Eating disorders are numerous and take many forms. At their source, often a fear: of eating too much, of growing fat, of not eating enough healthy products, of not eating enough, of missing, of being judged, of not having a body sculpted enough,…

Phagophobia is one of these disorders. It manifests itself in the pervasive and irrational fear of swallowing and suffocating. This fear focuses on food as well as medicine or even water.

The people affected fear more than anything else the suffering that could result from suffocation, but also what would follow, that is, death.

Often confused with anorexia nervosa, phagophobia does not manifest itself in any way in the fear of getting bigger. On a daily basis, these sick people will avoid eating certain foods, especially those that are solid. They will then be content to swallow only soft or even liquid food. In the mildest cases, the person will eat solid foods but will spend a considerable amount of time chewing to make tiny pieces before swallowing.

They are also afraid of being ridiculous in the eyes of others, and will gradually isolate themselves to avoid any situation that presents the slightest risk. Shame, ridicule, guilt and isolation can then “mix”, and haunt the phagophobic person.



The reasons of the problem

In many cases, the phobia is triggered by a bad experience such as a food swallowed wrong, or an unloved food that has caused bad feelings.

Like many phobias, many patients also talk about irrational fear without explanation.

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Symptoms and consequences

Phagophobia triggers a number of psychological and physical manifestations:

  • Anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Tremors
  • Tachycardia
  • Fear of dying
  • Agoraphobia

What treatments?

As its name suggests, phagophobia is a phobia, therefore a fear. The most appropriate treatment is psychological follow-up, based on Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, whose objective is to help the patient modify his thoughts and behaviors.

We must gradually put ourselves in a situation. For example, you have to eat things that are fairly easy to swallow at first, then eat things that are a little harder little by little. It helps to desensitize oneself, a bit like allergies. We need a gradual desensitization.

Prof. Antoine Pelissolo, psychiatrist

When people are suffering, throat muscles contract during periods of anxiety. Some patients report that consulting an osteopath helps a lot at the muscular level.

What help can bring feeleat’s digital food diary?

Once the person has become aware of his or her illness and begins a care process, the diary and the feeleat application can be a valuable tool to support the patient throughout the healing process.

In the short or long term objectives section, the user will be able to list the foods he wants to reintroduce and see his progress.

Thanks to the diary, he or she will be able to track the foods and contexts that generate difficulties, anxiety, or on the contrary that promote his or her well-being. By sharing his or her daily life with his therapeutic team, the patient will then be able to better describe his or her daily experience, fears and progress, and benefit from more appropriate care.

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