In this blog we will put light on the symptoms, causes and treatments for Arachibutyrophobia.
Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth. Sufferers find peanut butter to be the reason for their anxiety, which can also lead to panic attacks if the condition worsens. One might find the thought of peanut butters to be extremely stressful, yet alone eating them.
People suffering from Arachibutyrophobia are fearful of getting choked by eating peanut butter. Their fear is irrational because incidents of people choking or dying by consuming peanut butter are very minute.
Arachibutyrophobia is a type of specific phobia which comes under the category of anxiety disorders in the DSM-V. Sufferers should have anxiety lasting for at least 6-months, affecting their social and occupational functioning, according to the DSM-V criteria.
For example, people will avoid eating out in restaurants because of the fear that the food might contain peanut butter or something nutty or sticky. In severe cases, one might even avoid doing grocery shopping because they would fear of seeing peanut butters in the shop.
This is how people suffering from Arachibutyrophobia avoid their fear stimuli. A sufferer tries to avoid their fear stimuli by taking all the possible steps they can. This recurrent avoidance of the stimuli can lead to one developing OCD and depression in the long run.
Arachibutyrophobia is the irrational fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. It originated from the Greek word ‘arachi’ meaning ground nut, ‘butyr’ for butter and ‘phobos’ refers to fear. Sufferers are fearful of choking because of peanut butter.
People with Arachibutyrophobia, like in all other specific phobias experience intense anxiety when exposed to peanut butter. They’re unable to control this anxiety and thus end up feeling more anxious. This anxiousness, in extreme cases can give rise to full-blown panic attacks.
Sufferer goes into flight or fight mode because of an adrenaline rush. In this state, the body’s physiological responses help one make decisions when in fear causing situations. They either decide to escape the situation (flight) or stay and combat their fear (fight).
In the case of Arachibutyrophobia or any other type of specific phobia, the physiological symptoms that are produced when exposed to peanut butter (including extreme anxiety) cause the person to escape or avoid that situation. Sufferers don’t have the courage to fight with their fear because of the unpleasant, terrifying experience the body goes through.
Apart from anxiety, Arachibutyrophobia has a number of other physiological symptoms which include:
- Extreme anxiety upon an encounter with peanut butter
- Extreme anxiety by just thinking about peanut butter
- Avoiding peanut butter
- Full-blown panic attacks
- Inability to handle anxiety
- Muscle tension/tremors
- Increased heartrate
- Inability to breathe properly/increased breathing rate
- Feeling dizzy
- Hot/cold flashes when in a flight or fight mode (A hot flash refers to the temporary heating up of the body when in a state of fear. And a cold flash means when the body suddenly starts to shiver or cool down, when encountered by a fear stimulus)
- Butterflies in the stomach
Out of these, one should have at least 3-5 symptoms (including anxiety) to be diagnosed with Arachibutyrophobia.
Like every other specific phobia, Arachibutyrophobia is a result of either genetics or a past traumatic experience.
Someone who has a family history of anxiety disorders or specific phobias has a higher chance of developing Arachibutyrophobia than someone who doesn’t. This is because they are genetically predisposed to develop it.
This genetic tendency to develop a mental disorder/specific phobia can also be referred to as a Diathesis-stress relationship. According to this, one with a genetic predisposition will not develop symptoms of Arachibutyrophobia until and unless there is some trigger event, instigating anxiety or fear of peanut butter.
This triggering event can be for example, choking while having peanut butter in childhood. The sufferer might have developed this fear since then because of the pain or unpleasant feelings it caused. Also, he might have an allergy of nuts or ingredients peanut butter contains, which can flair up and cause other health problems.
Another example of an environmental cause can be, learning to be afraid of peanut butter. May be the parents instilled their fear of choking or dislike of peanut butter into their children by either the way they react to it or the way they communicate with their child. This is so, because usually parents warn children of the dangerous consequences they can face, for example if they are talking while eating.
