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What is Carnophobia?

written by: Justin Davis • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 1/31/2011

Carnophobia, or the fear of meat, is a common specific phobia that many Americans deal with on a daily basis. But what are the causes and symptoms of carnophobia? And which treatments are effective at treating it? Continue reading to find out more about the fear of meat.

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    What is Carnophobia?

    There are many specific phobias that affect millions of people every day, and carnophobia is no exception to that statistic. Carnophobia is the extreme and irrational fear of meat. Individuals suffering from carnophobia have difficulty dealing with meat in any way shape or form. Obviously, this can make even small things like going to the supermarket, watching TV, or even driving through the countryside very traumatic.

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    Causes of Carnophobia

    There are many different possible causes of carnophobia, but the most commonly found causes are environmental. That is, most people with carnophobia have had traumatic experiences with meat, or have associated traumatic experiences to meat in the past. A few examples of these may be;

    • A severe illness directly after consuming meat
    • A traumatic trip to a slaughterhouse or butcher shop
    • An accident while preparing meat
    • Adverse reaction to images or advertising for or against meat products

    For some individuals, carnophobia is not caused by direct exposure to meat, but rather through family and friend's negative views or experiences with meat.

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    Symptoms of Carnophobia

    There are many different symptoms of carnophobia and they are easily recognizable. For some carnophobics, even thinking about meat or hearing someone mention meat products may induce severe panic. For others, symptoms are experienced only when they touch or smell meat. The symptoms include:

    • Intense, irrational fear of meat
    • Sweating
    • Rapid pulse
    • Feelings of panic
    • Urge to escape
    • Flushed face
    • Muscle Tension
    • Inability to cope with thoughts

    Many of those suffering from carnophobia know that their fear is irrational, yet are still unable to control their thoughts and feelings.

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    Treatments for Carnophobia

    There are several different treatments commonly prescribed for those with carnophobia including anti-anxiety medications, although these are only effective for the control of symptoms over short periods and are not a long-term treatment. However, the following treatments have better prognoses for long-term care.

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a commonly used to treat those with carnophobia. CBT attempts to uncover the thought processes behind the phobia, to let the person understand their cycle of negative thoughts and ultimately replace them with positive ones. One example of effective CBT treatment of carnophobia would be a patient explaining a past traumatic event that they associate with meat. In doing this, the patient may realize that the trauma from that event is being expressed through their phobia. Over time CBT changes that association of trauma and helps the patient overcome their phobia.

    Exposure Therapy, also known as systematic desensitization, is another treatment shown to be highly effective at helping those with carnophobia. In exposure therapy, the patient is slowly exposed to the object of their fears, in this case meat. To start, the therapist may ask questions about meat to ascertain the patient's thoughts and feelings. Then, they may bring in images of meat, then meat itself, and the final step of the process may be the actual cooking and eating of meat without negative reactions.

    While both of these treatments are effective, they need to be administered by a health care professional. If you have carnophobia, check with your doctor before treatment to learn more.