Cibophobia – the fear of food

cibophobia fear of food

Cibophobia is defined as the fear of food.

Cibophobia not an eating disorder

Some people are afraid of specific foods and their effects. While cibophobia usually starts as a simple dislike of one food, it slowly increases the fear of foods and could significantly disrupt your daily life.  It isn’t classified as an eating disorder, but a general anxiety disorder.

According to a study by  National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in South Africa, 37% of women report they avoid or fear certain foods, especially when they are expecting due to cultural beliefs.

Food and phobia are words you have never thought of appearing in the same sentence. But, as odd as it sounds, some people are afraid of specific foods and their effects.

Read on to understand cibophobia and how to overcome it, including ways to manage stress linked to negative beliefs about food.

Causes Of Cibophobia

Like other specific phobias, the causes of cibophobia and other food phobias are unknown. However, experts believe people who fear food might have had a traumatic experience with a specific food before. Or, they may have been conditioned to dislike some foods. For example, a parent might have instilled a fear of mushrooms.

Health professionals also claim that genetics, brain chemistry, food taboos and anxiety disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder and general anxiety disorder make some people develop food phobia.

In most cases, food phobia begins with the discomfort of specific textures in food, being overly keen on expiration dates, cautious of perishable foods and uncooked meals.

Symptoms And Effects Of Food Phobia

Common symptoms linked to food phobia include muscle tension, nausea, irritability, fatigue and restlessness. You’re also likely to avoid social interactions with friends and family to prevent odd questions regarding your eating habits.

Additionally, not consuming various foods may lead to malnutrition and other health conditions, because your body isn’t absorbing enough nutrients. By watching out for these signs and sharing them with a loved one or health professional, you can overcome the fear of food. Failure to treat cibophobia can affect your overall health as it leads to different types of food phobias, including fear of cooking and fear of new foods (neophobia).

Coping With Cibophobia

For the sake of maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle, it’s crucial to learn how to cope with cibophobia. The first step to achieving the best outcomes is seeking treatment from an experienced mental health professional. Typically, therapists use cognitive behavioral therapy to help individuals with food phobia uncover and change their underlying beliefs about specific foods.

Your therapist might also recommend systematic desensitisation therapy, which entails exposure to the foods you fear while practicing relaxation exercises. For example, let’s say you’re afraid of eating mushrooms. A therapist might ask you to look at photos of mushrooms or sit next to someone eating mushrooms while you practice breathing exercises.

In other instances, medical health experts prefer hypnotherapy. This option allows them to communicate with your subconscious to identify your beliefs. From there, therapists can develop strategies to help you fight those beliefs.

Developing A Positive View Of Food

Overcoming fear of food might be difficult if you still view specific foods as harmful. With this in mind, stop thinking of particular foods as good or bad.

Ideally, viewing food from a positive perspective increases your chance of adding foods you’re afraid of to your diet. For instance, if you have a phobia of drinking milk, try to consume small amounts with a positive mindset. Instead of saying you don’t drink milk because it has an awful taste, say you want to drink it because of its health benefits.

Also, consider creating a positive eating experience by making significant lifestyle changes. First, learn to listen to your body when you’re hungry. Rather than fix or negatively react to hunger, embrace what your body wants.
Next, practice mindfulness by engaging with your meals before, during and after eating. Most importantly, get rid of distractions by turning off the TV or putting your phone away when eating.

Choose Foods With Health Benefits

Another critical step to coping with food phobia is eliminating the idea of forbidden meals, beverages and fruits because you’re afraid of adding weight. Unless you have a medical condition that prevents you from eating specific foods, you should be comfortable eating everything edible and maintain a healthy weight. Health experts recommend choosing food with benefits like fruits and vegetables, dairy, fats, grains, and proteins to enjoy the best results.

Equally important, learn the difference between net and total carbs to ensure you consume the recommended amount of carbohydrates, especially if you’re on a ketogenic diet.

Generally, total carbs are the number of all carbohydrate sources included on food labels. Familiar carb sources included on labels are fiber, sugar, and added sugars. On the other hand, net carbs account for the total amount of carbohydrates in foods minus fiber.

Mix Fear Of Food With Love

Making healthier food choices alone isn’t enough to manage the fear of foods. You need to find unique ways of adding new foods to your diet. For example, you might try mixing fear foods with those you enjoy eating.
Alternatively, spice your meals a little with ingredients you love. For instance, let’s say you dislike sweet potato fries. Try sprinkling ground cinnamon to add flavor. You may also want to add color to your dish while adding a variety of healthy foods by adding colorful veggies like cucumber, bell peppers, celery, beets, and broccoli to your meals.

Cibophobia is more common than you may think, and it’s triggered by bad past experiences with certain foods, cultural beliefs and brain activity. Naturally, fear of food limits you from consuming various food products. This means you’re likely to experience health problems due to insufficient nutrients.

Luckily, you can overcome cibophobia if you seek treatment, develop a positive mindset about food, choose healthy foods, and get creative with your meals.


By Jackie Edwards (Dietician)


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The Content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.



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