Food Fears

BY Clarice Oelofse


Pronunciation: sÄ«′bŠ-fŠ′bÄ“-ă

Definition: Fear of eating, or loathing for, food.

[L. cibus, food, + G. phobos, fear]


Cibophobia, or fear of food, is a relatively complicated phobia that can rapidly spiral into an obsession. This condition that causes a person to fear food (in an irrational manner), usually when it is prepared by someone other than themselves or contains an unfamiliar ingredient.


People who suffer from eating disorders have a ‘dis-ordered’ relationship with food. They might cry, hyperventilate or throw a tantrum at when exposed to unfamiliar foods. Any disorder is a psychological illness, which can originate from a variety of contributing factors such as family history, personality types, societal factors, and the media.


Symptoms of Cibophobia:

  • Avoidance of perishable foods
  • Obsessive with expiration dates
  • Reluctance to eat meat (especifically chicken or beef)
  • Extremely picky or wary about certain foods or dishes
  • Avoidance of all animal products due to a fear of contamination.
  • Abnormal obsession with reading food labels
  • Adamant refusal to eat certain foods.

The potential risk of contamination may prevent some patients from eating perishable food items such as mayonnaise or ice cream. There may be a fear that foods are not cooked thoroughly or properly, causing the patient to refuse to eat anything cooked by others. If the individual is already nervous, a mere comment or stress to trigger this psychological disorder.


Treatments may include the following:

  • Hypnotherapy
  • Counselling / Professional Advice
  • Medications

Observational learning might be the key to some people overcoming their phobias. If a person suffering from cibophobia sees a friend or loved one eating a feared food with no ill-effect, it can help them overcome their fear. An Occupational Therapist at Singapore General Hospital is using baking sessions to help individuals with to overcome food fears. During the class, the patients are exposed to the very foods that cause them anxiety. This helps them to gradually lose their aversion to touching or looking at food and, more importantly, helps them stop avoiding food and begin eating regularly and normally. During their two-hour baking sessions, they weigh and measure ingredients or knead dough – “tasks they often have difficulty carrying out appropriately when they are alone”. Another way to help them is to share a communal meal (normally lunch) together. Enjoying or preparing a meal with family and friends may seem very natural to most of us, but an eating disorder can greatly disrupt that normality,” Treatment normally takes 4 – 6 weeks to complete.


You can also view this clip on food fears https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26EMIRZVecY#t=34


This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


 July 21, 2014
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Food Safety
Clarice Oelofse

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