- Mageirocophobia is also known as the fear of cooking.
- It is a severe anxiety-inducing specific phobia that affects the daily life of an individual suffering from it. Just the thought of cooking can make them filled with dread.
- It can be a fear of cooking in general, a fear of cooking a specific dish, or a fear of cooking in front of an audience.
- It is usually caused due to genetic, or environmental factors, or by having an earlier trauma-inducing experience with cooking. It can also be a learned behavior.
- It can be treated with CBT, Exposure Therapy, DBT, and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction therapy.
Mageirocophobia is a fear of cooking. Yes, you heard it right, it’s a deep and irrational fear of cooking. Cooking has been and always will be one of the most important skills that an individual needs to be equipped with to survive in today’s world.
So it’s not difficult to imagine a world where someone is fearful of being in a kitchen and cooking.
Mageirocophobia is something that affects individuals so much that it starts affecting their daily life and routine. The basic skill of cooking becomes difficult for people with mageirocophobia to achieve.
People suffering from this phobia may also be met with judgment from people around them as they are looked down upon for not being able to cook for themselves or others even for one meal.
What is Mageirocophobia?
Mageirocophobia is a specific phobia which means the fear of cooking. It basically means that the individual is suffering from extremely anxiety-inducing thoughts and this phobia is affecting their daily life.
Since cooking is a broad term, it can also mean multiple specific situations and not all cooking that an individual can manage. These phobic situations can include one specific situation such as cooking in front of other people, cooking for one specific dish, or cooking for self only, i.e. the fear can arise only in these situations.
There are subtypes in mageirocophobia that mageirocophobia has based on the elements involved in the cooking situation.
Types of Mageirocophobia
Cooking is a broad and everyday activity and therefore, the fear of cooking can be based on multiple situations possible in the person’s mind. Some of these types include:
1. Fear of recipes
Here the fearful situation will rise out of the fact that the person has to follow a recipe.
The overwhelming thoughts are centered around:
- The length of the recipe.
- Level of complication of the recipe.
- Ingredients required for the recipe.
- Preparation time and effort required for the recipe.
The fear arises from trying to follow a recipe which they may end up making wrong or it not turning out exactly as the recipe video/picture.
2. Fear of the process
Cooking involves doing a lot of things together and also at the correct moment and in specific proportions. The person fearful of cooking could be afraid of the cooking process where they have to follow a lot of directions and have to deal with multiple cooking instruments.
They may develop a fear of:
- Injuring themselves.
- Fear of using different instruments that they haven’t used before.
- Burning themselves.
- Worry about not having the correct tools or ingredients.
- Worry about new methods or skills that they are new to.
3. Fear of cooking inedible food
In cooking, there are many ways to go wrong with a dish and make something taste awful without intending it. These fearful thoughts appear as:
- Missing an ingredient.
- Overpowering taste.
- Making bland food.
- Food turned out to be dry.
- Undercooked dish.
- Overcooked dish.
- Burning the dish or the ingredient.
- Food turned out to be soggy.
The individual develops this type of mageirocophobia, as they are insecure and not confident about their cooking skills and are unsure about making decisions regarding spices, proportions, and products to use.
4. Fear of causing illness
One of the most common types of mageirocophobia is the fear of contamination or getting ill because of food. Here, the individual suffering from this phobia often has anxious thoughts about:
- Illnesses they can catch from a dish.
- Being exposed to something unsavory while preparing a dish.
- Being unaware of the quality of produce used.
- Fear of eating undercooked food.
- Fear of eating spoiled food.
- Fear of contamination.
This type of fear is born out of tuning into coverages about spoiled food or food contamination reports or reading about such conditions in news or in books.
5. Fear of poor presentation
This is a type of fear where the individual is more focused and anxious about the presentation and looks of a dish and its surroundings. The individual’s thoughts are more centered around:
- How presentable is the dinner table?