Also, the sufferer might have seen any of his family members dying of or experiencing choking because of peanut butters, or they might have heard about such an incident happen with someone else.
Therefore, it is evident that there is no one cause for specific phobias to develop. Genetics with environmental factors, together will cause one to have Arachibutyrophobia.
Arachibutyrophobia like all other specific phobias has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it. Like all the other specific phobias, Arachibutyrophobia is treated by a number of different therapies including, Exposure Therapy, Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT) and or medications that lower downs the anxiety or other physical symptoms.
• Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
It is one of the most frequently used treatment for patients with almost all kinds of mental disorders. Arachibutyrophobia is defined as the irrational fear of peanut butters. Thus, the therapist helps the patient in replacing these irrational thoughts with more rational ones.
The patients are helped out in analyzing and justifying the way they feel about being exposed to peanut butters. Therapists assist them in uncovering the reasons behind their fear and later they provide them with alternate, pleasant thoughts.
The patient is told to maintain a thought diary (with ABCD column) which provides them a replacement for every irrational thought they have, when thinking about a particular situation. The ABCD stands for:
i. A (antecedents) a situation or triggering event.
ii. B (belief) the thought that comes to one’s mind when in that triggering situation.
iii. C (consequences) the symptoms/feelings caused by that event/thought
iv. D (dispute) alternate, rational thoughts provided by the therapist in an attempt to dispute/challenge those irrational beliefs.
This last section of the thought diary is what really plays a role in helping the person feel good/less anxious.
• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This is another effective therapy used to treat Arachibutyrophobia. It is more commonly used with people suffering from personality disorders, but is also useful with patients of this specific phobia. Coping skills are taught in the DBT group which lasts for about 6months and can have a number of people (depending on how many join the group).
i. Half-smiling is the first module of DBT. It is a technique that is used with patients who are distressed because of their irrational thoughts. The technique is known as ‘Half-smiling’ because the person is first advised to think about the stimuli that fears or upsets them, and while doing so they are told to lift the corners of their mouths by subtly smiling. Smiling is not that will help one get rid of these unpleasant thoughts, it is the person’s ability to constrain itself from thinking about those thoughts while half smiling.
ii. Mindfulness, the second module, is another technique used in DBT groups which helps the individual in getting rid of those negative thoughts. Individuals are told to focus on the present and be attentive to what is going on around them at the moment. This helps in breaking the link between their mind and any negative thought that might come to them then. For example, a person is told to focus on his breath or on the sound of the blowing wind, making use of their auditory sense.
iii. The third technique or module of the DBT is distress tolerance skills. This module teaches people to calm themselves down in healthy ways when they are distressed or emotionally overwhelmed. Individuals are allowed to make wise, rational decisions and take immediate action, rather than being captured by emotionally destructive thoughts that might make the situation worse. Reality acceptance skills are also learnt under this model so that people fully accept reality and later make plans on how to address the problem/fearful aspects to it.
• Exposure Therapy
It is one of the most frequently used ways of treating patients with Arachibutyrophobia (or any other kind of specific phobia). In this therapy, the patient is exposed to the source of his fear over a certain span of time. To begin with the therapy, the therapist exposes the patient to the least triggering stimuli, a picture of peanut butter for example.
As the therapy progresses and the patient is able to control his anxious feelings, imagery can be used to take the treatment a step further. In this part of the treatment the patient is asked to visualize/imagine a situation in which he is eating peanut butter. During this process of imagery, one actually feels being in that particular situation or place, experiencing various senses.
Once the person successfully, without feeling anxious clears this step of the therapy, he is then exposed to real situation where he eats peanut butter.
While the patient is being exposed to different intensities of stimuli during the various stages of therapy, the therapist simultaneously teaches them coping exercises. These include, breathing techniques or muscle relaxation methods to lower their anxiety, when in an actual fear/anxiety causing situation. This teaches them how to remain calm when exposed to the fear stimuli.
Before actually starting the exposure therapy, the therapist needs to figure out the intensity of the patients fear, as to deduce whether they will be able to undergo this treatment, without any physical or psychological harm caused to them during the exposure processes.
