Cibophobia is defined as the fear of food. People with cibophobia often avoid food and drinks because they are afraid of the food itself. The fear may be specific to one type of food, such as perishable foods, or it may include many foods.

Further definitions include:

fear of food, CBT, ANXIETY
  • A phobia is a deep, irrational fear about a specific thing or situation. It can cause a number of symptoms, including panic, shortness of breath, and dry mouth.
  • Phobias aren’t uncommon. In fact, about 19 million Americans experience phobias so severe they impact their lives in a significant way.
  • Individuals with eating disorders such as anorexia may avoid food. Because they worry about the effect it can have on their bodies. For example, they are fearful eating food will lead to weight gain.
  • Some people with an eating disorder may ultimately develop cibophobia. But it is important to note these are two separate conditions.
  • Cibophobia, like most phobias, can be treated successfully. In most cases, people with a fear of food can overcome it. And develop a healthy relationship with food and drinks.
  • Fear of food is also called cibophobia. It is a type of specific phobia, which is classified as an anxiety disorder. Having cibophobia means that you have a deep, irrational fear of food.
  • If left untreated, having a fear of food can impact your quality of life as well as your nutrition.
  • When a person has an extreme fear of food, it is called cibophobia. The fear can be so intense that it disrupts daily activities.
  • A person with cibophobia may fear meals prepared by someone else. Foods that contain unfamiliar ingredients, or perishable foods. In severe cases, a person may fear almost all foods, which can result in malnutrition.
  • Despite knowing the food doesn’t cause any actual harm. They are unable to overcome their fear.
  • Cibophobia is a general fear of food.
  • While those with anorexia fear the effects of food on body image. Those with cibophobia are afraid of the food itself. However, people can experience both disorders at the same time.
  • Some people are afraid of specific foods and their effects. While cibophobia usually starts as a simple dislike of one food. It slowly increases the fear of foods and could significantly disrupt your daily life.  It is not classified as an eating disorder, but a general anxiety disorder.
  • According to a study by  National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in South Africa. 37% of women report they avoid or fear certain foods, especially when they are expecting due to cultural beliefs.
  • Food and phobia are words you have never thought of appearing in the same sentence. But, as odd as it sounds, some people are afraid of specific foods and their effects.
  • Read on to understand cibophobia and how to overcome it. Including ways to manage stress linked to negative beliefs about food.

Food phobia symptoms

If you have cibophobia, you experience extreme anxiety around your trigger foods. Symptoms of anxiety include restlessness, fatigue, muscle tension, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and constant worrying.

  • You may fear one specific food or many foods at a time. You might have an above-average fear of illness or choking as a result of eating the particular food. Or, you may associate the food with an unpleasant or traumatic experience.
  • It may be difficult to recognize cibophobia, particularly if someone is avoiding certain foods. For a reason other than fear (such as a diet or lifestyle choice).
  • Cibophobia is a medical term describing a mental disorder that causes a severe and often incapacitating fear of food. Which involve a fear of eating. Food allergies, body image issues, or an extreme concern about potential toxins may contribute to the development of cibophobia.
  • Common symptoms of the disorder include obsessively checking expiration dates of food items. Refusal to consume meat or other animal products, or an aversion to perishable foods. Any specific questions or concerns about cibophobia in an individual. Situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.
  • A person who has cibophobia is convinced that certain foods will cause great bodily harm if consumed. Someone who typically avoids certain foods for religious or moral reasons.
  • May become violently ill after consuming such foods due to the severe psychological stress caused by eating these forbidden foods.
  • This same type of reaction may occur after consumption of any food product that is thought to be unsafe. Nausea, vomiting, and physical trembling may occur after eating among those with this particular disorder. Some people may experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of extreme anxiety.
  • Some of the behaviors that may suggest that a person has cibophobia include an abnormal obsession. With reading food labels or an 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. Causing the patient to refuse to eat anything cooked by others.
  • Some with this condition may avoid all animal products due to a fear of contamination. An obsessive need to constantly check expiration dates is also a common symptom of cibophobia.
  • But perhaps none that are as debilitating or having serious health implications as Cibophobia. The excessive and persistent fear of food.

Fear of Food Phobia – Cibophobia

fear of food, CBT, ANXIETY

Note that the latter is a social anxiety disorder where the individual refuses. To eat or drink in front of others from fear of embarrassing him/herself. On the other hand, Cibophobia is persistent and the patients, typically teenagers and young children, are unable to verbalize precisely what they fear.

