Anxiety, Eating Disorders, Fears

Facing Your Fear of Food

“The key to change….is to let go of fear.” -Rosanne Cash

Feeling Fearful?

Having fears is a reality that we, as humans, are faced with. 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
  • Flying on an airplane
  • Enclosed spaces
  • Needles
  • Large groups of people

The above listed examples are common and widespread. However, people can be afraid of anything…especially if they have had a previously negative experience, a person may develop a fear. Being afraid, regardless what it may be of, is not something to be taken lightly. 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.

Fear’s Effect 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
  • 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. Someone who suffers from cibophobia may suffer from any of the following symptoms:

  • Avoid specific types of foods
    • Especially perishable foods that can be suspect or likely to present mold easily
      • 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
      • Cottage cheese, chicken
  • Cautious about food doneness
    • How well done meat is prepared and cooked
      • Overcooked: worries about burnt edges or dryness
      • Undercooked: worries about eating raw food

Cibophobia Concerns

Having a fear of food can create subsequent concerns that can affect a person’s entire being 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
  • Sharpness

Mental Health Concerns:

  • Development of anorexia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression about feeling that everything is bad for you
  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviors

Cibophobia vs. Anorexia

Sometimes fears can be mistaken for other fears. Often times this happens when the fears falls within the same category — in this case, food related. Cibophobia can sometimes be confused with anorexia. Even though cibophobia and anorexia can be mixed up, they are in fact distinct from one another. 

  • Cibophobia: fear of food
    • Can develop from:
      • Awareness of possible ailments if 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 on the body
      • Heightened awareness from media outlets
  • Anorexia: fear of eating
    • Can develop from:
      • Body image issues
      • Self-control issues
      • Depression
      • Coping method
      • Self punishment 

However, the lines can blur. 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. Hence, anorexia can become a concern.

Modern Day Food Obsession

Everytime you turn on the news, open your Twitter feed, or read the latest celebrity diet obsession, you are inundated with information. Just when you thought you were eating right, new research and diet trends are presented in the media to make you second guess your choices. All of a sudden, everything you thought was good for you, is actually bad for you.

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, Ketogenic lifestyle, 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. 

How to Cope with Cibophobia

It is important to learn how to cope with any fear, especially for the sake of maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle. As mentioned above, a concern for having a fear of food, is that it may affect your nutritional intake due to the obsession of avoiding food. In turn, this could affect the possibility of developing other mental and physical health concerns. 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. Cognitive-behavior therapy
      1. Learning how to change your beliefs and behaviors about food
    2. Talk therapy
      1. Working with a therapist to discuss why the obsessive behavior started and how to control it
  2. Developing a more positive view of food
  3. Face your fear of specific types of food
  4. Try new foods
  5. Letting go of control
  6. Allowing yourself to dine out or have someone else cook for you
  7. Relax
  8. Enjoy food!

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