Home > Blog > Bioenergetics > Obesophobia and Cibophobia: How These Food-Related Fears Can Affect Your Health

Obesophobia and Cibophobia: How These Food-Related Fears Can Affect Your Health

An image of a woman holding a plate with one lettuce leaf on it and a tape measurer around the forkEating is essential to life and yet it can be an issue that’s fraught with pain and uncertainty for many people. Obesophobia and cibophobia are two little-known phobias that can severely impact your eating patterns as well as your physical health over the long term. If not addressed, these disorders can also lead to severe impairment and even more severe issues with food, which will seriously impact your quality of life.

If you have a phobia about food or specific types of food and are looking for answers to explain your fear, then it’s time to learn more about these conditions and how to start overcoming them with the right kind of help.

What are Obesophobia and Cibophobia?

Obesophobia and cibophobia are two types of phobias that are related to food. Phobias are irrational fears about specific situations or things and are linked to anxiety disorders. Around 19 million Americans have a severe phobia about something, so they’re more common than most people think.

A phobia about food isn’t the same as an eating disorder, although they can occur at the same time. A food phobia can also lead to an eating disorder or vice versa, but they aren’t necessarily linked. Here’s a closer look at each of these disorders and what they may look like:


Obesophobia, also known as pocrescophobia, is the fear of gaining weight or becoming overweight. It occurs most often in adolescent women and causes overwhelming dread when someone is confronted with situations related to gaining weight. This fear then causes sufferers to avoid these dread-inducing situations, which can lead to eating disorders over time.

People with obesophobia may adopt certain behaviors to avoid weight gain such as:

  • Counting calories obsessively
  • Fasting
  • Going on diets all the time
  • Over-exercising


Cibophobia is a fear of food. People with this phobia may be afraid of one specific type of food or many different types and will then try to avoid the fear-inducing foods. People with this disorder may have a phobia of almost any type of food. But the following foods are more commonly the target of this phobia:

  • Undercooked foods, which may relate to a fear of foodborne illnesses
  • Perishables like fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Leftovers
  • Foods that are close to or past their expiration dates
  • Foods that are prepared by others, particularly if the sufferers can’t control the preparations

The Symptoms of Obesophobia and Cibophobia

Obesophobia and cibophobia may both be food-related, but they aren’t the same thing. However, they do cause similar symptoms, as both of these phobias are related to anxiety disorders. When confronted with something related to the phobia, people with these conditions may experience:

  • High blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Chest tightness
  • Chest pain
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Dizziness
  • Pounding heartbeat
  • Trembling
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Rapid speech or inability to talk
  • Vomiting

The Causes of Food Phobias

There aren’t any specific known causes of food phobias such as obesophobia and cibophobia. Instead, these conditions may be caused by a combination of factors including:


People with a family history of food phobias or other anxiety-related disorders can be at increased risk of developing similar disorders.


If you grow up in a culture or environment where your looks are overemphasized, or where food safety is over or under-emphasized, then you may be at increased risk of food phobias.


Certain life experiences, such as a parent who punishes a child for gaining weight, can lead to food phobias later in life.

The Dangers of Obesophobia and Cibophobia

Obesophobia and Cibophobia can both be debilitating and problematic on their own. But if not addressed, they can also lead to long-term health complications and even impairment. Here’s a closer look at the dangers of these disorders:

Obesophobia and Eating Disorders

An image of a man looking at a lettuce leaf on his forkObesophobia causes an obsession with food and body weight that can put you at increased risk of developing an eating disorder such as:

  • Anorexia nervosa, which includes the intense fear of weight gain that’s characteristic of obesophobia and a refusal to eat
  • Purging disorder, which involves purging without binging
  • Bulimia nervosa, which involves recurring binging and purging episodes

All of these issues cause immense stress and strain for your body as well as mental and emotional distress. In extreme cases, these eating disorders can also lead to muscle wasting, multi-organ failure, and even death.


There isn’t a lot of research about the complications associated with food-related phobias. However, they can lead to the following issues:

  • Malnutrition due to low nutrient absorption
  • Obsessive rituals that are created to reduce anxiety but mostly just disrupt your life
  • Social stigma because of efforts to hide the phobia or avoid triggers

When to See a Doctor About Obesophobia and Cibophobia

Basically, if you’re struggling with food or anxiety issues around food to the extent that it interferes with your daily life, then you need to see a medical professional. These kinds of phobias can be difficult to untangle and deal with on your own. A trained medical professional who has experience with these phobias will be able to work with you to find ways to address these issues that will help lead you to recovery.

Some signs that you definitely need to seek out medical help are:

  • Negative body image
  • Exercising too much
  • Intense anxiety when thinking about your weight or food
  • Ongoing dieting
  • Obsessively counting calories
  • Eating a very restrictive diet
  • Avoiding social activities that include food
  • Vomiting on purpose
  • Obsession with weight loss

Some of these symptoms are also signs of an eating disorder, which means that you need to seek out help before it gets worse and seriously impacts your health and quality of life.

