Understanding food aversion and eating phobias

Food is a huge part of our life. Of course, we need it to survive and be physically healthy, but it also frames our day and social life. We gather round tables of food to connect with loved ones, we spend time in the kitchen cooking something delicious for someone special, some of our fondest memories involve a certain type of food.

So what happens when you find yourself unable to eat certain foods, because of an aversion or a phobia? First of all, let’s explore the two common types of eating phobias – food aversion and an inability to swallow.

Many of us dislike certain foods, but for those with a food aversion, the repulsion is strong and it can cause feelings of anxiety. If this affects a wide range of food, you may be limited to only eating a small variety of foods.

Food aversions like this are often triggered by something that’s happened in the past. It may be because of the type of food you were given as a child, you may have had a bad experience when you were younger (food poisoning perhaps) or you may find certain textures difficult to deal with.

A food phobia that involves an inability to swallow comes from an extreme fear of choking. This is often linked to a sensitive gag reflex and/or the tight throat response some people get with generalised anxiety. This phobia can lead to people avoiding solid food altogether and only eating soft or liquefied foods.

Note: It’s important to highlight that a food aversion or phobia is not the same as an eating disorder. Anorexia causes sufferers to restrict their diet in an attempt to gain control over their weight and cope with difficult emotions. It is not a phobia of food that stops them from eating, but more what effect eating the food will have on their body.

How eating phobias and food aversions can affect you

Eating a varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables is what our body needs to feel physically fit and well. Having enough vitamins and minerals builds up our immune system to keep us healthy. When a food aversion or phobia stops you from eating a varied diet, it can lead to nutrient deficiencies and illness.

It can also hold you back from any social activity that involves food. You may turn down invitations to events that involve food and end up withdrawing from friends and family.

If a food aversion or phobia is stopping you from feeling well, physically or mentally, know that support is available. There are a number of different therapies that can help, including psychotherapy and hypnotherapy.

How hypnotherapy can help

Hypnotherapy can be a helpful tool in overcoming food aversions and phobias. Depending on your personal circumstances it can help to both uncover the root cause and ease anxiety.

As mentioned above, food aversions and phobias can often be traced back to something in our early years. If you can’t place where the phobia comes from, hypnotherapy can be used to help uncover this. Having a greater understanding of your phobia can be a helpful first step in overcoming it.

Reducing the anxiety that comes with food phobias and aversions is key. Combined with gentle exposure therapy (when you are encouraged to imagine, smell and eventually taste the food you avoid), hypnotherapy can help you feel calm and able to cope.

To find out more, we recommend booking an initial consultation with a hypnotherapist who can talk you through the process and any questions you may have. You can use our search tool to find a hypnotherapist in your area.

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Written by Kat Nicholls
Kat is a Content Producer for Memiah and writer for Hypnotherapy Directory and Happiful magazine.
Written by Kat Nicholls
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