What Is Anatidaephobia & How to Cope With It?

You’ve probably heard of ridiculous phobias that can’t possibly be real. For example, linonophobia – the fear of strings and everything that’s sewn. Or, arachibutyrophobia – the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. There’s no way that these actually exist: they’re totally fake, aren’t they? 

Although the two excessive fears mentioned above are real, you still might think the same about anatidaephobia. It is an irrational fear of being watched by a duck might be stalking and observing your every move. It’s not that the stalking duck will attack you — the term only relates to being watched and followed by the waterfowl.

Nobody should laugh at phobias, no matter how humorous they may seem. They all are equally disarming and disempowering to the people that have them. To better understand anatidaephobia, we need to have a good understanding of what having a phobia is like. It will remove any kind of skeptical attitude toward this seemingly ridiculous fear. 

Getting to Know Phobias

They are anxiety disorders that are described best as ongoing, extreme fear of specific objects of occurrences in the world. These disorders are extremely disabling, as the provoked horror inside of you interferes with your life and stops you from doing many things. Although the object of fear itself is usually harmless, the recurring negative thoughts can have a long-lasting impact on your personality.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 12% of adults in the United States suffer from phobias. This disorder isn’t just a fear — it can worsen a person’s quality of life. 

For example, field studies have shown that untreated phobias can evolve into other personality disorders. The disorder that’s medical research commonly connects to long, ongoing phobias is Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.

As per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, specific phobias can be divided into 5 general categories. These groups are based on the cause of the disorder.

The categories are as follows:

  • Animal phobias
  • Fears related to the natural environment
  • Fears related to medical issues 
  • Situational phobias
  • Other (those that don’t fall in the 4 previous groups)

The most common example of animal phobias is the fear of spiders – arachnophobia (fear of ducks or geese also belongs here). The second category usually includes fears caused by natural disasters, while the third one includes phobias related to medical treatments. 

The situational phobias are fears based on being in an anxiety-provoking situation: fear of flying, escalators, small spaces, etc. The last category commonly includes all other fears, like fear of suffocating or receiving a disability, and so on.

Underlying Causes for the Disorder

There is no general consensus on how people acquire fears and develop them into fully-fledged phobias. However, the most ubiquitous theory on this anxiety disorder speaks of only three ways: traditional acquisition, indirect acquisition, and instructional acquisition.

Traditional Acquisition

What you can refer to as traditional acquisition is basically having direct contact with the source of fear initially, and then living through the traumatic experience and creating an extremely unpleasant recollection of this event and the source itself. 

The traumatic experience may not have even posed a real-life threat to a person. Still, if this occurrence had a big impact on the person, then a strong feeling of fear is linked to the event and the initial causing source.

Indirect Acquisition

You would think that the above-mentioned method could be the only way to get phobias. However, that’s incorrect: in fact, you can develop a phobia indirectly, without any contact with its source.

Indirect acquisition means that the person suffering from phobia was only a witness of the traumatic experience, from which the disorder developed. For example, many people develop a fear of heights from seeing someone fall to their death.

Instructional Acquisition

It’s possible to develop a persisting, irrational fear without witnessing a traumatic experience. Here, it’s enough to hear about the devastating effects that some objects or situations had on people. For example, you may hear that wooden houses constantly burn down, and that inspires terror in you. As a result, you develop a strong phobia when you fear falling asleep or even simply going into wooden houses. 

Where Anatidaephobia Comes From

This irrational fear is a product of the imagination of comic Gary Larson. He created this “comical” disorder for one of his short graphic stories – “The Far Side.” The term itself is a very simple combination of Greek words for “duck” and “aversion/fright.” So, in fact, anatidaephobia doesn’t exist in the real world. 

The “fake” fear was created to illustrate the idea that practically any object can become a source of fear. So, even though you won’t find this term in the medical dictionary, people still might be experiencing it daily. For someone, the idea of a duck watching them may not be so funny. We should remember that everything can be someone’s very real phobia when we see it depicted from a humorous perspective.

