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What Is Arachibutyrophobia?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 29 July 2014
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Arachibutyrophobia is a fear of peanut butter, specifically a worry that peanut butter will stick to the roof of the mouth and make it hard to chew, breathe, or swallow. Like other phobias, it is the result of exposure to a trauma, such as choking on a peanut butter sandwich or being told frightening stories about people choking on peanut butter. It is treatable with psychotherapy, as are fears of other nut butters, and patients can work with a variety of mental health professionals including psychiatrists and family counselors to discuss management of a phobia.

The term “arachibutyrophobia,” when broken down to its roots, literally translates as “groundnut butter fear.” Peanut butter is infamously thick and sticky, and the origins of a fear about choking on peanut butter are usually grounded in exposure to the idea that a wad of nut butter could cling to the roof of the mouth and get stuck there. People with this phobia may develop it in response to reading or hearing stories, seeing scenes on television, or nearly choking themselves.

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Phobias are a natural reaction of the brain to traumatic events, and they can be treated with a technique known as systematic desensitization. In arachibutyrophobia treatment, the therapist discusses the origins of the phobia with the patient and slowly introduces the object of the fear over time. The goal is to get the patient comfortable with encountering peanut butter in a variety of settings before finally trying a bite. This process can take time and pushing patients to conquer a phobia quickly may result in a setback; the patient can be traumatized by the pressure to get over the phobia.

While this phobia is not particularly harmful or dangerous, it can potentially be frustrating for the patient. Simple avoidance of peanut butter usually isn't challenging, but if the patient starts to develop a strong response, it can be a problem when other people in the vicinity are eating. The patient may experience a strong stress response, including feeling nauseous and dizzy. Treatment of the phobia will allow the patient to feel comfortable in any setting, without having to worry about how to avoid the object of the fear.

Food-based phobias are sometimes rooted in complex emotional patterns. A person with arachibutyrophobia may also have disordered eating and other issues surrounding food. Rigid food rules may be followed, and the patient can be afraid of other foods for various reasons. People with eating disorders often express a fear of high-fat foods like nut butters, and a patient with arachibutyrophobia should be evaluated for other mental health issues.

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