Are You a Food Phobic?
By: Beth McHugh 2007
Phobias come in many forms and having a phobia about food is no exception. A food phobic is more than a fussy eater, although that would be the tag generally attached to such a person. Food phobia has little to do with more well-known eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia. So what exactly are the characteristics of a food phobic?
Marcia Pelchat, a Philadelphia-based food psychologist states that a person with a food phobia dislikes the taste of certain foods to an excessive extent and avoids them wherever possible. This also applies to the texture of certain foods. A food phobic, for example, may like the texture of ice cream but not of yogurt, both of which are members of the same essential food family. But obsessive avoidance is the key to detecting the line between preference and phobia.
Food phobics will also stick to a very limited repertoire of food types, typically ranging from only 20 to 30 different foodstuffs. Although there are clear links to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the condition is not regarded as a psychiatric one, but due to the limited diet and obsessive thoughts, depression may result.
Food phobics typically eat food in a specific order on the plate. The meat may be consumed first, followed by the peas, the carrots and lastly, the potatoes. Moving away from this strict order causes anxiety. One-pot meals such as casseroles are typically not consumed or are actively resisted as they do not lend themselves to following the strict order of food ingestion. Also people who suffer from this condition will not eat a particular vegetable if it has come into contact with other, different vegetable types.
Food phobics almost invariably use a knife and fork for every meal, even for food such as pizzas which are typically eaten with the fingers. An extreme example was Mr. Pitt in Seinfeld who used to eat his Mars bar with a knife and fork.
Other typical behaviors include meticulously going through a salad and picking out a particular food they dislike, such as olives, and placing them on another plate before commencing to eat.
Treatment for food phobics is similar to that used to treat OCD, although not as rigorous, as the condition responds much more readily to practical methods designed to address the thoughts that accompany the behaviors associated with food phobia.