People who have a food phobia may experience the following symptoms:

  1. elevated blood pressure
  2. trembling or shaking
  3. pounding or racing heartbeat
  4. shortness of breath
  5. chest pain
  6. chest tightness
  7. dry mouth
  8. upset stomach
  9. rapid speech or a sudden inability to talk
  10. sweating heavily
  11. lightheadedness
  12. nausea
  13. vomiting

The fear of food leads

  • This leads to overcooking or avoiding meat completely, refusing to eat in certain restaurants etc.
  • Some phobics eat and drink very little leading to nutritional deficiencies and health problems.
  • The phobic lives in constant fear that s/he will choke on food. S/he might vomit, cry or throw a temper tantrum when coerced into eating.
  • Some kids and teenagers refuse to eat solid foods. Rich soft foods and vitamin/mineral supplements to maintain their health. Their condition often leads to arguments in the family. Distress and difficulties with peers at schools are also common.
  • Sleep related issues, nocturnal diuresis, nightmares and refusal to sleep alone.
  • People with a food phobia may have a fear of almost all food and beverages, or their fear may be more specific.

The following foods commonly generate a phobia:

  • Perishable foods: People fearful of foods like mayonnaise, milk, fresh fruits and vegetables. They fear they may become ill after eating them.
  • Undercooked foods: A fear of foodborne illness may drive some people to avoid foods that can be dangerous if undercooked.
  • Expiration dates: People with cibophobia may be fearful of foods. That are near or past their expiration dates.
  • Leftovers: Some individuals with cibophobia won’t eat leftovers, believing they may make them ill.
  • Prepared food: When people with a food phobia aren’t in control of preparing their own food. They may avoid eating at a restaurant, a friend’s house, or anywhere they can’t see or control the food preparations.

Developing a positive view of food

Overcoming fear of food might be difficult if you still view specific foods as harmful. With this in mind, stop thinking of particular foods as good or bad.

  • Ideally, viewing food from a positive perspective increases your chance of adding foods. You are afraid of to your diet. For instance, if you have a phobia of drinking milk, try to consume small amounts with a positive mindset.
  • Instead of saying you don’t drink milk because it has an awful taste. Say you want to drink it because of its health benefits.
  • Also, consider creating a positive eating experience by making significant lifestyle changes.
  • First, learn to listen to your body when you are hungry. Rather than fix or negatively react to hunger, embrace what your body wants.
  • Next, practice mindfulness by engaging with your meals before, during and after eating. Most importantly, get rid of distractions by turning off the TV or putting your phone away when eating.

Observational learning experiences:

You can learn to fear certain objects or situations by watching another person. Like a parent or sibling, experience fear in the same situation. For example, if your mother had a fear of food that you observed while growing up, you may experience the same fear later in life.

Past traumatic experiences:

A person with a fear of food may associate certain foods with a negative or traumatic memory of something they experienced in the past. For example, if a certain food or ingredient made you ill in the past, you may develop a fear of that food.

Informational learning:

Learning about negative impacts related to certain foods through the news. Social media, or books can portray certain food groups or ingredients as harmful, causing a fear to develop.

Biological factors:

Although less is known about the role genetics and biological factors may play in specific phobias. It is believed that changes in brain chemistry may also play a role in the development of specific phobias.

Cibophobia complications

These complications can occur with almost any phobia, not just cibophobia. However, it is clear that untreated phobias can become very problematic.

Existing research suggests complications of untreated food phobias include:

Obsessive rituals

Some people with phobias create detailed routines in an attempt to reduce anxiety. These routines may include how they clean their kitchen or store their food. However, that doesn’t always help them stop the physical and mental symptoms that happen when they encounter foods.


Over time, this can lead to malnutrition and other health problems.

Social stigma

It’s difficult for people with a food phobia to hide it from friends, family, and co-workers. It can lead to awkward questions, and people with cibophobia may avoid social engagements to prevent these interactions.

Other food phobias

Cibophobia is the most common type of food phobia, but it isn’t the only one. People with a fear of food may have one of these more specific types:

  1. Food neophobia: Food neophobia is the fear of new foods. For some people, encountering new foods may cause intense anxiety and panic. It is especially common in children.
  2. Mageirocophobia: Mageirocophobia is the fear of cooking food. The most common type of mageirocophobia is the fear of cooking or eating undercooked food. Which could result in illness or food that is inedible.
  3. Emetophobia: Emetophobia is the fear of vomiting. For example, if you are afraid of becoming ill and needing to vomit. You might become fearful of food because it could make you ill.
This phobia may develop spontaneously. It could also develop after a person has become sick and vomited because of food.
  • It is a type of specific phobia, which is classified as an anxiety disorder. Having cibophobia means that you have a deep, irrational fear of food.
  • If left untreated, having a fear of food can impact your quality of life as well as your nutrition.
  • The fear can be so intense that it disrupts daily activities.
  • A person with cibophobia may fear meals prepared by someone else. Foods that contain unfamiliar ingredients, or perishable foods. In severe cases, a person may fear almost all foods, which can result in malnutrition.
  • Despite knowing the food doesn’t cause any actual harm. They are unable to overcome their fear.

