Arachibutyrophobia: When Food Causes Fear

By Nicola Kirkpatrick

Updated December 17, 2018

Reviewer Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

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Everyone has fears. Some people fear heights, other spiders. Sometimes these fears happen because of a specific situation which has occurred, but it is also possible that an individual does not know why they fear the thing they do. In some cases, fear is so intense; it becomes a phobia. Arachibutyrophobia, for example, can have devastating effects on an individual. Thankfully, with the right approach, one can overcome this condition and the complications it presents to daily life.

What Is Arachibutyrophobia?

Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth. We have all been in this situation. Maybe we have been generous with the amount of peanut butter on our sandwich, or perhaps we have overindulged in a chewy, pea-nutty snack. The gooey mess sticks to our mouth, and it takes a bit of work to swallow the sticky delight.

For most people, this experience is quickly forgotten, perhaps even laughably washed down with a cold glass of milk. However, for a select few, the very sensation of peanut butter fixing itself to the roof of the mouth induces a panic unlike any other.

Arachibutyrophobia is very specific anxiety. The individual does not fear the peanut butter itself, although they may go out of their way to not eat it as a means of avoiding the sticking situation.An individual with Arachibutyrophobia associates the fear with the sensation only, not the food.

You will not find the diagnosis "Arachibutyrophobia" in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders), the diagnostic resource book for identifying and diagnosing mental health conditions. However, this does not mean the condition is any less real.

The DSM recognizes that phobias happen because of a variety of triggers. This means Arachibutyrophobia can be treated in the same way we treatall other phobias. To understand how thetreatment works, and if Arachibutyrophobia is a true concern for you, it is important to first learn about phobias themselves.

Fear Or Phobia?

Fear is the product of our"fight versus flight" response. This ancient alarm system in our bodies has been hardwired into us thanks to evolution. We perfect with environmental input all the time. "Fight versus flight," tells us when we need to stand our ground and defend ourselves against a real threat or flee for safety.

For example, if someone walks up to you and instigates a physical fight, you will probably put your hands up to attack that person or defend yourself. In this case, we are using our "fight" mechanism. However, if you are walking through a forest and spy a bear up ahead, you can bet the "flight" response will quickly turn you in the opposite direction to run away. In both situations, the threat is real. It is right in front of our faces. Our brain scans the situation and acts accordingly. Phobias work a little differently.

A phobia is afear on steroids. Forget the basic "fight versus flight" response; a phobia does not need a real threat to produce an emotional response. Phobias create extreme anxieties and fear-based thoughtsthat are persistent and irrational, often completely disproportionate to the object that induce them.

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An individual with a true phobia will do everything they can to avoid the stimulus. Sometimes an individual is so frightened they will avoid the very thought of it. Encountering the object or situation that causes the phobia results in severe physical symptoms including panic attacks, nausea, and sickness.

There are many categories of phobias that are formally accepted among the psychiatric community. Natural or environmental phobias, for example, occur as the result of an extreme fear towards things like water or heights. Animal phobias include, but are not limited to, fears of snakes or dogs. Situational phobias describe conditions such as claustrophobia, or the intense fear of small, enclosed spaces, whilebody fears tend to center around bleeding or medical procedures.

Other types of phobias include agoraphobia (fear of places which induce anxiety attacks), social phobia (fear of interacting with others,) and "other" phobias, which encompass intense fears that do not fit any other category.

Fear is a normal psychological response. Fear is a sign our body is responding normally to the world around us. Phobias,however, while based in fear, are a form of anxiety disorder. Phobias can be directed towards just about anything, and their causes are often quite complex. Trauma, genetics, stress, learned behavior, or panic attacks may be the cause of a phobia.

Arachibutyrophobia, for example,may stem from fears associated with food allergies and is possibly linked to the common phenomena of people easily choking on peanut butter. While the cause and reasons behind a phobiadiffer greatly between individuals, the symptoms of phobias, including Arachibutyrophobia, can look very similar.

