Bird Watching

Is Anatidaephobia a real phobia?

If you cannot shake the impression that a duck is looking at you, it may be a sign of anatidaephobia.

A phobia is a form of diagnosis of “specific phobia,” characterized by intense fear or excessive worry about a specific object or situation.

Anatidaephobia, or as some call it “duck phobia”, is the fear of being watched by a duck. This phobia has caught the attention of internet users in recent years, but is it a prank or a legitimate phobia?

Can you really be afraid that the ducks are watching you?

Anatidaephobia is the fear of a duck watching you. The term comes from the Greek word “anatidae”, which means “swan, ducks or geese” and “phobos”, which means “fear”.

People who suffer from this phobia do not necessarily fear that a duck will attack them. Instead, their fear centers around the idea that somewhere a duck might be watching them – all the time.

Anatidaephobia may sound like a believable phobia, but the fear of being constantly watched by a duck is actually a fictitious phobia created for entertainment.

Specific phobias

Although Anatidaephobia is not recognized as an official disorder in the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), its symptoms fall under the diagnostic criteria of “Specific phobia: animal type”.

A phobia is an irrational fear characterized by intense anxiety and worry that is out of proportion to the actual danger or threat posed by the object or situation.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimate 12.5% of adults in the United States will experience some type of phobia at some point in their lives.


Ornithophobia, or fear of birds, is a specific animal type of phobia. Some people with this type of phobia may fear all birds or just a specific type of bird, such as a duck.

Although anatidaephobia is not real, fear of ducks is a very real phobia.

Anatidaephobia dates back to Gary Larson, creator of the comic book “The Far Side”.

Larson’s comic strip depicts a paranoid office worker with the caption, “Anatidephobia: the fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is looking at you.” The comic showed a duck looking out the window of another building behind the desk.

The purpose of Larson’s caricature was to illustrate that any object can be a source of fear. Since the fictitious phobia got its start in 1988, anatidaephobia has grown in popularity. This has led the internet to question the veracity of the phobia.

While anatidaephobia is indeed a hoax and not a true phobia, fears and phobias are not about laughing. Phobias can have serious effects on a person’s daily life.

If you live with a specific phobia, you may understand that your fears may be irrational or unfounded. However, phobias can still affect your daily life.

Symptoms of physical and mental health can occur with phobias, including panic attacks and anxiety.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that phobias usually develop in childhood, with an average age of onset of 7 years. While childhood fears may go away for some people, for others they can turn into phobias that linger into adulthood.

Common physical symptoms of a specific phobia can include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • feeling faint, dizzy, or dizzy
  • sweat
  • nausea
  • chills
  • tremor

For example, a person with ornithophobia (a fear of birds) may experience many of these physical symptoms when thinking or seeing a bird.

Psychological symptoms of specific phobias can include:

  • sense of danger
  • feeling of need to escape
  • fear of losing control or going crazy
  • afraid of dying
  • feeling that things are unreal

Some people can avoid situations where they might experience their phobia. For example, if you have a specific phobia of geese, you may want to avoid a park or lake where there may be geese.

Several factors can contribute to the development of a specific phobia, including:

  • Genetic. A person who has a family history of anxiety, phobias, or another mental health problem may be more likely to develop a specific phobia.
  • Temperament. Fear, shyness, or withdrawal during childhood may play a role in the development of specific phobias in adulthood.
  • Physical health conditions. Thyroid health problems, heart arrhythmia, caffeine, or medication can produce or even worsen anxiety.

Although phobias can be distressing, treatment may be possible with the help of a doctor or therapist.

Treatment options often include a combination of approaches tailored to the individual. You may need to try several strategies before you find the one that’s right for you.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can teach people with a phobia different ways of thinking and reacting to frightening situations or objects.

Exposure therapy can also help individuals deal with their fears by gradually exposing them to their triggers until their anxiety subsides.


Certain medications may be prescribed by your doctor to reduce anxiety, such as:

Medication can be especially helpful in situations where you may be near specific anxiety-inducing objects or situations related to your phobia.

Stress management techniques

In some cases, learning stress management and calming techniques can help people deal with anxiety related to phobias. Some anti-stress methods include:

Although humorous, Anatidaephobia – the fear that a duck might look at you – is not a true phobia or a recognized mental health issue. Rather, this hoax phobia was created as a satire in a 1988 comic book by cartoonist Gary Larson.

While the anatidaephobia is not real, the fear of ducks is a real phobia.

A specific phobia is a fairly common mental health problem that can cause intense fear and worry in addition to physical symptoms, such as sweating and nausea.

Phobias usually develop during childhood and can continue into adulthood. Factors that can contribute to phobias include:

  • past experiences
  • family history
  • childish temperament
  • health conditions
  • underlying mental health issues

If you think you have a specific phobia, you are not alone. Phobias can be treated, and you can work with your doctor or therapist to design the best treatment plan for you.

Phobias can be treated with methods such as:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • prescribed drugs
  • stress management techniques

If you’re ready to ask for help, check out Psych Central’s Mental Health Help Guide.