The Most Bizarre Food Phobias You Won't Believe Are Real

Since you're here, you probably love food as much as we do. Food can be so many things — it can remind you of your childhood or a favorite family member, it can bring people together, it can be something to share. It's an ice-breaker, it's the stuff of parties and celebrations, it's the centerpiece of events, and it's ... to be feared? For some people, yes.

According to the NHS, phobias aren't just a dislike. They cause sufferers serious anxiety and even depression, and it's possible they can manifest a whole host of physical symptoms. Phobias are no laughing matter, and there's a surprising number of food-related phobias common enough that they've been given clinical names. Let's talk food fear.

Acerbophobia: fear of sour things

Can't bear to look at a grapefruit? Cringe at the sight of a lemon? If the mere mention of those things made you shudder, you just might have acerbophobia. It's also called acerophobia, according to The Encyclopedia of Phobias, Fears, and Anxieties, and it's the fear of a sour tastes. It seems an odd thing to be afraid of, but it's worth noting that the NHS says phobias can be rooted in number of different things. Someone with a phobia doesn't always know where it came from. Just take 18-year-old Mariah. She appeared on Maury and was asked to talk about her fear of pickles in hopes of confronting it, and said her phobia was rooted in a childhood dislike of pickles that escalated to nightmares and a full-blown phobia. That's some extreme stuff, and it was bad enough that it impacted her job as a waitress. There's an important reminder there: What seems strange to most can be crippling to the few.

Ovophobia: fear of eggs

Ovophobia is the fear of eggs, and according to Tribute, you know of one famous (or perhaps infamous) sufferer: Alfred Hitchcock. The Telegraph says Hitchcock's egg phobia was just one part of his complicated relationship with food, and they quoted him as saying, "I'm frightened of eggs. That white round thing without any holes... have you ever seen anything more revolting than an egg yolk breaking and spilling its yellow liquid?"

Well, when you put it that way... we get it. He even thought blood was much less revolting than the sight of an egg yolk, calling it "jolly" in comparison. Filming The Birds must have been an absolute nightmare for him, don't you think?

Turophobia: fear of cheese

Try to imagine not being able to eat pizza. Most people love pizza night, but for those suffering from turophobia — a fear of cheese — it can be a complete nightmare. That's the case for Soorya Rangan, who was a senior in high school when he was interviewed by the Saratoga Falcon. He was able to pinpoint the exact moment he developed his phobia, and it started when he was sitting next to someone eating the nastiest-looking cheese he had ever seen. Ever since, he hasn't been able to deal with it. "I get ticklish inside when I see it. I feel legitimately sick when I see other people eating it."

It's not uncommon, and Katie Weston (via The Tab) says her turophobia started with string cheese and a vomiting spell. She says Parmesan is the worst, but she can eat pizza — after scraping off the cheese. It's a huge problem for her, and going out to eat is a minefield because so many things contain cheese. Awful, awful cheese.

Carnophobia: fear of meat

According to the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology, carnophobia means fear of meat. It likely comes from the Latin word carnalis, which means "fleshly." Even if meat doesn't make you cringe, that word certainly will.

It's not just eating meat that creeps out a carnophobe; Hypnotherapy Manchester says this particular food fear has been on the rise with increasing awareness of animal rights and slaughterhouse practices. It's no joke, either, and they say it can be completely isolating. Those suffering from it can also be nauseated or disgusted by just the smell of meat cooking nearby, and imagine how debilitating that might be. Sure, you're not going to be grabbing a burger off the grill at your neighbor's backyard cookout, but you're not going to be able to enjoy the vegetarian dish she makes, either. Carnivals, fairs, after-work drinks and appetizers, game day parties, and even church fetes are all potentially terrifying, and this fear can cause serious social problems.

Koutaliaphobia: fear of spoons

Liam Payne of One Direction might be the most famous person to have a real problem with spoons. It's a fear that's technically called koutaliaphobia, and MTV says his problem with spoons is pretty specific. He'll hold them, but he doesn't like eating with them if the spoon in question isn't his personal spoon, and he knows where his fear started.

"When I was a kid I was a bit naughty at school, and when you were naughty they made you do the washing up. I had to wash all these nasty spoons, and then it's just stuck with me after. I don't know what people are doing with their spoons, I don't want to know!" (No word on how he feels about soup.)

Mageirocophobia: fear of cooking

It's possible you have at least a mild form of mageirocophobia and don't even know it, as VeryWell says sufferers can have a range of symptoms. It's the fear of cooking and technically, it's only considered a proper phobia when it interferes with a person's ability or motivation to cook. There are a few fears that might cause mageirocophobia, and sufferers are commonly worried about things like making people sick with their food, making something completely inedible, or hurting themselves in the cooking process. Complicated recipes can cause some major fear, too, while others might fear specific things about cooking, like making desserts, cooking for a large group, or serving extended family.

Psychology Today says if you're the type who reads cookbooks and looks at recipes online but still regularly resorts to cooking the same-old, same-old because it's easier, you might have a form of mageirocophobia. They add that unchecked it can be suffocating, and say that making cooking fun, starting with the right recipes, and making sure you're 100 percent prepared before you start cooking, can go a long way in alleviating some mild cases.

Cibophobia: a fear of food

Once you find out that cibophobia is a generalized fear of food, you'll be asking yourself how anyone with it could possibly live a healthy lifestyle. And that's the problem. According to VeryWell, it presents in a similar way as anorexia, but while those with anorexia are more concerned with what food does to the body, people with cibophobia are ultra-concerned about the food itself.

There are a few different ways this manifests, and the most common is a fear of perishable foods like milk and fresh fruit. Sufferers might become hyper-vigilant about watching expiration dates on all foods, or might start overcooking and even burning food to make sure it's done. For others, leftovers are unthinkable and restaurants might be seen as a danger. This is one phobia that can worsen over time, and can escalate into avoiding food altogether.

