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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Lott

Afraid of Food?

Updated: Feb 13, 2023



Having fears is a reality for all of us to a greater or lesser extent.


Generally speaking, a fear is an unwanted and unpleasant feeling or emotion that is associated with something that we personally believe will cause us harm.


Some common fears include:

  • Heights

  • Open water

  • Darkness

  • Snakes

  • Air travel

  • Enclosed spaces

  • Needles

  • Large groups of people


These examples are all common and widespread, (I personally have two of them!).


However, people can be afraid of anything…especially if they have had a previously negative experience that connects to that thing in someway.


Being afraid, regardless of the focus, is not something to be minimized.


Extreme cases of fears, also known as phobias, can cause a person to isolate themselves or avoid situations all together, which can ultimately cause further issues in their personal and professional lives.


THE EFFECT OF FEARS ON MENTAL HEALTH

When we suffer from a specific fear, it can create a variety of consequent issues in our lives. Fears can cause people to develop:

  • Anxiety

  • OCD

  • Depression

  • Control Issues

  • Unhealthy habits

  • Avoidance and isolation


Depending on what the fear is, how it developed, how long the specific fear has been an issue, and how severe the fear is, many of the above listed mental health concerns can become problematic.

CIBOPHOBIA: A FEAR OF FOOD

One fear, maybe not as commonly regarded as some of the above listed fears, is that of food, also known as cibophobia.


Cibophobia is technically defined as having a fear of food itself. It's clear how problematic this is for sufferers.


Someone who suffers from cibophobia may suffer from any of the following symptoms:

Avoiding specific types of foods

Especially perishable foods that can be suspect or likely to present mould easily, such as

Milk, mayonnaise, eggs


Overly aware of expiration dates

May even stay clear of food items that expire in the near future


Uncomfortable with certain types of textures in food

Slimey or spongey

oily

Cottage cheese, chicken


Cautious about the extent to which food is cooked

How well done meat is prepared and cooked

Overcooked: worries about burnt edges or dryness

Undercooked: worries about eating raw food

Having a fear of food can create subsequent problems and issues that can affect a person’s health and lifestyle. It is important to be aware of some of these concerns if you or someone you know might be suffering from cibophobia.

Physical Health Concerns:

  • Not receiving enough of the daily essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients

  • Weight loss

  • Bone density loss

  • Memory issues

  • Concentration and focus issues


Mental Health Concerns:

  • Development of Anorexia

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviours



CIBOPHOBIA OR ANOREXIA?


Cibophobia and Anorexia share a number of signs and symptoms and so can be misdiagnosed. There are a number of symptoms that make them distinct from one another.

Cibophobia


Can develop from:


  • An experience of vomiting or illness caused by ( or thought to be caused by) improperly prepared or expired food Awareness of possible physical consequences of consuming an expired or undercooked item

  • Fear of developing a reaction or allergy to specific types of food

  • Knowledge of negative effects of specific foods, ingredients or additives on the body

  • Heightened awareness from media outlets


Anorexia


Anorexia nervosa is a serious and potentially life-threatening — but treatable — eating disorder. It's characterized by extreme food restriction and an intense fear of gaining weight.


Anorexia has a number of factors that contribute to its development . These include:

Genetics

Brain chemistry

Family behaviours

Trauma

Other mental health conditions

Personality traits, such as perfectionism and being risk averse

Societal and cultural pressures


As you can see cibophobia shares many symptoms with anorexia, but not really causal factors and not the primary defining characteristics such as over-evaluation of weight and shape.


In some extreme cases of cibophobia, the person may end up developing anorexia due to their heightened fears of food. They may feel so fearful and anxious about the consumption of foods they feel they should not eat, that they begin avoiding food all together and can trigger anorexia in those with the predisposition.


DIET AND FOOD CULTURE

Everytime we turn on the news, open our instagram feed, or read the celebrity gossip about their latest diet obsession, we are inundated with information. So many sources, all part of the diet industry (worth $470 billion worldwide in 2021) are constantly trying to persuade us that there is a 'right' and a 'wrong' way to eat to lose or maintain our weight : which is presented as the only thing needed to achieve good health and longevity. So this constant cycle of new research and diet trends are thrown at us to make us constantly second guess our choices and to buy something else.

There is a current trend in the media that follows up with our health-obsessed society, which is constantly informing us about what is and is not good for our long term health. Whether it’s the Whole30 diet, Keto, Atkins, or any other 'style' of eating , all of the information being generated to us is typically telling us why we should not eat certain foods.

People who suffer from cibophobia, or on the verge of developing a fear of food, can be easily influenced by all of this noise. Knowledge is power, however sometimes too much knowledge leaves us feeling powerless.

ADDRESSING CIBOPHOBIA

It is important to learn how to address any fear that impacts your normal functioning or stops you from doing things you need to do or would enjoy. Clearly a fear of food is going to have an impact on your normal functioning and could lead to very serious physical or psychological consequences. Therefore, it is important to learn how to deal with cibophobia in order to face your fear of food.

Try some of these tips below in order to seek a healthier mental and physical lifestyle when it comes to being fearful of food:

  1. Seek professional help

    1. CBT

      1. Learning how to change your beliefs and behaviours about food

b. Talk therapy

  1. Working with a therapist to discuss why the obsessive behaviour started and how to manage it


Therapy can help you

  1. Develop a more positive view of food

  2. Face your fear of specific types of food

  3. Try new foods

  4. Let go of control

  5. Allow yourself to dine out or have someone else cook for you

  6. Relax

  7. Enjoy food!


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