Pteronophobia is the fear of feathers, feathered objects, or being tickled by feathers. The word Pteronophobia comes from Greek ftero which means feathers and phobos meaning fear or deep aversion.
A person with Pteronophobia is afraid of or disgusted by feathers. He or she may not even like feathered pillows or hats with feathers. They may also be afraid of birds or other winged creatures like bats. Many phobics try avoiding visits to farms or barnyards where there are chicken, ducks and other feathered birds.
In this guide, we will study the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for Pteronophobia.
Causes of Pteronophobia
In case of Pteronophobia, a toddler may have been frightened in his stroller or pram by a strange woman wearing a feathered hat peeking down at him/her. A child might have been traumatized or abused with a feathered pillow. Another might have been ‘attacked’ by birds in a busy square and been unable to move until the bird got off them.
Some Pteronophobes fear feathers since they are associated with bird carcasses. For aesthetic reasons, feathers may appear unclean, dirty, or as a sign of contamination to the phobic. As a result, being tickled with a feather could cause extreme discomfort or continuous fearful thoughts about falling sick upon being tickled by a feather.
There are several reasons why a fear of feathers may arise. What causes maintenance of the fear is the total loss of control of reactions to it. This leads to a continuous snowball effect of fear of embarrassment, leading to panic attacks at the thought of being confronted by feathers or birds.
In most cases, a combination of genes, biology, and psychology can lead to such a fear. Mental causes of Pteronophobia include stress, trauma, an inability to express one’s feelings, constant criticism by peers or parents, habitual thought patterns, and being hyper-vigilant to fearful situations.
In other cases, parents and caregivers, or even siblings, can exacerbate the fear of feathers by constantly speaking about it. For example, a parent might warn the child about dangers of birds or diseases spread by birds. This can be enough to cause a permanent fear of feathered birds.
Stress is one of the major causes of most phobias. While a small amount of stress is necessary to succeed and progress in life, constant stress accumulated over the years accompanied with some major life changes, like job loss, can trigger a phobia of feathers.
A chemical imbalance in the brain can also be a cause for the fear of feathers or other related phobias.
Movies and media can lead to the fear as well. Movies like Alfred Hitchcock’s Birds is an example.
Symptoms of fear of feathers or being tickled by feathers
Like all other phobias out there, fear of feathers or the fear of being tickled by feathers can cause various symptoms. These mainly include physical and psychological symptoms as follows:
- Shaking or shivering (trembling)
- Feeling nauseated, vomiting, or other gastro-intestinal distress
- Shortness of breath
- Racing heart or palpitations
- Sweaty palms
- Hot or cold flashes
- Crying, screaming
- Freezing in place or alternatively running away
- Fainting or feeling dizzy
- Feeling disconnected with the situation or with reality
- Fear of dying or continuous thoughts about dying
- Fear of embarrassing oneself
- Feeling like running away or hiding
Many feather phobics refuse to go outside to parks or farms where there may be chickens, ducks or other birds. They may also feel embarrassed about their fear since they feel it is ridiculous and illogical, but are not able to stop it anyway. Many Pteronophobes have nightmares about feathers. They may react violently upon seeing feathered quills, pillows, or hats. Their reaction can evoke laughter from their peers which can lead to even more fear of embarrassing themselves. Often Pteronophobes are ridiculed for their fear which can lead to social isolation.
Treatment for Pteronophobia
If you suffer from fear of feathers, do not hesitate to seek help or try some of the self-help techniques to learn how to get rid of your fear.
One of the most effective treatments for Pteronophobia can be self-help or self-care. Most phobias and anxieties can be overcome through daily exercise, journaling, affirmations, meditating, and positive visualization. Try to get at least 30-45 minutes of exercise daily for general well being.
Next, you must spend some time reflecting and meditating. Practice abdominal breathing when you feel anxious thoughts coming on. When you breathe in deeply for 3-5 minutes, you can easily shift your focus from the negative or fearful thoughts to your breath and bring your mind in the present moment. With daily practice, one can even prevent a panic attack in this manner.
Reading up on the specific phobia can also help. When you analyze your fear and understand the causes behind it, you might start looking at the fear more rationally. You can also go online to find self-help groups or forums to discuss your fear. When you realize that there are other people like you out there, you might start feeling more positive and confident.
Gradual exposure or desensitization
When you repeatedly expose yourself to the object you fear, in this case a feather, you might be able to control and tone down your reactions to the fearful object/situation over time. That is the theory behind desensitization. All you have to do is expose yourself to a feather: think about it, write about it, draw it, or touch it. Next, you can try visiting places where there are birds, such as farms or barnyards. Over time, you will learn that feathers or birds are not as harmful as you have perceived them to be.
In case of serious symptoms that lead to avoidance, you may want to seek professional help. Cognitive behavior therapy and/or hypnotherapy can help. In cognitive behavior therapy, you learn to challenge each negative thought or inner dialog with a positive one. Your therapist will help you design your own positive statements in order to refute those repetitive negative statements that cause your anxiety. With practice, you learn to stop panic attacks this way.
Hypnotherapy is another effective treatment for Pteronophobia. The therapist uses guided imagery and relaxation techniques to allow the subconscious mind to retake control of the body and mind. The therapy mainly works by helping one overcome depression and stress. Many phobics have turned their lives around using hypnotherapy.
If Pteronophobia is affecting your day-to-day life, you should seek help for it. Try some of the techniques or treatments mentioned above and regain control over your life.