Lachanophobia: fear of vegetables

While it might be tough to sell your picky toddler on some vegetables, dislike isn't the same as fear. Having an outright phobia of veggies is called lachanophobia, and The Telegraph actually spoke with someone who has it.

"Every time I would see vegetables not just on my plate, but anywhere, I would get feelings of panic, start sweating, and my heart rate would shoot up," said Vicki Larrieux. "... it's not just that I dislike the taste of sprouts or broccoli, but the actual sight of them fills me with dread and I could never touch them."

She says she's had the fear as long as she can remember, and it makes grocery shopping a challenge. Vegetables are usually the first thing you see, after all, and she's faced some major struggles controlling her fear.

Mortuusequusphobia: fear of ketchup

Mortuusequusphobia is a pretty ungainly word for the fear of a common condiment, and according to a longtime sufferer from Her, it's rooted in the Australian slang term "dead horse," which is Down Under-speak for tomato sauce. It's the sight, the smell, the taste ... the everything.

Not everyone avoids their fear of tomato ketchup, and Dixie Innes (via Munchies) met hers head-on and turned it into a business. She's had a lifelong phobia — and hatred — of your run-of-the-mill tomato ketchup, and when she was looking for something she could put on a bacon and egg sandwich she came up with an alternative. She made her own version of ketchup with pomegranate molasses as the base, and everyone who tried it unconditionally loved it. Now, she's a chef and co-founder of a London-based craft food business called Aphrodite's, and pomegranate ketchup is one of their flagship products.

Phagophobia: fear of swallowing

While many food phobias might make life — or dinner parties — difficult, this one is potentially deadly. Phagophobia is a fear of swallowing and needless to say, it can make eating a challenge for those who suffer from it. The National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders says it can interfere with a person's swallowing mechanism, and if untreated, can result in weight loss and other associated conditions. Many people who are diagnosed with phagophobia start with a fear of choking or have experienced a series of traumatic events centered around eating, and until recently, getting much-needed treatment was difficult. For a long time, it was treated by healthcare professionals who would report there was nothing wrong with a person's physical swallowing function, without realizing there was more to the problem. Now, experts in physical and mental health are working together to help those with a diagnosis.

Chiclephobia: fear of chewing gum

Vice's Josiah Hesse has something in common with Oprah. They both have chiclephobia, which is a fear of chewing gum. Hesse says not only is it one of the most disgusting things he can imagine, but he can't even make eye contact with someone munching on a piece of gum.

A phobia is defined as a fear that interferes with your daily life, and Hesse says seeing chewed gum or someone chewing it will ruin movies, afternoon meetings, and dinners. He's had crushes end over gum-chewing, and he remembers having that kind of reaction to it even as a child. Oprah has spoken about her own chiclephobia, saying hers stems from her grandmother's habit of sticking her chewing gum in a cabinet and coming back to it later. That'd give anyone the heebie-jeebies.

Xylophobia: fear of wooden objects

The Collins English Dictionary defines xylophobia as a fear of wooden objects — and there are two different types of people in the world. There are the type who are wondering what that has to do with food, and there are those who are thrilled to have a name to go with the complete and utter revulsion they feel when it comes to eating an ice cream with a wooden stick.

Buzzfeed suggests those with a phobia of things like Popsicle sticks and toothpicks have a form of xylophobia. They might be perfectly fine being around, say, a wooden cutting board, but turn that into the feeling of a wooden stick against the teeth and it doesn't matter how amazing the ice cream looks, it's suddenly become a hard "nope."

Arachibutyrophobia: fear of peanut butter

Arachibutyrophobia isn't just the fear of peanut butter, it's more specifically the fear of peanut butter that sticks to the roof of your mouth. That's weirdly specific, but VeryWell says it's actually a sub-fear of pseudodysphagia, which is the fear of choking.

Depending on the circumstances, this one can manifest in a number of ways. Some people might be perfectly fine with other peanutty substances — like a peanut-based sauce — while others might be so terrified of peanut butter's sticky texture and potential for choking they start to avoid other foods, like peanut butter ice cream. It's theorized this phobia might be aggravated by the prevalence of peanut allergies, as hearing about related hazards can make a phobia worse. There's also the chance a person had a bad peanut butter experience as a child, as a high number of childhood choking incidents do involve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Delicious and deadly?

Brumotactillophobia: fear of food touching

You know those people, the ones who have to carefully arrange their plates so different types of food don't touch. There's actually a name for it: brumotactillophobia. According to Spoon University, it's actually a mild version of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it's particularly common in children.

Some people don't grow out of it, though, for a few reasons. It might be rooted in a need to taste each bit of food on its own, or they may need to have a plate that looks neat and organized. They may be picky, and want to know exactly what they're eating in each bite. For others, it might be a texture thing. Some textures can be a major turn-off for people, and even if they like components, they might not be down with mixing their food. It's not just picky toddlers, either. Marcus Wareing, professional chef and MasterChef judge, told The Guardian he chooses to eat each component on his plate alone and unadulterated.

Thermophobia: fear of heat

Thermophobia isn't a food-centric phobia, but it can extend to what's on your plate. All About Counselling says it's actually defined as a generic fear of heat, and that can be anything from hot weather to hot water. For some, that's hot food and drinks.

They also note it's more than just a dislike of things being too hot, or a feeling of discomfort. It's a serious source of anxiety, usually stemming from a traumatic event like an accident, a burn, or a fire. When you know that, you can see how easily touching a hot tea kettle as a child might turn into a phobia of scalding hot drinks, and how painful memories can manifest into fears it's going to happen again. Some sufferers have success with traditional therapies and stress management methods.