Anorexia vs. Cibophobia

People with eating disorders, including anorexia, often avoid food because they fear that eating it will cause weight gain. Unlike anorexia, cibophobia has nothing to do with a person’s body image.

And occurs when a person exhibits fear of the actual food itself. Cibophobia isn’t classified as an eating disorder. However, a person can develop cibophobia from disordered eating or have both conditions at the same time.

Anxiety: Signs, Symptoms, and Complications


The symptoms of cibophobia are very similar to the symptoms of other specific phobias.

A person with cibophobia will often experience severe anxiety or have panic attacks around trigger foods. Depending on the severity of cibophobia, symptoms can be difficult to detect.

Further symptoms include:

  1. Chest pain
  2. Heart palpitations
  3. Shortness of breath
  4. Sweating
  5. Feeling faint, dizzy, or lightheaded
  6. Abdominal discomfort
  7. Nausea
  8. Feeling the need to escape
  9. A feeling of danger
  10. Chills
  11. A feeling of dying

Symptoms typically resolve on their own but can feel very frightening at the time. Causing a person to entirely avoid social situations in which trigger foods are present. A person with a severe fear of food may avoid grocery shopping, dining out, or eating in front of others.

How common is it to have both anxiety and depression?


Cibophobia would be classified as a specific phobia. Getting a diagnosis of a specific phobia involves a visit with a licensed mental healthcare provider.

Your provider will analyze your symptoms against the diagnostic criteria. Outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5).

This guide uses the following diagnostic criteria to diagnose specific phobias:

  1. The fear is persistent and lasts for more than six months.
  2. The fear almost always causes immediate anxiety.
  3. The fear is out of proportion to the actual danger of the object or situation.
  4. The fear causes significant distress or impairment in important areas of functioning.

Treating the fear of food

Treatment for Cibophobia:

  • Approaching and eating three or four feared foods, sitting next to the food, holding a spoon,
  • Filling it with food, lifting the spoon, touching the food to his lips, putting the food in the mouth, chewing and swallowing it. Parents/therapists must note various symptoms throughout these different steps.
  • At home, a daily or weekly record must be kept to note the food and drink items that have been consumed by the phobic. This must be done over a period of at least 6 months with a weekly review session with the therapist.
  • Parents and therapists must provide positive reinforcements like material rewards, praise and attention to the child suffering from Cibophobia. Conversely, vomiting, crying, temper tantrums etc must be ignored.

Food phobias can be treated successfully. Treatments may include:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT):

This treatment involves talking with a mental health professional about your emotions and experiences with food. You can work together to find a way to reduce negative thoughts and fear.


This monitored practice brings you in contact with the foods that generate fear. With this treatment, you can learn to cope with your emotions and reactions toward food in a supportive setting.


Antidepressants, and in rare cases anti-anxiety medication, may be used to treat people with a food phobia. However, these medications aren’t generally used due to their high addiction liability. Beta blockers may also be used to help reduce emotional responses and anxiety on a short-term basis.


In this deeply relaxed state, your brain may be open to retraining. A hypnotherapist may make suggestions or offer verbal cues. That can help to reduce the negative reactions you have toward food.


Coping with a specific phobia such as cibophobia can be challenging, but know that you are not alone. An estimated 19 million adults in the United States live with a specific phobia.

  • In addition to the treatment options mentioned above, many people find coping is further aided by joining a support group. This helps you interact with and confide in others who share the same struggles.
  • Additionally, people who exercise regularly, practice relaxation techniques, and learn how to reduce avoidance behaviors. Can reduce unwanted symptoms associated with specific phobias.
fear of food, CBT, ANXIETY


  • Fear of food is also known as cibophobia. This is a specific type of phobia that causes an irrational and constant fear of food.
  • If you suspect that you or a loved one has cibophobia, consider talking with a licensed healthcare provider. They can refer you to a mental healthcare professional.
  • Treatment for cibophobia includes CBT, medications, hypnotherapy, and exposure therapy. Many people also find it beneficial to join a support group to improve coping skills.


  • Many people have foods they don’t like. However, when the fear of food interferes with your daily life. And prevents you from enjoying meals, you may have a food phobia.
  • If left untreated, a food phobia can have a significant impact on your health and life. Treatment can help you overcome those fears and embrace a healthy relationship with food.
  • If you believe you have a food phobia or food-related fears, talk to a doctor. This is an important first step in helping you find a diagnosis and a successful treatment.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here