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My food fears
Sep 5, 2001

I've been reading with interest the post started by Tricky on "Anyone Up For A Little Challenge?". Although I have never binged/purged, or deliberately starved myself to look or feel a certain, way, I would like to share my eating issues - I feel quite alone in my experience - at least there is a full board devoted to EDs, but not too much on my food phobia. However, I guess in some ways, our frustrations and worries are parallel.

I am 37. When I was about 15, I developed a fear of choking. Because of that fear, I wouldn't swallow certain foods (like salad or meats), but only chew and then spit it in napkins. Gradually this fear diminished, and I stopped that.

When I was 17, I developed a fear of my food being poisoned or drugged, and to this day that fear remains. I will not eat anything that has been sitting out (this includes donuts in a bakery, someone else's candy, salt/condiments that are out on the restaurant tables, or leftovers from a work picnic that people leave out). I will not eat anything that I accidentally leave unattended: like if I walk away from desk at work and leave my can of pop sitting on my desk. I will not eat anything that looks funny, like if I open a tv dinner and I find something that may not look like part of the dinner, I will toss the whole thing in the garbage. I rarely eat candy because I've heard stories about tampering so much. I will not try new foods because I am afraid of allergic reactions.

I have a padlock on my briefcase at work so I can put my food/drink in there during the say so if I walk away from my desk, I know someone will have a harder time getting to my stuff. Then I lock my desk as double-security.

When I go out to eat and say for example that I want ketchup on my french fries, I will wait to see if someone else at my table uses the ketchup bottle first, and only then will I use it.

At home, I will let my juice sit in the fridge for days until someone else at home opens it first, only then will I drink it.

I carry Benedryl around with me wherever I go for fear of an allergic reaction to foods.

Even though I have no known food allergies that have caused me to become very sick (apart from sometimes getting a few hives), I will read every label at the store before I buy something, and I stay away from things like peanuts and honey because I've heard that certain foods (like these) can make someone suddenly ill from an allergic reaction. Although I have eaten peanuts in the past with no problem. I avoid seafood for the same reasons.

No-one outside of my family knows about my phobia, except my new counselor that I have been seeing. This phobia is very easy to hide. But sometimes eating foods that I normally eat cause me anxiety anyway and that's not fun for me especially when I'm out trying to relax and enjoy myself, and all I can think about it what I just put in my body.

I will take medications (even though I am afraid to do this) if I really need to, however usually this sets of high anxiety and panic for me, and I will feel a little out of control as I wait for that hour to see if I will be alright.

When I was looking for an apartment recently (I live at home), one of my main concerns was knowing that when I would be out of my apartment, my landlord could come in with his key at any time and do stuff to my food.

I have seen therapists for my anxiety in the past, and this phobia has been discussed, but one of the suggestions was to just push ahead and eat new foods. The desire to break free of this is there, but honestly, my phobia is stronger than that, and I don't think I can do that. I have gotten far in other areas of dealing with my panic issues, but this phobia just so deep, and so ingrained, that I don't see how I can overcome it like that. Having been in therapy, I understand how important it is to face my fears, but jumping in to eat new foods isn't baby steps to me, and I feel overwhelmed at the thought of doing that.

Now some days are better than others, and some days I WILL grab something unopened from the kitchen and just chow down. When that happens, I feel great and "normal", although I will silently think about what I just did and maybe even worry about it for a while until I relax.

But somedays my phobic feeling is so strong that I will stand infront of the kitchen cubboards and fridge trying to find something to eat that doesn't overwhelm my anxiety. Literally, I keep walking into the kitchen and then back out again in frustration. Blah.

To look at me and to talk with me, no-one would ever know how scared and fearful I am on the inside. And I think people who know me outside of my family would be taken back to know how far my anxieties go.

Despite this phobia, I maintain a healthy diet, eat a variety of foods, and maintain a weight that is good for my build and height. I do not look undernourished, although when my eating issues were more out of control (early 20's), I did lean to looking more on the thin-side, which made me look like I was ill. I'm 5'2" and weigh about 110 lbs.

It's sad to be such a "slave" to your fears, isn't it?

Thank you.

[This message has been edited by Scaredy Kat (edited 09-05-2001).]

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