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Calef, V. (1967). Alcoholism and Ornithophobia in Women. Psychoanal Q., 36:584-587.

(1967). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 36:584-587

Alcoholism and Ornithophobia in Women

Victor Calef, M.D.

The external manifestations of illness suffered by four patients were remarkably similar. The symptoms have not to my knowledge previously been linked and described as a typical psychiatric syndrome. The symptom complex had not been recognized perhaps because their common dynamic roots have been overlooked.

Four women suffered from severe anxiety which at times bordered on panic. A long-standing fear of birds which became intolerable at the sight of a bird in flight was a part of the symptom complex in all the patients. However, none of the women reported the phobia of birds as a chief complaint. They treated the ornithophobia much in the manner of 'doesn't every woman hate birds?' and managed to circumvent the fear by avoidances. In every case the therapist did not learn about the existence of the phobia until the therapeutic work unveiled it.

Only one of the four patients was concerned about her drinking and described herself as an alcoholic. Yet all of them drank to excess and their husbands considered the drinking a problem. Whether a diagnosis of addiction could be properly made depends on the criteria used.

The four women shared several other characteristics. They were all bright and yet had an exaggerated contempt for their intellectual capacities and for themselves. (Obviously the narcissistic overevaluation of their intellectual functions and a devaluation of the mental capacities of others were only just below the surface; the feelings of intellectual inferiority were defensive, partly by a negation of their potential.) They harbored intellectual ambitions which they believed they could not satisfy and thus kept them hidden and under control.

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