Identifying Obesophobia and Cibophobia

There isn’t a formal test for obesophobia and cibophobia. However, your GP or mental health practitioner can still identify these phobias. This may involve:

  • A psychological evaluation
  • Analyzing your eating behaviors
  • Evaluating your social, psychiatric, and medical history
  • Asking about your symptoms
  • Evaluating food sensitivities and gut issues

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), you may be diagnosed with a food phobia if:

  • Your fear and symptoms have lasted at least 6 months
  • The fear is out of proportion to any real danger
  • Your symptoms cause significant stress and disruption to your life

If, after this testing, your GP or mental health professional suspects a food phobia or that you’re at risk of an eating disorder, they will refer you to someone who specializes in these disorders.

Medical Help for Obesophobia and Cibophobia

There are effective ways to address food phobias like obesophobia and cibophobia with medical therapies. Some of the most effective ways are:


An image of a package of antidepressantsCertain medications such as antidepressants, beta-blockers, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, or anti-anxiety medication may help to reduce the symptoms of food phobias. However, these medications tend to be addictive and should only be used short-term and under a doctor’s supervision.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of therapy that’s based on the idea of changing your behavioral responses to your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. This can help reduce negative thoughts and anxiety.


Psychotherapy is a type of talk therapy where you talk to a mental health professional. This type of therapy often includes CBT when it comes to food phobias and aims at:

  • Establishing positive habits
  • Changing unhealthy beliefs
  • Recognizing and changing negative thinking patterns


Only a fully qualified and experienced mental health professional should perform this type of therapy. It involves exposing you to foods and situations that generate fear in a supportive environment to help your mind and body recognize that there’s no real danger.


Hypnosis therapy involves putting you into a deeply relaxed state. In this state, your brain is more open to retraining and your therapist will make suggestions that can reduce your negative reactions to food.

Get to the Root Cause

Getting to the root cause of why you might have fear of food is important, whether it stems from gut dysbiosis, allergies, anxiety, mast cell activation, or histamine intolerance.

Obesophobia and Cibophobia and Adrenal Fatigue

Eating phobias such as obesophobia and cibophobia cause a high amount of anxiety and distress as well as other health problems. These can be an ongoing source of stress, which can lead to problems if left unchecked.

When you’re stressed, it activates the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response. This prompts the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands. The high cortisol levels then cause changes in the body’s six circuits, composed of related organ systems. These changes are designed to help you cope with and survive stress. Once the stressful period is over, the NEM stress response shuts down, cortisol levels go back to normal, and so do the body’s circuits.

However, chronic and ongoing stress, such as that caused by food phobias, can disrupt this shut-down period. The ongoing stress causes the NEM stress response to remain active. As a result, the body continues to demand cortisol, which can cause the adrenals to fatigue. The body’s circuits too can become dysfunctional because the high cortisol levels force them to stay in a stressed state. This leads to a condition known as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), when the adrenal glands fatigue and the body’s circuits fatigue and become dysfunctional.

The best way to start to recover from AFS is to identify the sources of stress and reduce or eliminate them. Food phobias can be a very serious source of this stress. They can also cause health problems such as nutritional deficiencies or even malnutrition that only worsen your overall health and increase your stress levels further. Changes that occur in the Bioenergetics Circuit in AFS will also more directly impact food phobias.

The Bioenergetics Circuit and Obesophobia and Cibophobia

An image of the liver, lungs and thyroidThe Bioenergetics Circuit includes the liver, the pancreas, and the thyroid. This circuit is part of the NEM stress response and is responsible for providing energy for every cell in the body. When this circuit and its three components become dysfunctional, the results can be severe.

Problems with the Bioenergetics Circuit tend to become most obvious in the later stages of AFS. As this circuit and its components become compromised, it results in issues with metabolism, or the creation of energy. This results in issues such as fatigue, weight gain, adrenal crashes, and paradoxical reactions or oversensitivity to supplements. It can also cause health conditions such as metabolic syndrome, hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, and sleeping problems.

Food phobias like obesophobia and cibophobia can impact this circuit. Metabolic derangements that occur as this circuit becomes dysfunctional can be worsened because of food restrictions that occur with these phobias. This makes it even more difficult for your body to get the nutrients it needs to function correctly. Issues with the Bioenergetics Circuit may also worsen your food phobias, causing your body to develop food sensitivities that may further restrict your nutritional intake.

The relationship between food phobias and Bioenergetics Circuit derangement may be complex and tangled. This is why you will need the help of someone who’s aware of AFS and the effects it has on your body to start on the path to recovery from these conditions.

The Takeaway

Obesophobia and cibophobia are little-known phobias that can be extremely debilitating. They can severely impact your relationship with food and eating, which may cause stress, nutritional deficiencies, and even malnutrition.

These aren’t the kind of disorders that you can manage on your own. The right kind of professional help can help address these conditions; you just need to reach out. Learning more about these conditions can help you gather the courage to do this, so here’s where to start:

  1. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
  2. Ask your doctor for a referral to someone who works directly with people with the same kind of phobia.
  3. Learn as much as possible about the phobia so you can start taking control of the condition and your response to it.

For more help with your eating patterns, you can talk to our team at +1 (626) 571-1234 for a free consultation, or click here.

© Copyright 2023 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Obesophobia and cibophobia are two phobias that are related to food. They involve the fear of gaining weight and the fear of food that is unsafe or expired. These conditions can cause intense stress and dread when you’re confronted with a situation or thing that’s related to your phobia and can also severely impact your nutritional intake.

Ready to Start Your
Adrenal Fatigue Recovery Journey?