However, these steps desensitize one to their fear of choking by peanut butter, by exposing them to that stimuli repeatedly, until they learn to undergo the situation without anxiety/panic attacks.
• Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR is a meditation therapy, is used to manage stress or anxiety. It is an 8-week program which includes group sessions. Mindfulness meditation and Hatha yoga are practiced in these sessions, lectures and group discussions are also done to talk about mental health and increase interactivity.
In mindfulness meditation the person is told to, for example to focus on the sensations felt while breathing or the rhythm of the chest rising and falling during the process. This distracts the person’s attention from something stressful to something which is neutral and soothing.
For quick and effective treatment, patients are also given a set of home works, for example 45 minutes of yoga and meditation, 6 days a week and to record their results/feelings in a book or diary for 15 minutes a day.
• Drug Therapy
Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Arachibutyrophobia. Drugs are very quick in effectiveness, as they start showing progress in the patients’ health at least 2 weeks after the medicine is taken.
This type of biological treatment is usually more effective if the cause of the phobia is only genetic. However, these drugs/medicines are not to be taken without a doctor’s prescription or consultation.
Two types of drugs are used in the treatment of this phobia:
i. Anti-anxiety Drugs
Medicines like Valium are anti-anxiety drugs. They are most commonly used with patients who experience panic attacks and also lowers their anxiety by binding to receptor cells of the brain that cause these unpleasant symptoms.
ii. Antidepressant Drugs
These drugs, as the name suggest don’t only treat depression but are also very effective in treating phobias. Medicines like Lexapro reduce the anxious feelings of a person and makes him feel calm. They need to be taken on a daily basis but not without a doctor’s advice.
They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Arachibutyrophobia, instead they are one of the most common ways of relaxation used by many people. Yoga tends to stimulate the meditative state of one’s mind while a person is in a particular yoga posture. Through yoga/meditation the mind is diverted towards something more productive and calm, allowing the person to escape the negative, distress causing thoughts.
Out of a number of yoga types, one can benefit from any yoga type/pose they like. Hatha yoga is one of the different types of yoga. The breathing techniques or the imagery one creates while in a yoga posture are the real factors that makes the person feel less anxious and diverts their mind, away from the thoughts about choking/peanut butter.
Whether the cause of Arachibutyrophobia, or any other type of specific phobia is genetics, environmental or both, the best and the most effective way of treating them is by using a combination of both biological treatments (drugs) with cognitive treatment (for example CBT/exposure therapy).
Titles to read
- Badass Ways to End Anxiety & Stop Panic Attacks! A counterintuitive approach to recover and regain control of your life
by Geert Verschaeve
- The Anxiety Journal: Exercises to Soothe Stress and Eliminate Anxiety Wherever You Are: A Guided Journal
by Corinne Sweet
- Anxiety Relief for Teens: Essential CBT Skills and Mindfulness Practices to Overcome Anxiety and Stress
by Regine Galanti PhD
- The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal: A Creative Way to Stop Freaking Out
by Tanya J. Peterson MS NCC
- Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective
by Aaron Beck, Gary Emery, et al.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) Why do people fear peanut butter?
The fear of peanut butters is called as Arachibutyrophobia. In it, one fears the peanut butter sticking to the roof of their mouth and cause choking. Sufferers experience extreme anxiety when exposed to peanut butter.
Q2) What are the causes of Arachibutyrophobia?
It is caused either genetically, due to some genetic predisposition or family history of mental disorders. Or due to some environmental factors, such as a past-traumatic event.
Q3) What are the symptoms of Arachibutyrophobia?
Symptoms of Arachibutyrophobia include, excessive anxiety, panic attacks, breathlessness, rapid heartbeat etc.
Q4) How common is Arachibutyrophobia?
It is not a very common type of specific phobia. And the fear one has of choking by peanut butters is also irrational because there are very few incidents in which one ca die or choke after having peanut butter.