A phobia is an irrational and excessive fear of an object or situation according to the American Psychiatric Association. We usually associate phobias with things or situations such as the fear of flying or a fear of dogs. These types of fears, while inconvenient, are not normally life-threatening. But food phobia, called cibophobia, can severely limit everyday activities and cause health problems.
Difference between Eating Disorders and Food Phobias
Eating disorders, such as anorexia, can look similar to a food phobia. Both can involve food avoidance and restrictive diets, but for very different reasons. Individuals with eating disorders are usually preoccupied with body image and avoid foods because of the fear of gaining weight. They worry about calories and fat content and limit what they eat in order to maintain or lose weight. But those with food phobia have a fear of the food itself, not the impact of the food on their body weight.
Types of Food Phobias
Not every food phobia is the same. Some people may be afraid of eating highly perishable foods and won't eat anything containing mayonnaise or other foods that will quickly go bad without refrigeration. Others have trouble trying any new foods, gagging or vomiting when they do. Some may have a fear of cooking food and others may have a fear of being poisoned and refuse to eat foods cooked by others.
Fear of New Foods
Young children can sometimes have a fear of trying new foods. Most parents remember when their toddler refused to try something new, gagging or vomiting when they insisted their child eat just a bite. But for some, this fear never goes away and those with this type of phobia continue through life with a highly restricted diet. They may limit their diet, eating the same few foods day after day.
Fear of Cooking
The fear of cooking, called megeircophobia, may be the fear of cooking for others - afraid the presentation is not good enough - or could be a fear of overcooking or undercooking meats. It could include the fear of actually cooking, with excessive worry over cutting yourself or burning yourself while cooking.
Fear of Gagging or Vomiting
Some individuals worry that they will gag or vomit when eating certain foods. They may limit their diet to soft foods or foods they have prepared. This fear may come from worry about foods not being cooked properly, being too spicy or other foods that may upset your stomach. Some people with this type of fear refuse to eat in public or even when other people are present. This fear can sometimes lead to the inability to swallow or the feeling of having a lump in your throat.
Symptoms of Food Phobia
For sufferers of food phobia, when faced with the prospect of having to eat certain foods or cook a meal, symptoms are similar to those of any anxiety disorder:
Some may have panic attacks, including feeling as if they are going crazy or going to die.