Food is among the basic needs of man because obviously it’s crucial for survival. Otherwise, malnutrition followed by starvation and, finally death will come in case of complete avoidance of food due to an intense fear of its consumption.
But, sadly, there’s such a medical condition as cibophobia, an intense fear of food. Like other phobias, it’s an irrational fear that can become an obsession affecting overall quality of life, such as when an affected person absolutely refuses to eat certain types of food despite their high nutritional value.
Cibophobia and anorexia are two different medical conditions but some people can actually experience the symptoms and complications of both disorders; the diagnosis, furthermore, of either condition should only be made by a trained clinician, such as a psychiatrist. While cibophobia refers to the fear of the food itself, anorexia refers to the fear of the effects of food consumption on the body, particularly on its fattening effects; anorexic persons usually limit their food intake to near-starvation levels.
Like other phobias, too, cibophobia can take on many forms or patterns. Each type usually has a specific fear but the symptoms and complications can be similar, and each type may require professional treatment, particularly when serious symptoms are experienced.
Fear of New Foods
Known as food neophobia (i.e., new + fear), it’s especially common in children since they can be picky eaters who don’t want to try new foods for one reason or another. Sadly, some children can suffer from food neophobia in later years since their picky eating habits turn into a lifelong fear of new foods.
Food neophobia itself can take on many forms in the sense that every individual has his or her own specific must-avoid foods. For example, Tom won’t eat raw foods, not even fresh fruits and vegetables, much less sushi while Dick don’t eat crispy and crunchy food, no matter how appetizing or nutritious it may be; Harry, on the other hand, will not eat any new food at all, a fear that limits his diet to his childhood food.
The fear of new food is related to the fear of the unknown and the fear of new things. For example, your friend invited you to eat at Fogo de Chao, a restaurant offering Brazilian-style meats, but you won’t go no matter the incentive because of your intense fear of new food. You know that you’re missing out on great food, especially since you love American-style steaks, but you simply can’t bring yourself to eat meat prepared in a different manner or with a different flavor profile.
Fear of Cooking
Called mageirocophobia, the fear of cooking, comes in several forms, too. Again, every individual has his or her own fears related to food and these fears can become mentally debilitating.
These fears can include the fear of overcooking or undercooking the food, cutting yourself with sharp objects, or experiencing difficulty with following the recipe, among others. Some affected persons may even fear the cooking process itself and, thus, they avoid the kitchen like it was the plague.
Did you know that some people have an intense fear of cooking turkey during the Thanksgiving holiday? Known as diemeleagrisphobia, a playful take on “die, fear of turkeys” made by Alton Brown, a Food Network celebrity chef, it’s a real fear. Fortunately, there are numerous resources for overcoming it, from television specials to podcasts, so home cooks can make a delicious roast turkey.
Fear of Vomiting
Known as emetophobia, the fear of vomiting stems from the fear of eating food that will cause an upset stomach. It can take many forms, too, such as the food being spoiled, undercooked, or extremely spicy. It can also affect when and where the affected person eats, such as the avoidance of eating in a restaurant because then other people will know of a vomiting episode.
But it may not stop there either. Emetophobia can also be related to the fear of losing control that, in turn, can result in obsessive-compulsive behavior; in extreme cases, it can transition into agoraphobia, or the extreme fear of open spaces.
Just because you absolutely avoid certain foods or avoid cooking specific dishes doesn’t automatically mean that you have cibophobia. This is because many of its signs are difficult to recognize, particularly when it’s a relatively common fear, such as the fear of perishable goods or of expiration dates or of raw foods.
For this reason, you should consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist for a definitive diagnosis of cibophobia, particularly when your fear of food is negatively affecting your quality of life. You should do so as soon as possible since there’s a high risk of increasingly obsessive behaviors, such as constant checking of food labels, and of malnourishment (i.e., when your diet becomes restricted to just a few food products).
Besides, life’s too short to limit yourself to only certain foods! You will benefit from a more adventurous appetite, such as trying out the Fogo de Chao meats that are a far cry from the American hotdog and burger.