Cibophobia – Fear of food.

Dealing with Cibophobia in Oxford, Abingdon and Bampton

Cibophobia – Fear of food.
Afraid of food?

Cibophobia is a fear of food. A recent medical article in paediatrics magazine warned parents that children who become picky may be experiencing anxiety and it may lead to depression.

Having grown up in a family where my mother was traumatised by the lack of variety of foods during WWII meant that we rarely had food that was white. The only pasta we encountered was macaroni cheese because of her experiences with tapioca.

Other members of the family developed pickiness because of stays in hospital, so it’s amazing it never bothered me, considering my own history of weird and wonderful phobias – just not cibophobia.

Kids being picky

Often the child will refuse to eat anything except one or two things, in one case I saw that was cheese, in another it was chips, another sausages. It’s interesting how the brain, which has variety hard-wired into itself can limit itself to just one or two foodstuffs. Often as the child gets to teenage years, they begin to grow out of it thanks to peer pressure. However, in some cases, it persists. The majority of cibophobia sufferers I have seen have been in their early 20s and their parents have anxiety issues or just a very basic taste in cooking. I have noticed though that a bad diet in childhood can lead to problems, either with growth, or obesity in adulthood, heart disease and diabetes.

One way of dealing effectively with adding in new foodstuffs is to look at what you already eat. If it’s cheese, then it might be macaroni cheese, cheese sandwiches, pizza, cheese and biscuits. Then you can try them on other similar things – lasagna for example, then on to similar tastes and textures. Lasagna to shepherds pie, to spaghetti Bolognaise, to risotto, to rice dishes like byriani.

Being able to try small amounts of food can be helpful. Suggesting salad bars in supermarkets, buffets in restaurants can help lower the anxiety of trying something new. After all, it’s not going to kill you, you might just not like a flavour or a texture.

Hypnotherapy to help fear of foods

Solution focused hypnotherapy can allow the person to lower their anxiety and to focus on the methods of increasing their choices until they are eating healthily. By seeing their strengths and resources they are able to feel less anxious and more confident in making better choices.

CBT to help fear of food

CBT can help someone understand what the real anxiety is, and change the way they feel about it. Sometimes a person may have been so young they don’t remember why they did it in the first place, but understand the circumstances which influenced it, such as forced to eat school dinners, a spell in hospital or parents divorcing.

Mindfulness to help fear of foods

Mindfulness can help lower the general anxiety around trying new foods and can be a useful tool when going out with friends and family to eat out.

NLP to help fear of foods

NLP can be a help for fear of foods if something traumatic happened such as food poisoning and a person needs to scramble that trauma.

Nutritional therapy to help fear of foods

Nutritional therapy can help make sure that the new foods which are to be introduced lead to a healthy diet. Understanding which nutrients are needed and how to integrate them into a food phobic’s diet will lead them to long-term better health.


Case Study 1

KL came to me with a phobia of food. She had just come back from a holiday abroad with her boyfriend and her phobia had been so bad she hadn’t eaten for nearly two weeks and on top of that she’d caught a bug and had lost over a stone in weight.

Having grown up with people with a similar problem, I explained about phobias. The brain and goals she wanted to conquer. She didn’t like meat very much, more the texture than anything else, and part of the problem as she saw it was that she lived with her parents and had not been subjected to a wide range of international food types.

She felt her social life had ground to a halt as she couldn’t eat in restaurants and she couldn’t eat in front of her boyfriend. Tensions between them had come to a head as he couldn’t understand why she was being so difficult.

The sessions

Session one, she said she wanted to be able to go out and eat more, she wanted to try and find a chicken recipe she liked, as she didn’t like the way her mother cooked it.

By session 2 she had split with her boyfriend and was feeling down. He couldn’t cope with her phobia and said he didn’t need the stress. She started to focus more on what she wanted to try and eat, and we spoke about fruit cocktails being one of the easiest ways of trying new types of fruit. I asked what was the worst thing that could happen, and she said, spit it out – nothing ventured nothing gained. She said a friend had invited her out to dinner, who knew about her problem and was planning to go next week.

Positive moods

At session 3 she was in a more positive mood, she was back in contact with her boyfriend, she was eating more both in quantity and variety. She’d eaten chicken and a hamburger without thinking about the food or where she was.

On session 4 she was feeling positive about so many things. She discovered she didn’t like bananas too much but other fruits like strawberries and raspberries were now in season and she found herself grazing on them and really enjoying it. Instead of planning to go out, she said she wasn’t putting off going out now, and that she had gone out with her boyfriend to a pub and had eaten in front of him, which had always been difficult in the past. She even wants to cook for him and wanted to try new meats. Knowing she like strong flavours I recommended pulled pork in a barbeque sauce.

Loving the new diet

Session 5 she was loving a wide variety of foods, she’d loved the pulled pork and added turkey and duck to her list of meats she was going to try. Her colleagues at work had noticed she was now eating in the restaurant instead of eating just crisps. She was instigating going out eating in restaurants with her friends. She felt she needed to sort her routine out and to organise her breakfast and lunch. I suggested she cook for her parents once a week, to get used to trying out recipe books, she liked that idea. By session 6 she was almost there but realised there wasn’t enough time in a week to try all the new foods, so she decided to slow down a bit and to just concentrate on the positivity.

We decided to leave it a few weeks for her to catch up on the new foods and by session 7 she was nearly a 9. She said she was going away with her boyfriend and 2 friends in September to Turkey and he’d said never again after Thailand, so that was a great achievement. We discussed the type of foods she might encounter in Turkey and she sounded pretty confident that she would like it. She had put on 7lbs since seeing me and needed about another 4lbs left to gain. She was very happy

Also see Eating disorders