Fear Of Eating (cybophobia): Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

This strange anxiety disorder can be distinguished from anorexia or bulimia nervosa.

There are many types of phobias; These disorders are characterized by an irrational and persistent fear of situations, objects, activities or people.

The main symptom of this disorder is the desire to avoid the feared stimulus, and the development of phobias usually occurs due to environmental factors.Now, some experts affirm that our body is programmed to feel fear, as it is an adaptive emotion, which we It has been useful to the human species for centuries, so it would be relatively easy to suffer from this condition.

Irrational fears can become very disabling, as in the case of cybophobia or fear of eating, which can cause serious health problems for the person. In this article we will talk about this strange phobia and delve into its causes, symptoms and treatment.

What is cybophobia?

Cybophobia is an anxiety disorder that causes great fear and discomfort to the person who suffers from it, as they experience a great irrational fear of eating or of the food itself.

This disorder must be differentiated from other pathological conditions such as anorexia or bulimia, which have their origin in the ideas that the person has about the aesthetic consequences of eating food, although it can sometimes be linked to these. However, the irrational fear of having a negative body image when eating, such as thinking that food may contain toxins or germs, can contribute to the development of cybophobia.

Some characteristics of this disorder are:

  • People with cybophobia show an irrational obsession with food, which can lead them to become obsessed with the nutrients they contain and where they come from.
  • They can avoid food even though it is necessary for good health.
  • They avoid dishes cooked by other individuals, as they need to know exactly what they eat or how the dish has been cooked.
  • They avoid eating food prepared in previous days for fear of poisoning.

Symptoms of this phobic disorder

As you can see, the person suffering from this pathology tends to avoid food due to their irrational ideas about it, and despite the fact that in many cases they show knowledge about their problem, they cannot control that situation.

The symptoms of cybophobia do not differ from other phobic disorders, since the symptoms are characterized by consequences at the cognitive, behavioral, physical and physiological levels.

At a cognitive level, the person has irrational ideas of fear, suffers anxiety, loss of concentration, disorientation and extreme worry. Their behavior also changes, mainly avoiding the phobic stimulus.

Physical and physiological symptoms are characterized by tachycardia, chest tightness, excessive sweating, dizziness, tremors, chills.

  • In severe cases, the person may experience panic attacks. You can read more about this condition in this article: ” Panic attacks: causes, symptoms and treatment.”

Causes of phobias

Phobias are often caused by environmental factors. In fact, phobic disorders are learned and developed by a type of associative learning called classical conditioning. This type of learning was initially studied by Ivan Pavlov, although it was popularized by an American psychologist who is known as one of the precursors of behaviorism,  John Watson.

Watson was the first researcher to study this phenomenon and helped a young child learn an irrational fear of a white rat that he once adored. At the beginning of the experiment, the boy, named Albert, was playing quietly and enjoying the company of the white rat. 

However, in Watson’s experiment, every time the white rat was presented, a loud noise also appeared that scared the little one. After a few sessions, little Albert associated the loud noise with the presence of the white rat, and therefore, every time the white rat appeared alone, Albert felt a strong irrational fear that had nothing to do with the harmless creature.

  • If you want to delve into classical conditioning learning. You can read this article: ” Classical conditioning and its most important experiments.”

Other causes of this disorder

Now, classical conditioning is not the only way by which a phobia can develop, and cybophobia can appear through observational learning. In fact, some authors speak of vicarious conditioning as one of the possible ways of acquiring irrational fears. If you want to know more about this concept, you can read this article: “ Vicarious conditioning: how does this type of learning work? “

On the other hand, other authors think that people are biologically predisposed to suffer fear, since it is an emotion that occurs thanks to the primitive brain as it has been very useful for our survival. The learning of fear is produced by primary and non-cognitive associations, so phobias do not respond to logical arguments.

Treatment of cybophobia

Scientific studies show that psychotherapy is really effective in treating phobias, and one of the types of psychological therapy that has given the best results in research is  cognitive behavioral therapy.

This form of therapy combines techniques from cognitive therapy and behavior therapy, and some of the most used for the treatment of phobias are relaxation techniques and exposure techniques. In fact, the quintessential technique in treating phobias is cognitive desensitization, which combines both.

Systematic desensitization consists of teaching the patient different coping skills (for example, relaxation techniques) for when he is in the dreaded situation, and he is gradually exposed to the phobic stimulus so that he himself experiences the irrationality of his fear .

Furthermore, and l drug therapy is indicated in serious cases, but always in combination with psychological therapy.

Other types of therapy that are used to treat this pathology are: Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy or hypnotherapy.

Related Posts:

  • Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy: what is it?
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): principles and characteristics
  • Hypnotherapy: what it consists of and what are its benefits
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