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Insight into the Fear of Food

written by: Nicky LaMarco • edited by: jen2008 • updated: 10/26/2010

What phobia is the fear of food? The fear of food is called cibophobia or sitiophobia, the latter being more closely connected to anorexia nervosa. This encompasses fear of all foods, fear of eating, and fear of particular foods.

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    Causes

    fear of food, what phobia is the fear of food? Most phobias arrive from a combination of traumatic incidences (external events) and genetics or hereditary luck (internal predispositions). Brain chemistry, genetics, and personal history combine to create a perfect storm of cibophobia. Often being who suffer from body dimorphic disorder, which is when a person is excessively concerned about their appearance because they imagine there is a deficit of some kind (not enough muscles, too thin, too overweight, etc.) Environment may also play a part in cibophobia. If he or she works or lives in an environment where being overweight is perceived not merely as unhealthy but as a reflection of a bad individual this affliction could develop. Dancers and models are at particular risk as they are in professions that stress being thin with the threat of possible professional repercussions if they are not. People who suffered from any sort of abuse, particularly as children, sometimes turn to a fear of food as controlling their environment.

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    Symptoms

    People with a fear of food commonly have eating disorders. Bulimia is the ailment where the sufferers make themselves vomit. Anorexia means the sufferer starves himself or herself. With both diseases food become the enemy and the phobia manifests. He or she suffering from bulimia will show symptoms such as Russell’s sign, which is scarring on the knuckles from purging and scraping knuckles on the teeth, swollen cheeks due to overactive salivary glands due to vomiting, and obsession with amounts of food. Signs for both bulimia and anorexia include depression, rituals with food, swollen joints from malnutrition, excessive exercise, wearing clothing that is too big to hide their bodies, and lanugo which is developing a wispy layer of hair where there usually isn’t one as the body’s defense mechanism to protect a too-thin body against the cold. Any combination of these signs could be a signal that a person has a fear of food.

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    Treatments

    What are the treatments for cibophobia or sitiophobia? It usually comes in three parts: monitoring diet and nutrition, seeking psychiatric care including medication and therapy, and vitamin supplements. Both zinc and omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to alter brain chemistry and restore the body. Medicines such as Olanzapine have been shown to alleviate obsessive behavior and may be considered a good course of action for treatment. Talking with a counselor or therapist, particularly one that has been trained in cibophobia, are very beneficial to the sufferer. In very severe cases the patient or the patient’s loved ones may consider entering him or her into a treatment program for a period of time, at a hospital or clinic where they are closely monitored to make sure they are getting better and going through the steps they need to do so. Getting the patient to understand that this is a disease is key to their recovery.

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    Resources

    Sitophobia