What Is Anatidaephobia & How To Cope With It
Updated December 17, 2018
Reviewer Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC
There are some phobias out there that may seem humorous at first, but for those who suffer from them on a daily basis, they are no laughing matter. Such is the case with anatidaephobia.
Anatidaephobia is the fear that at any point, somewhere in the world, a duck or goose may be watching the person who is suffering from the phobia. The person is not necessarily afraid that the duck or goose will attack them or even touch them. They only fear that the animal is watching them, keeping tabs on what they're doing at any moment throughout the day.
A phobia is an extreme fear of something. Phobias can be both irrational and paralyzing. In fact, irrationality is what makes a phobia a phobia. Being afraid of the duck at your local pond because he attacked your dog without good reason is rational. Being afraid of all ducks everywhere because you think they may be watching you and waiting to strike is not. However, despite knowing that this is an irrational fear, those with anatidaephobia cannot stop themselves from feeling intense fear at the very sight of a duck or goose.
A person who is suffering from a phobia will experience both mental and physical symptoms when the related stimulus is present, such as anxiety, a panic attack, shaking, and nausea. This is why even the funniest-sounding phobias should still be taken seriously, as there is more than likely someone out there who is suffering from that very condition to the point where it interferes with his or her ability to enjoy everyday activities.
Phobias And Anxiety
Phobias and anxiety go hand in hand. Because anxiety is not a pleasant feeling, those suffering from phobias will often go to extreme lengths to avoid feeling that feeling. For instance, someone who has aichmophobia, or a fear of needles, may avoid scheduling regular doctor's appointments not to have to worry about being in the same room as a needle.
Some phobias are seemingly unavoidable. In these extreme cases, the person may refuse to leave the house to avoid confrontation with the catalyst of his or her phobia. In these situations, it can be incredibly difficult for the person to seek help because s/he can't bring themselves to leave the house to go to the doctor's office. All hope is not lost, though. Nowadays, with the possibilities afforded to us via the internet, help is just a click away, like our BetterHelp counselors, who are always ready and willing to help.
The Origin Of Anatidaephobia
Anatidaephobia is a creation of Gary Larson's, cartoonist and creator of the popular comic The Far Side, and it is a phobia belonging to the "fictional and humorous" category of phobias. The word "anatidaephobia" can be broken down into "Anatidae," which is Greek for ducks, geese, and other kinds of waterfowl, and "Phobos," which is also Greek and translates to dread or fear.
While fictional and humorous phobias can be conjured up as a response to the idea that "anyone can be afraid of anything, and so anything can be a phobia," artists may actually be hitting the nail on the head, so to speak, for someone who has suffered from this fear and is now grateful that it can be referred to by name. Technically, no one can suffer from "anatidaephobia" because the name itself is not an official psychiatric term. However, the fear can be very real and categorized as a member of a phobia family that has been officially recognized by professionals.
Phobias are serious fears, and they should not be taken lightly. Though, it may be therapeutic for someone to see his or her fear cast in a comical light. This is because it may be helpful to laugh at the related material, as it could lead to the person coming to terms with his or her fear and no longer reacting to that particular stimulus with terror, but with laughter.
However, anatidaephobia has the potential to be debilitating in that the person suffering from the condition may feel like he or she can't get anything done because they are constantly worried about the duck or goose that may be watching them. This can lead to even more phobias, such as agoraphobia, which is the fear of leaving the house.
Causes Of Anatidaephobia
As with most phobias, anatidaephobia more than likely results from a negative or even traumatic experience involving ducks or geese. A negative experience with waterfowl is more common than you may think. This is because ducks and geese tend to be violent by nature and have even been known to attack people without being provoked. They might nip at you, or swoop down to steal your food. This is why it is recommended for people to admire swans from afar, rather than attempting to get close to the otherwise beautiful birds.
Such a thing happening to a young child has the potential to be downright terrifying, leading to a lifelong fear or feelings of intimidation whenever ducks or geese are around. In addition to the fright that being nipped at can cause, it can also be scary to a child to hear the loud flapping noise that such a bird's wings can make as it hones in on its food or prey. This is the very reason why even a phobia such as this one, which may sound silly at first, should be taken just as seriously as any other phobia.
Symptoms Of Anatidaephobia
The symptoms of anatidaephobia are similar to those seen in instances involving other phobias. Symptoms can be physical, mental, or emotional, and they can differ from person to person, as everyone experiences a situation differently and, as such, reacts differently to different stimuli. Anxiety is the symptom that is seen most often, as it tends to occur with every phobia.
Someone who does not have anatidaephobia may smirk or laugh at the idea of a duck or goose trying to scare them, but for an anatidaephobic, this fear is constant and prevalent in his or her mind. In extreme cases, anatidaephobia may refuse to leave their homes out of fear of a duck or goose crossing their path.
Physical symptoms of anatidaephobia can include sweating, trembling, an increase in blood pressure, dry mouth, feelings of choking, and paralyzing fear that causes the person to stop dead in his tracks and be rooted to the spot. He may try to scream or even flee. Some anatidaephobia fear to lose complete control of their bodies, like succumbing to a potentially embarrassing episode including fainting, dizziness, or crying.
Chest pain and gastrointestinal issues are not uncommon for those who have this phobia, nor are feelings of dying or being trapped. That anatidaephobia who are not afraid to leave their homes entirely may go to extreme lengths to avoid traveling to an area that is known to have plentiful geese or duck population.
Treatment For Anatidaephobia
As with many phobias, those who have anatidaephobia often diagnose themselves and realize that their fear, while very real and strong, is irrational. However, they also understand that they are powerless to control it. In spite of this, though, many sufferers will refuse to see a doctor for fear of being laughed at or otherwise not taken seriously. As a result, the phobia may persist or even worsen for years until they finally seek treatment.
There are several methods of treatment that are used to help patients overcome anatidaephobia. One such treatment method is called NLP, or Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy works by attacking our "learned or programmed" thoughts to re-program the brain to reverse what the patient has "learned" and eliminate his or her fear.
Self-help therapeutic methods can also be effective. Here, therapists teach their patients techniques that connect their bodies to their minds, such as deep breathing, meditation, and journaling their positive thoughts. Journaling can help them rationalize their negative thoughts and finally overcome their fear.
In extreme cases, medication may be prescribed to help the patient cope with the symptoms that result from his or her phobia. Medication is considered a last resort, as it does not attack the root of the fear; it only makes the symptoms easier to cope with. By eliminating the fear, the symptoms should naturally subside. However, if treatment is expected to be lengthy, a psychiatrist may prescribe medication to help the patient feel better in the meantime while they continue to attack and try to eliminate the true cause of his anxiety.
If you believe you have anatidaephobia and it is interfering with your ability to enjoy your life, please consider reaching out to one of our BetterHelp counselors for help. Our counselors are specially trained to handle phobias and can help you overcome your anatidaephobia for good and get back to enjoying your life.