However, we’re not saying that fears shouldn’t be laughed at. In fact, considering how serious the disorder is, it might positively affect the suffering person. It is one of the ways that people get over their feelings of obsessive and persisting fear and anxiety. 

Still, ridiculing a person for something they fear in their life is disempowering. By doing so, you’re making the disorder even a bigger factor in the life of the person who suffers from it. Phobias can be very dangerous, and if we treat them improperly, they can stay forever in someone’s mind.

Possible Cause

People who are afraid of duck presence and being observed by the waterfowl most likely acquired the fear traditionally. It means that they’ve probably experienced a disturbing incident involving ducks. As these animals are known for being aggressive and territorial, the phobia is genuine and does occur in people.

We can make a suggestion that people who have anatidaephobia have had an incident with ducks in their childhood. As these animals can’t really hurt adults, only children can be substantially attacked by them. Ducks can follow kids, nipping, and charging at them, which is scary when you’re only 5 years old.

How Anatidaephobia Shows Itself

Irrational fear of ducks watching your every move can appear in several ways. All of them are very common for this group of fear-based anxiety disorders. People who have the phobia in question are experiencing this disorder in three ways: psychologically, emotionally, and physiologically.

Firstly, let’s start with the psychological signs of anatidaephobia. Here, the most important aspect of the disorder is the recurring, borderline obsessive thoughts of horror related to duck phobia. The person that is suffering from it might be going about their day when suddenly they are flooded with these scary thoughts and ideas. Obviously, it can limit a person’s ability to function in social situations, which will slowly impact the person’s relationships.

Secondly, there are emotional signs of phobia. This group encompasses every emotional response of the person who’s suffering from the disorder. In other words, the symptoms include having extreme feelings of being lost, panicking, starting to ignore other people, fearful, uncontrolled screams. 

As you might have guessed, when these emotions overcome you at random times throughout the day, it is utterly disabling. The person is stuck in feeling like they can’t fix their issues, and the disorder will only develop further.

Lastly, there are physiological signs of the disorder. They encompass everything from the stomach “falling through” to muscle aching, exaggerated sweating, and so on. You might think that these signs aren’t true because no “real” condition provokes them. However, to the victim of phobia, these physiological signs are very real.

The Treatment Process

When trying to reduce a person’s fear, therapists have a wide range of techniques and methods they can use. Phobias are well-studied mental health disorders. So, nowadays, there’s no need to leave these fear-based anxiety disorders untreated. Let’s talk about the main methodologies for treating irrational fears.

Psychotherapy

It’s the most common way to fight a phobia. By working with a therapist, you acknowledge your fears and learn skills to manage them. Talk therapy sessions challenge the victim’s views and help them change their thought pattern. 

Desensitization

This technique is a very literal interpretation of the phrase “fight your fear.” The victims are made to address their phobia by interacting with its source directly. For example, pyrophobics are made to handle fire – start it, walk through it, put it out, etc. 

Medication

Drug-based solutions to fears are the last method used to handle phobias. Why? Because drugs can’t treat fears, they can only help cope with their existence and aid the victim get by. For this reason, drugs are only prescribed for phobias when all other methods of treatment have failed.

Online Treatment of Phobias

As you can see, phobias are nothing to be joked about. In this article, we discussed the following main ideas:

  • Anything in this world can become a source of irrational fear for people
  • Even funny fears may exactly describe someone’s condition
  • Phobias pose a real threat to the victim if left untreated

If you feel like anatidaephobia or any other persisting fear is substantially impacting your life, then counseling is recommended. Online therapy is the easiest way to determine whether you have any phobias. Why? Web-based counseling removes all of the discomforts of traditional clinics, including inconvenient appointments, long waiting times, having to go physically.

Calmerry offers an easy way for you to sign up and get started on working to address your fears. This platform has numerous mental health experts ready to start treating you in the comfort of your home. So, don’t wait around and contact us to discuss your personal path for managing your phobia. 

Kate Skurat

Kate Skurat

Counselor Licensed Mental Health Counselor | Washington, United States

Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has worked in healthcare since 2017. She primarily treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, and grief, as well as identity, relationship and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience has focused on individual and group counseling, emergency counseling and outreach. Read more