- If the plate and cutlery are correct and completely spotless.
- If the dish looks presentable.
- If the dish looks appealing.
- If the dish looks as it is supposed to as in reference to a cookbook/ video.
- Focusing greatly on the aesthetics of the plating and the dish and worrying if it’s even slightly off or not exactly as the way they wanted it.
6. Fear of intake of food.
People already suffering from eating disorders can view the intake of food negatively and become averse to cooking as well. The people here feel intimidated by the task of cooking, which in turn affects what they intake.
Symptoms of mageirocophobia
Mageirocophobia, as a specific phobia, presents itself in individuals in many ways. The symptoms of mageirocophobia range in their variety and intensity.
A professional diagnostician’s help should be taken to understand if the individual has mageirocophobia or something else entirely. The listed symptoms are more as a guideline and more than a handful need to be present to be diagnosed with this phobia.
Some of the psychological symptoms include:
- Anxiety when thinking of cooking
- Anxiety when seeing someone else cook
- Constantly avoiding cooking.
- Irrational level of anxiety.
- Panic attacks.
- Avoiding being in the kitchen entirely, due to fear of watching someone cook.
- Taking up work in a place where they don’t have to think about cooking.
- Avoiding restaurants where they can see other people cook.
Noticing physical symptoms that one goes through is also important to properly understand the phobia.
Some of the physical symptoms include:
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Muscle tension
- High blood pressure
- Dry mouth
Comorbidity of mageirocophobia
Mageirocophobia is a fear that can commonly be mistaken with other mental health conditions or at least co-exist with them. These conditions include:
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is a disorder where the individual becomes high-strung and likes to avoid a situation if possible. OCD and mageirocophobia can overlap with the obsessive nature of worrying about cleaning/ fear of harm/ symmetry/ controlling in the kitchen.
The main element is worrying excessively, which may hamper their daily life.
Perfectionism becomes a chore when it starts affecting your life. It co-exists with the person’s personality that they tend to be perfectionists in their attempts at being a cook and therefore build intense pressure and stress for themselves.
This unachievable level of an idea that they possess, that they need to do things a certain way or cannot perform an activity without a specific tool or situation, impedes the completion of the task. Perfectionism is mageirocophobia is when people are extremely anal about the details of the dish, the measurements, the visuals, and the aesthetics.
Trying to gain this level of perfectionism in each part of cooking can make it detrimental and become a negative part of their lifestyle.
Causes of mageirocophobia
Phobias are an amalgamation of multiple reasons and situations over time, they can’t be narrowed down to one thing specifically. The causes of mageirocophobia can include factors such as:
1. Genetic factors
Having a family history or a hereditary connection to mood disorders can be a predetermining factor in understanding the roots of having such a phobia.
If someone in your family suffers from anxiety disorders or similar disorders where anxiety and phobias manifested, it is a pretty good indicator of being passed down in the family.
2. Environmental factors
Having scary experiences regarding cooking or in the kitchen can help develop a fear of cooking.
The environment that one is made to cook in can also develop the perfect situation for this phobia to take over an individual. Having a high-pressure or stressful kitchen area will lead to feeling more anxious about cooking.
If a person is worried about making the perfect dish and cooking perfectly even when they don’t have a lot of experience, they can make cooking stressful and anxiety-inducing for themselves and hence creating the groundwork for having a phobia regarding cooking.
4. Anxiety-Related Disorders
If an individual is already suffering from anxiety disorders, it is possible that the panic and anxiety that they face is also affecting them in their chores and daily activities such as cooking.
OCD, PTSD, general anxiety disorder, social phobia, and panic disorder have the leeway to give birth to a specific phobia, such as mageirocophobia.
5. Too many expectations from families and friends
Being under pressure from people around them, people with mageirocophobia may realize that too much is expected of them by their friends and family. Them being around while cooking may cause a level of stress and anxiety and create a space that they may want to avoid or just get anxious thinking about.
