specific phobias, Alketorophobia is also treatable. There are a number of therapies designed to help people with this kind of specific phobia. For example, CBT, MBSR and some medicinal drugs.
Q5) Is it necessary to have a family history in order to develop Alketorophobia?
No. Alketorophobia like all other specific phobias has no real cause. They can be caused by either alteration in ones’ genes or due to past experiences.