Symptoms Of Arachibutyrophobia

Arachibutyrophobia shares the same symptoms as all other phobias. In general, a person who has a phobia will experience the following when exposed to the object or situation that triggers their fear:

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  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Difficulty talking
  • Upset stomach
  • Breathlessness
  • Extreme anxiety/panic attacks
  • Avoidance of the stimulus at all costs

The symptoms of Arachibutyrophobia may look different from person to person. Some individuals may only experience symptoms when consuming a certain amount of peanut butter; others may be unable to see or think about peanut butter without a physical reaction. Many people who have Arachibutyrophobia choose to avoid peanut butter altogether, but if the sticky treat is something you would like to incorporate into your diet, there are options available.

Treatment For Arachibutyrophobia

When seeking treatment for a phobia, including Arachibutyrophobia, a professional trained in mental health disorders must first verify that the condition warrants treatment. This includes consulting the DSM-V, or fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders.

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The DSM-V states that an individual who wishes to qualify for a specific phobia diagnosis must experience:

  • Excessive/unreasonable fear: an identifiable object or situation must trigger the emotional response.
  • Immediate anxiety response: anxiety starts as soon as the stimulus is present.
  • Avoidance: the individual does everything they can to avoid the stimulus.
  • Interruption of normal routine: avoiding the stimulus becomes a priority, impacting how the individual lives their day-to-day life.
  • Symptoms at least six months: the symptoms are ongoing and not limited to a one-off situation.
  • Symptoms that cannot be attributed to another health condition: No other mental health condition, including panic attacks, OCD or PTSD can account for the disorder.

Once a mental health professional rules out other potential mental or physical diagnoses that mimic Arachibutyrophobiaand feels a patient meets the criteria for diagnosis, treatment can begin. There are many treatment options available to someone who has Arachibutyrophobia including, but not limited to:

Relaxation: Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and visualization arejust some of the helpful treatments for individuals who have a specific phobia. Lowering overall stress, learning how to soothe the nerves, and mindfully approaching anxiety-provoking situations can do wonders to reduce phobia-related symptoms.

CBT: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) allows an individual to replace anxious thoughts with rational and reasonable challenges. CBT teaches someone to pause their unreasonable thought patterns, question them, and make informed, logical decisions based on their judicious inner voice. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an extremely effective approach to numerous mental health disorders, including specific phobias.

Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy is a very successful treatment plan for individuals dealing with phobias. The idea behind exposure therapy is that by slowly introducing an individual to their phobic stimulus in a well-controlled environment, the perceived threat reduces over time. For example, someone who has a phobia towards spiders may begin exposure therapy by looking a picture of a spider. Over time, they may graduate to seeing a spider in the same room, getting closer to the spider, and eventually holding the spider, thus conquering their fear.

Medication: Anti-anxiety medications, like Valium and Xanax, can be used to combat the immediate symptoms extreme anxiety produces. These medications, however, should not be used as a long-term approach to care.

On occasion, other medications such as antidepressants and anticonvulsants may help an individual suffering from specific phobias, but only a mental health professional can decide if the phobia is severe enough to warrant such treatment.

Living With Arachibutyrophobia

For many people with Arachibutyrophobia, simply avoiding peanut butter is enough to manage symptoms. In the event, this is not possible, or if eating peanut butter regularlyis something you wish to do without discomfort, seeking treatment is the best option to manage the condition. If the thought of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth is causing you great distress or causes you to alter your everyday behaviors, working with a trained mental health professional, like those available at BetterHelp can improve your quality of life.

Individuals who suffer from phobias, including Arachibutyrophobiamay feel embarrassed because of their thoughts or symptoms. Remember, phobias are often the result of something rooted very deep in our minds. This trigger may have been something beyond your control, so do not feel ashamed if you need help. Do not forget that phobias are a form of anxiety disorder and that means treatment is available. Treating a phobia takes time, patience, and courage, but many people have achieved success.


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