The surrounding people may be expecting a better quality of food and healthier lifestyle from them and hence building pressure on the activity of cooking in itself. This creates pressure and panic as well as the desire to be perfect in their execution, therefore making way for this phobia to exist.
6. Failing in cooking.
The individual may have failed in cooking earlier when they tried and this may have created a tense or anxiety-inducing situation for them that they would want to avoid from there on out.
After experiencing the first failure, they may become fearful of that happening again and hence become anxious about cooking and avoid cooking whenever possible.
7. Facing continuous troubles while trying to cook.
Fear and frustration may arise due to the constant trouble that they might be facing while trying to cook or experimenting with cooking. Something might technically go wrong, some ingredients may not be available or something or the other will come up that makes them not give cooking a shot or become frustrated with the process of cooking.
These near-misses make it so that people start to avoid cooking and may develop a fear of cooking out of their inability to practice it.
Treatment for mageirocophobia
Treatment for any type of phobia is required when the phobia becomes so extreme that it starts to interfere with the daily life of the individual. As cooking is a basic survival activity, it is important to seek professional help instantly.
Some of the prominent treatments for mageirocophobia include:
According to exposure therapy techniques, specific phobias are maintained by avoiding the phobic situation/object. Due to this avoidance, the individual does not know how much fear they can tolerate, getting exposed to it and understanding that it will pass even without escaping or running away from the situation.
The goal is to make them realize that their fear is all-encompassing because they are thinking about it and imagining it. Going through the phobic situation makes them realize that the situation is not as bad as they made up in their mind.
Exposure therapy starts off with a specifically tailored hierarchy of fear that builds up gradually in their intensity. There are different types of exposure therapy, such as:
- Invivo exposure therapy: This involves actually being in contact with the phobic stimulus. This could be being around certain kitchen instruments, watching a video of someone cooking, or watching/reading a high-stressed cooking show/movie.
- Systematic desensitization: This involves scaling up to the phobic event, i.e. cooking a dish they’ve always avoided would be the highest fear-inducing activity. The sessions start off with the therapist and client making the least fear-inducing hierarchy of events and making their way through it.
- This involves imagined fear which is paired with a relaxation technique/exercise.
- Virtual reality exposure: Here a computer program will develop a scene of the kitchen and make it a VR experience that an individual can interact with in real-time.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
According to CBT, a person suffering from mageirocophobia has negative thoughts that are automatic. These automatic thoughts then led to automatic problematic behaviors because of the phobic situation.
There is a process of writing, psychoeducation, and inquiry. All the exercises in CBT are to expose the clients to what kind of thought patterns they have and how they have been affected by them and how to change them gradually over the sessions.
CBT can be tailored to each client as the response and intensity of each phobia differs from person to person. For phobias, the following may be used:
- Mindfulness Training: This is used in CBT to hone one’s attention and focus into the present and be attuned to the situation they are in. Mindfulness is also needed to bring one’s thoughts under control when presented with a phobic situation/ stimulus. Being aware of the reality of the situation, focusing, and having the ability to change the negative thought can be a useful technique for people suffering from Mageirocophobia.
- Cognitive Restructuring: This helps the client in recognizing the negative thought patterns and helps them replace them with more realistic and fact-based thought patterns. These new thought patterns that the client is made to practice result in lesser anxiety and avoidance behavior.
- Systematic Exposure: In CBT, this is helped by the client and therapist working together to create a plan for regular contact with the phobic stimulus/situation. The aim is to continuously expose themselves to this high anxiety situation until it becomes lesser and lesser in intensity.
This starts with a lower level accommodation of phobic stimulus like talking or watching someone else cook on tv. This gradually becomes more and more intense until finally the most phobic situation is dealt with.
This change only occurs after actual cognitive restructuring has occurred in the client. Change of thought patterns is what is necessary to deal with the phobic situation.
