Cibophobia is a medical term describing a mental disorder that causes a severe and often incapacitating fear of food. This psychological condition should be differentiated from disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, 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. There may be a fear that foods are not cooked thoroughly or properly, 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.
The exact cause of the development of cibophobia is not always clearly understood, although there are some common contributing factors among many people with this disorder. A previous experience with food poisoning may lead to an intense fear of possible contamination. Specific food allergies may cause a fear of hidden allergens in foods or the development of a potentially life-threatening type of allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. A mental health professional such as a psychiatrist can help the patient find the proper combination of therapy, self-help techniques, and sometimes medications to treat this disorder on an individual basis.