Food phobias are an ongoing, unwarranted fear of food (or a particular foodstuff) or eating and results in food avoidance. This surprisingly common phobia causes countless people distress.
While we might think of it as a food avoidance or a fear of eating - it has more tongue-twisting names too: Sitiophobia, Sitophobia or Cibophobia. The biggest problem is that it can range from being something you can readily avoid to something that can significantly affect your quality of life as do many eating disorders.
At it's worst, It can cause panic attacks, isolate you from going out and impact on relationships. When it's severe, symptoms can include shortness of breath, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea, and overall feelings of dread.
When it's mild - it may just manifest as a 'dislike' of, and absolute food avoidance for a particular food. Others may think you're just 'picky' or that you just have 'food issues.'
But food phobias are more common than we think. I have a friend who won't eat eggs, or anything cooked with eggs. So fierce is her food avoidance that she won't even kiss her husband if he's eaten eggs. He gets sent off to brush his teeth first.
Food phobias that seems irrational can also be formed from our earliest food memories. We may not even be aware of the actual even or series of events that lead to our intense dislike and food avoidance.
Another friend won't touch anything with beets in it. His grandmother used to bake, and insist, he eat her beet pie. Just the sight of a beet and instead of turning puce, he turns green.
The people food phobias afflict are otherwise intelligent men and women who banish from their diets specific tastes or textures and sometimes entire food groups (like dairy - although they may still eat icecream).
Mostly you'd never be aware that they won't eat pasta because it's slimy, or won't eat cheese because it's rubbery, or won't eat mushrooms because they're spongy. Until you ate with them.
Some can also just be unadventurous. They won't try any foreign or exotic food so traveling for them can be the stuff made of nightmares. Others won't eat anything with seeds or fruits with seeds, and others won't touch condiments in any way, shape or form.
Sometimes food phobia can also come about because of food myths.
Some people with food phobias won't mix foods on the same plate or even eat foods that have touched another. Others, like me (although fortunately I don't feel phobic about this, it's just a habit), start with one item on my plate and usually finish it before starting the next.
Then you get some people with food phobia who won't eat anything, be that nuts, crisps, a sandwich or pizza slice with their hands. While food phobics may be otherwise well-adjusted adults, they may avoid eating in public, or at parties or restuarants because juse seeing or smelling or feeling the texture of food can make them feel physically ill.
This is when it becomes a disorder - when it starts determining the quality of a person's life. When they can't readily go out for a business lunch or go to a friend for the weekend without worrying about their food phobia comming to light and being embarrassed by it.
When the condition is really bad, food phobics can land up becoming seriously ill or depressed says Bradley C. Riemann, clinical director of obsessive-compulsive disorders at Milwaukee's Rogers Memorial Hospital.
An even though they realize that their food avoidance is not something they can readily explain to others - it's not something they feel can easily be changed.
I went to a convent and every wednesday when they mowed the lawns we got 'spinach.' Now I know they tried to tell me that this khaki-brown stuff globbed onto my plate with a drizzle of something white over it was 'good for me' but I just couldn't swallow it.
I became very good at food avoidance when it came to spinach. On wendsdays I employed a couple of tactics.
I always wore clothing with deep pockets and became exceedingly good at squirreling away spinach instead of actually eating it.
I always tried to sit with a window behind me - that way I could toss it out the window. But as luck would have it I got caught and was one day forced to sit in the dining room and eat two pots of left-over spinach. I hated spinach.
It was no wonder then that years later when I finally ditched diets and started to live light that when my body asked for spinach - I could hardly bring myself to eat it.
Now I love spinach - in fact, I even grow it in my own vegetable garden. That's progress.