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy
DBT is mostly to understand and accept your intense feelings however positive or negative they might be. Its goals are to:
- Help people live in the moment
- Develop strategies to deal in a healthy way regarding their emotions.
- Improve relationships around them
- Try to regulate their emotions.
DBT gives its clients multiple tools and techniques to deal with anxiety-provoking situations. Some of the techniques in DBT that help mageirocophobia are:
- Being part of a group helps them have a safe space to express their emotions and understand that their fears can be managed.
- The half-smiling technique is where the client thinks about the phobic situation but practices smiling halfway. The goal is to not think about the painful memories or thoughts that come up when the client thinks about the phobic situation while half-smiling.
- Mindfulness meditation in a group setting can also help people recenter and be a part of a comfort zone while focusing on their breathing or drinking warm tea that heightens their senses.
- Coping ahead helps the clients work on the future and every other scenario they may get afraid of. Coping ahead is basically visualizing the threatening events and simulating techniques to overcome them.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR’s goal is to help people be more present and attuned to their thoughts and feelings and do it so non-judgmentally. The practice of MBSR leads to a sense of calm and less emotional reactivity.
MBSR equips a patient with the following techniques:
- Homework assignments: They’ll be given to the client to understand and equip the tools and techniques outside of the therapy sessions and also to understand if the client is understanding and is able to effectively use the techniques taught in the session.
These homework assignments usually include guided meditations, watching a video, filling up a worksheet, etc. all of their aims are to strengthen the client’s skills.
- Breathing techniques: The focus is on conscious breathing to allow the body to cool down and not give emotional reactions to situations. In a MBSR session, a lot of different and easy breathing techniques are taught that the client can do anywhere, anytime when faced with the phonic situation/stimulus or thoughts.
- Gratitude journaling: The aim of this practice is to give the client a perspective on what makes them happy and use this as a reference to change their negative perspective they may have on life.
- Yoga: This helps clients relax their body as well as their mind. The symptoms of phobia start affecting the body as well and yoga is a good way to balance it.
- Meditation: The goal is to make the client more focused. With meditation, they will have mental clarity, the ability to focus and gain the mental strength to deal with a fearful situation.
- Group dialogue: If the client attends a group session for MBSR, they get to understand and take into account how MBSR has helped other people in their life, learn from their experiences, and get peer help if required.
Drugs and medicine that are prescribed for your anxiety are the more clinical and the most effective way to treat mageirocophobia.
Anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medicines are commonly available but should only be taken based on a psychiatrist’s prescription.
Do not self-medicate, always talk to a professional about your needs as they might worsen the situation if taken unaccounted and haphazardly.
Self-Help Tips for Mageirocophobia
A phobia is a serious issue and should be consulted with a mental health professional first. The following self-help tips are to help people with fear of cooking to take a step toward helping themselves.
These tips are not replacements for actual therapy but can help make their life a bit easier compared to living in fear.
This helps people get some adrenaline worked into their routine. Cardio exercises especially help in distressing.
Exercising helps release endorphins and inadvertently lifts your mood. Regular exercise can then your mind be more adaptable to stressful situations.
Some of the most common activities that release endorphins include:
Yoga also does the same job as releasing endorphins and making you feel better after some body movement.
The focus and stability that yoga brings are extremely important while dealing with mageirocophobia. There are multiple stances and asanas that are helpful for people with anxiety.
Materials to practice accurate yoga are available all over the internet and therefore should be practiced thoroughly and consistently for best results.
3. Reducing Caffeine and alcohol consumption
Caffeine is known to increase your anxiety and your body also mimics the symptoms of anxiety when you are high on caffeine, which in turn can lead to panic regarding one’s mental and physical state.
Limiting or avoiding using caffeine throughout the day might change your anxiety level in your everyday life. A cup of coffee is never the sole reason for your trigger for mageirocophobia, but the experiences become easier without additional hindrances.
