Arachibutyrophobia (Fear of Peanut Butter on the Roof of Your Mouth)

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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What is arachibutyrophobia?

If you start to panic at the thought of eating peanut butter, you may have arachibutyrophobia. In Greek, ‘arachi’ relates to legume plants, such as peanuts. ‘Butyr’ relates to butter and ‘phobia’ means fear. So, arachibutyrophobia translates to fear of peanut butter.

Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder. They cause an irrational, excessive and overwhelming fear of an animal, object, person, activity, environment or situation. People with phobias know the focus of their phobia presents little or no real danger. But they can’t control their disproportionate reaction.

Arachibutyrophobia is a simple, or specific phobia. Arachibutyrophobia relates specifically to peanut butter, not any other food. Simple phobias are the most common type of phobia. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) estimates that up to 9% of Americans have a simple phobia. However, arachibutyrophobia is a rare phobia.

Arachibutyrophobia causes a fear of peanut butter on the roof of your mouth. This could be due to the choking sensation it can trigger. People with this phobia know they are extremely unlikely to choke on peanut butter. But the thought of the sensation of it on the roof of their mouth is overwhelming. For some people, even the smell or taste of peanut butter as an ingredient can trigger the panic.

What are the symptoms of arachibutyrophobia?

There are both physical and psychological arachibutyrophobia symptoms. They range from mild to severe and can be disabling in some cases. The physical symptoms are due to adrenaline that your body releases when it senses danger.

Common physical symptoms of this panic include:

  • Dizziness or feeling like you’re going to pass out

Mental feelings and thoughts are also symptoms of arachibutyrophobia including:

  • Awareness that fear of peanut butter is irrational
  • Dread or worry about having to eat peanut butter
  • Guilt or shame about fearing peanut butter
  • Inability to control or overcome the fear of peanut butter
  • Intense panic or fear while eating peanut butter
  • Strong desire to avoid peanut butter

When children have simple phobias, they may not be able to express how they are feeling. Instead, they may react by crying or having a tantrum.

When simple phobia symptoms are mild, the phobia may just be an annoyance. However, severe or disabling symptoms can disrupt your life and affect your quality of life. See your doctor if your fear of peanut butter interferes with your ability to function normally. Starting treatment early often has the most effective results.

What are the causes of arachibutyrophobia?

The exact way phobias develop is unclear. Experts believe phobias involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In some cases, people with fear of peanut butter can link their fear to a specific experience: In the past, they had a scary or negative event involving peanut butter. An area of the brain called the amygdala recorded their reaction to peanut butter and remembers it. When confronted with peanut butter again, the amygdala reminds them of the scariness. Fear and panic is the result.

Some people with peanut butter phobia may not have any past experience with peanut butter that could explain their fear. In this case, other factors may be at play, such as personality traits or temperament. These inherited traits may contribute to the phobia. However, many attitudes and behaviors are learned from your parents or family members. This makes it hard to tease out what is learned and what is inherited with regard to phobias.

What are the treatments for arachibutyrophobia?

People don’t have to endure the panic and fear of a phobia. Despite what others might say about it, a phobia is a real anxiety disorder. It isn’t a sign that a person is weak, childish or somehow immature. When others view it this way or tease the sufferer, the problem can worsen. But there are effective treatments for phobias, and seeking treatment early offers the best chance of success.

Doctors recommend treating phobias when they interfere with your day-to-day ability to function normally. This includes work, school, and social situations and relationships. As with other phobias, the most effective arachibutyrophobia treatment is psychotherapy including:

  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), which is a form of talk therapy. Working with a therapist, you learn to identify and change unhealthy thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Then, you work on developing new beliefs about them. The goal is to gain confidence in your ability to face your fear and overcome it. Therapists often use CBT in combination with exposure therapy.
  • Exposure therapy, which is also called desensitization therapy. It involves exposing you to your fear in small increments under controlled situations. When the phobia is severe, this may start with just thinking about peanut butter. Working with the therapist, you will learn anxiety-reducing techniques to help you face the fear. Once you can think about peanut butter without anxiety, the therapist will move to more intense situations. This may involve looking at peanut butter or touching it. The goal is to learn how to control your reaction to peanut butter.

In some cases, doctors may use medications for short-term treatment of anxiety symptoms related to the phobia. This is sometimes necessary to make psychotherapy more effective. However, medications are most useful for phobias involving temporary situations, such as having an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) exam. Psychotherapy provides the best long-term relief of phobia symptoms.

Complications can develop from phobias. Potential complications include:

  • Social isolation, loneliness, and problems with work, school, and social relationships
  • Substance abuse with alcohol or drugs in an effort to self-medicate and deal with the phobia
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 21
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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