Arachibutyrophobia: When Food Causes Fear

Medically reviewed by Karen Foster, LPC
Updated April 16, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The word “arachibutyrophobia” generally refers to the fear of getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth. Those who live with this phobia may avoid peanut butter altogether, and if they experience peanut butter sticking to the roof of their mouth, they may develop symptoms like nausea, sweating, and dizziness. Arachibutyrophobia may be treated through various relaxation practices, cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and medication. One way to seek professional help may be through an online therapy platform.

Having trouble with irrational fears?

What is arachibutyrophobia?

Arachibutyrophobia generally refers to the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth. Nearly everyone has been in this situation before. For most people, this experience can be quickly forgotten. However, for a select few, the sensation of peanut butter fixing itself to the roof of the mouth can induce panic.

Arachibutyrophobia can be considered a highly specific phobia. Someone with this phobia usually does not fear the peanut butter itself, although they may go out of their way not to eat it as a means of avoiding the frightening situation. Instead, an individual with arachibutyrophobia typically associates the fear with the sensation of peanut butter sticking to the roof of their mouth.

You won’t normally 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 make the condition any less real. The DSM generally recognizes that phobias can form in response to a variety of triggers. This means arachibutyrophobia can usually be treated in the same way other phobias are treated. 

Fear or phobia?

Fear can be thought of as the product of our “fight versus flight” response. This ancient alarm system in our bodies is generally believed to have been hardwired into us as a result of evolution. It can tell us when we need to stand our ground and defend ourselves against a threat or flee for safety.

Unlike the “fight versus flight” response, a phobia does not usually need a real threat to produce an emotional response. Phobias can create extreme anxiety and fear-based thoughts that are persistent and irrational. The anxiety experienced is often disproportionate to the objects or situations that induced it.

An individual with a true phobia might go to extreme measures to avoid the stimulus. Sometimes, an individual may be so frightened that they avoid the very thought of their phobia. Encountering the object or situation that causes the phobia can result in severe physical symptoms, including panic attacks and nausea.

Many categories of phobias can be formally accepted among the psychiatric community. Natural or environmental phobias, for example, usually occur as the result of an extreme fear of things like water or heights. Animal phobias can include, but are not limited to, fears of snakes or dogs. 

Situational phobias generally describe conditions like claustrophobia, or the intense fear of small, enclosed spaces, while body fears tend to center around bleeding or medical procedures. Other types of phobias can include agoraphobia, social phobia, and other phobias, which can encompass intense fears that do not fit into any other category.

Fear is usually a normal psychological response. It can be a sign that our body is responding normally to the world around us. Phobias, while based in fear, can be seen as a type of anxiety disorder. Phobias can be directed toward 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.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Arachibutyrophobia, for example, may stem from fears associated with food allergies or the phenomenon of people choking on peanut butter. While the cause and reasons behind a phobia may differ among individuals, the symptoms of phobias, including arachibutyrophobia, can look very similar.

In general, a person who has a phobia may experience the following when exposed to the object or situation that triggers their fear:

  • 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 having a physical reaction. Many people who have arachibutyrophobia may choose to avoid peanut butter altogether.

Treatment for arachibutyrophobia

When seeking treatment for a phobia, including arachibutyrophobia, a licensed mental health professional generally must verify that the condition warrants treatment. This usually includes consulting the DSM-V, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders.

The DSM-V states that to qualify for a specific phobia diagnosis, an individual must normally experience the following:

  • Excessive/unreasonable fear: An identifiable object or situation must usually trigger the emotional response.
  • Immediate anxiety response: Anxiety generally starts as soon as the stimulus is present.
  • Avoidance: The individual may do everything they can to avoid the stimulus.
  • Interruption of normal routine: Avoiding the stimulus can become a priority, potentially impacting how the individual lives their day-to-day life.
  • Symptoms for at least six months: The symptoms are typically ongoing and not limited to a single incident.
  • Symptoms that cannot be attributed to another health condition: No other mental health condition, including panic attacks, OCD, or PTSD, may account for the symptoms experienced.

Once a mental health professional rules out other potential mental or physical diagnoses that mimic arachibutyrophobia and feels a patient meets the criteria for diagnosis, treatment can begin. Many treatment options may be available to someone who has arachibutyrophobia, such as those listed below.

  • Relaxation: Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and visualization can be 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 significantly reduce phobia-related symptoms.
  • CBT: Cognitive-behavioral therapy may enable an individual to replace anxious thoughts with rational and reasonable ones. CBT generally teaches someone to pause their unreasonable thought patterns, question them, and make informed, logical decisions. Cognitive-behavioral therapy may be an effective treatment approach for numerous mental health disorders, including specific phobias.
  • Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy can be an effective treatment plan for individuals living with phobias. The idea behind exposure therapy is normally that, by slowly introducing an individual to their phobic stimulus in a well-controlled environment, the perceived threat may reduce over time. For example, someone who has a phobia of spiders may begin exposure therapy by looking at 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.
  • Medication: Anti-anxiety medications may be used to combat the immediate symptoms that panic and extreme anxiety often produce. These medications, however, may not be appropriate long-term. Always speak to your doctor regarding medication options, and never start or stop any form of medication unless under the guidance of a licensed medical professional.

Living with arachibutyrophobia

For many people with arachibutyrophobia, simply avoiding peanut butter can be enough to manage symptoms. If this is not possible, or if eating peanut butter regularly is something you wish to do without discomfort, seeking treatment may be the best option to manage the condition. If the thought of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth causes you great distress or leads you to alter your everyday behaviors, working with a licensed mental health professional can improve your quality of life.

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Having trouble with irrational fears?

Benefits of online therapy

Individuals who experience phobias, including arachibutyrophobia, may feel embarrassed or vulnerable about their thoughts or symptoms. This can make seeking help in person challenging. In these cases, online therapy may help these individuals feel more comfortable talking about and addressing their fears. This type of internet-based therapy also tends to be more convenient since it can be attained from home. 

Effectiveness of online therapy

Although more research may be needed regarding the efficacy of online therapy for treating arachibutyrophobia, existing studies suggest that online therapy can be helpful in alleviating other types of phobias. Since the same type of treatment is typically used for a variety of phobias, online therapy may provide the professional support and guidance you deserve to overcome your fears.


If you’re intensely afraid of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth, then you may be living with arachibutyrophobia. This phobia may involve symptoms like panic attacks, heart palpitations, and nausea when an individual experiences peanut butter sticking to the roof of their mouth. Exposure therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, relaxation exercises, and medication may be helpful in treating arachibutyrophobia. Online therapy can be a convenient and effective way to address phobias.
It is possible to overcome phobias
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