It is an excellent way to be one with one’s own thoughts. Meditation allows people to focus and stop the negative train of thought that might occur.
Meditation also requires people to have mindful breathing and be aware of their bodies. This helps to notice any distress you may feel and any tension that may build up due to the phobia.
5. Take up a new hobby
Hobbies are a creative outlet that an individual engages in. Experimenting and trying out new hobbies will give you a chance to focus your energy somewhere else other than anxiously worrying.
Discovering new hobbies and investing in skilling up might open up new avenues to understand yourself better and encourage you to be more daring with your fears.
6. Quitting tobacco use
Being a habitual user of tobacco can be unhealthy for multiple reasons. It causes irritability, and anxiety, and leads to a wide range of diseases. Quitting it can result in a healthier view of life and self, better breathing scope, and feeling a sense of a shift in mood.
7. Being aware of food safety rules.
For Mageirocophobia, not having an understanding or having too much contradicting information out there, can color their judgment and feelings towards cooking.
Getting information from reliable sources and knowing the basic precautionary and safety rules of cooking and food health might help you avoid feeling disgruntled or anxious about cooking.
8. Get your own food thermometer.
Using technical tools in the kitchen can erase the fear of uncertainty or guessing while cooking. Using tools that give you the exact information that you need can help you get over the fears of cooking.
Getting a food thermometer might help you cook with the most accurate tools and settings. A food thermometer helps you know exactly the temperature of the food to know how well done it is without you having to break the dish or taste it yourself while fearing injuries or fear of eating uncooked food.
Instruments like these, give you a glimpse of the dish, giving you knowledge already so you are sure that you are not cutting into something cold or undercooked.
9. Learning to cook from people you know and trust.
Cooking can be a stressful process especially if someone else in the kitchen is making it stressful for you. Oftentimes we find out that chefs and cooking instructors can be as strict and loud as a drill sergeant, eventually creating a pressure-filled atmosphere while cooking.
To step into cooking, baby steps at a time, you should try and learn from someone you know and trust. You can ask someone to help, who understands the phobia and does not belittle your valid feelings.
Asking someone for help can take the pressure off of you and they can be there to manage the situation if things go south. They can also help you in training you with the easier version of dishes.
10. Join a cooking class.
Cooking classes are taught by professionals and they can be extremely informative. The classes break down dishes and maintain the pace for beginners. Talking to the teacher beforehand about your fears can help them make you more comfortable in the kitchen.
Cooking classes are for everyone and they may help by giving some tips and tricks to use as well.
Breaking down a dish and a competent teacher will help you get over the unassured results of cooking and also the vague nature of it.
11. Using grocery delivery services to avoid any triggers.
Grocery delivery systems get you what you want to your doorsteps. If you are triggered by the process or looking at any particular ingredients of the dish, you can just skip the queue and use delivery apps to get your food and grocery.
Be careful though, as this limits or widens the choice based on what app you use and where you are currently situated. Things may also be out of stock or not delivering on certain days.
Summing Up from ‘ThePleasantMind’
Mageirocophobia is a specific phobia that can be helped with multiple resources and treatments that were discussed in this article. Very little research exists on this phobia as it is rare and specific. Nonetheless, if you or someone you know is suffering from the symptoms talked about in this article, reach out for professional help.
Remember that the tips are not a replacement for actual therapy and also that just experiencing one of the symptoms means that you have this phobia. When a phobia becomes an obstacle in daily life, that is when it requires professional intervention.
Cooking is a basic skill needed to survive, avoidance of it will only lead to more difficulties and problems for your health and finances in the future. Be aware of these symptoms and take care to follow through.
Passionate about both writing and psychology. A Counseling psychologist by profession and a writer by desire. Her aim has always been to combine the two wherever she can. You can always catch her updating her reading list and reflecting on the world around us. Empathetic to a fault and hoping to help people enough to leave a positive impact.