Food phobia, also known as “food aversion or the choking phobia” is the psychopathological fear of food, often times observed as devitalising and incurring serious, almost critical health implications.
Among all the phobias described by literature, cibophobia is the most dangerous. It is the excessive and persistent fear of food.
Cibophobia, referred as Sitophobia, is derived from two Greek words; Sitos- which means bread and Phobos- fear.
Although fear of food and fear of public eating are used interchangeably, they should not be mistaken for each other. The latter is a social anxiety disorder whereby the sufferer, due to the fore sense of embarrassment or being shy, refuses to eat or drink in the presence of other individuals.
Young adults, teenagers and young children are typical sufferers of the food phobia and are ineffective in communicating incisively what they fear.
CAUSES OF CIBOPHOBIA:
Most often, fear of food is associated with certain poor feeding habits such as anorexia, bulimia and other behavioral and eating disorders.
Negative traumatic experiences such vomiting, choking, allergic reactions, stomach aches, etc may cause the fear of food in young children which often results in the partial or total fear and avoidance of chewing and swallowing food or drinks at adulthood.
Specific cases of cibophobia have also been noted. Here, the cibophobic individual is afraid of selective foods which are perishable like milk and milk products, mayonnaise, juice, etc. This might occur due to prior bad experience or ingestion of expired foods following gastrointestinal pains and bothers. The brain’s memory recalls the bad experience in the confrontation of a similar stressful situation.
In young and partially developed minds, phobia of eating in the presence of adults or authoritative figures may cause cibophobia in adulthood. Child abuse, bad news, loss of a loved one while eating a particular food may trigger the fear of food.
SYMPTOMS OF CIBOPHOBIA:
Many physiological, psychological and even mental behaviors can be associated with the cibophobic individuals.
* Cipophobics may be observed as being obsessively, fussy and/or particular to the expiry dates, method of preparation of edible items and sometimes, refusal to eat or over cooking certain foods.
* Health and nutritional deficiencies can be associated to victims of the fear of food, in that, some phobics eat as little as possible. This can often be mistaken as bulimia, anorexia or other forms of eating disorders.
* Due to the constant and persistent fear of choking, vomiting or allergic reactions to certain foods, phobics are haunted with the fear of public embarrassment from their eating habits.
* Some teenagers and young adults refuse to eat solid food. This results to disagreements and quarrels amidst the family, school, peer groups, etc. The child’s diet has to be supplemented with vitamins, protein rich soft foods, mineral supplements in a bid to maintain their health and proper state of mind.
* Children and young adults suffering from cibophobia experience fear on being coerced into eating food and will throw temper tantrums, sleep related issues, nocturnal diuresis, nightmares, fear of sleeping alone and other behavioral issues.
TREATMENT FOR CIBOPHOBIA:
The first step in the treatment of cibophobia is the structured diagnostic and behavioral tests to estimate the extent of the patients aversion and fear of food. Sequential tests are carried out by expert therapists in form of mild physical tests, which are observed and recorded over a period of six months, the tests include requesting the child to;
- Approach and eat three or four feared meals.
- Sit next to the food.
- Holding a spoon, filling it with the feared food, and touching the food to his lips.
- And finally, putting the food into the mouth, chewing and swallowing.
Parents also participate in the exercise by keeping daily or weekly records of the cibophobic’s progress and visiting the therapist with the results for the weekly review sessions.
Parents and therapists can help reduce the aversion of the phobic to food using incentives and positive stimulants such as material rewards, attention and verbal praise. Contrariwise, the phobic’s temper tantrums, vomiting, crying and refusal to eat should be ignored.
Other extremely effective treatments is the use of therapy. Neuro Linguistic Programming therapy, reprogramming therapy, behavioral therapy, gradual desensitization therapy and hypnosis can also be used to combat cibophobia.