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What Is Cibophobia Or Fear Of Food? Types, Causes, Symptoms, Complications And Treatments

Phobias are characterised as intense and persistent fear when exposed to particular things, persons, animals or situations, even when the fear is irrational or unrealistic to others. A person with any kind of phobia often tries to avoid the thing or situation to which the fear is related, as it causes them great anxiety and distress.

Cibophobia is a strange type of phobia of the fear of food. The phobia is often mistaken with anorexia, which is actually an eating disorder in which a person is concerned about the effect of food on body image such as weight gain; in cibophobia, a person gets anxious by seeing the food itself.

Some studies say that people with certain kinds of eating disorders may also develop cibophobia or a related condition called choking phobia, in which a person fears swallowing food due to the intense fear of choking. [1]

Let's get to the details of cibophobia or fear of food. Take a look.


What Causes Cibophobia?

The exact cause of cibophobia, like other phobia types, is still unknown. However, certain theories and anecdotal studies say that phobias usually develop when certain objects or situations are combined with an episode of emotional experience or emotional trauma.

For example, when a person is forced to eat certain foods which they dislike, it may trigger a fear of food in them. As aforementioned, such fear is also developed when a person experiences painful muscle spasms after eating or swallowing.

Phobias are also the result of certain genetic conditions or malfunction in the brain neurotransmitters. When this is the case, the triggering of this food phobia is not related to any emotional episodes. [2]

Certain food allergies, fear of hidden allergens in foods or a traumatic event related to allergic reactions of foods could also be the cause

Pre-existing anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are also considered the main cause of triggering phobias like cibophobia. It could also be due to other eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia. [3].

The fear of food is likely to develop when a mild dislike for food, maybe due to its texture, expiry or colour, is accompanied by a traumatic event or untreated mental health condition, causing the fear to expand over with time and affect the quality of life.

Types Of Cibophobia

Some of the ways to know you have cibophobia include the arrival of these symptoms:

  • Fear from almost all types of foods and beverages.
  • Fearing perishable foods like mayonnaise, fruits and milk as cibophobiacs believe they are already spoiled.
  • Fearing undercooked foods due to the harm they provide to the body.
  • Fearing overcooked foods as they may burn or get dried.
  • Overly aware of expiration dates of foods as it might have caused them some stomach problems earlier.
  • Fearing prepared foods or say, foods which are not prepared in front of their eyes.
  • Fearing foods which are leftovers by others.
  • Fearing from foods as they believe that foods can choke them to death while swallowing.
  • Fearing from certain types of food textures like sticky, chewy or spongy items.
  • Abnormal obsession with reading food labels.
  • Fear of all animal-based foods, maybe due to certain religious reasons followed by extreme physiological stress.

Symptoms Of Cibophobia

When a person experiences one or more of the aforementioned fears of food, they often get symptoms such as: [4]

  • Panic attacks
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Tachycardia or rapid heart beat
  • Nausea
  • Hot flashes
  • Shakiness
  • Complications Of Cibophobia

    Fear of foods or certain foods may cause people to miss out on vital nutrients, leading them to nutrient-deficiency conditions and hampering their lifestyle and personal and social lives. Some of the complications of cibophobia include:

    • Weight loss
    • Weak bones
    • Problems related to memory and cognitive functions.
    • Chronic anxiety and depression
    • Less social engagements.
    • Many other physical and mental health conditions due to malnutrition. [5]

Diagnosis Of Cibophobia

Diagnosis of any phobia is carried out by analysing the symptoms as per the scale of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). While diagnosing, the medical expert asks specific questions to the patient, specifically based on triggering, intensity and time period of the phobia. [6]

While treating cibophobia, doctors may ask questions like "what type of foods do you fear from" or "have you encountered any unreasonable fear before".

Other methods include CT scan of the brain to look for any brain injuries or abnormalities which might be causing the condition, followed by blood and urine tests.

Treatments Of Cibophobia

Though treatment of phobias depends on their intensity and types, it can be treated with certain treatment methods like:

  • Exposure: This includes exposing cibophobiacs to the foods they fear the most, followed by making them understand how to cope with the emotions and situations.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy: This helps understand the triggering factors and traumatic events related to it, followed by ways on how to reduce the stress, negative emotions and fear. [7]
  • Medications: It includes medications like anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants, along with beta-blockers and benzodiazepines given to patients during panic attacks.
  • To Conclude

    Some phobias need years to be treated, while others can easily be treated with medications and therapies. Also, different people may have different symptoms and thus, patient-focused treatment is required.

    Cibophobia or fear of food may affect an individual's life to a great extent if that person continuously avoids food due to fear. It is important to consult a medical expert for early treatment if anybody displays the symptoms listed.

1. Is cibophobia a disorder?

No, cibophobia is not a disorder but a phobia referred to as fear of food. It is often mistaken as anorexia, which is actually an eating disorder.

2. What are the phobias relating to cibophobia or fear of food?

Some phobias relating to cibophobia or fear of food include brumotactillophobia (fear of different types of foods touching each other; mortuusequusphobia (fear of ketchup); pseudodysphagia (fear of drinking or eating pills), and neophobia (fear of new foods).

3. How do you know if you have cibophobia?

Cibophobia may have many symptoms such as fearing perishable foods, uncooked foods, overly cooked foods and leftover foods.

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