What Is Arachibutyrophobia?

  • Haajar Dafiri BSc (Hons), Biochemistry, University of Wolverhampton, UK
  • Jasmine Abdy Bachelor of Science - BSc, Medical Microbiology with a Year in Industry, University of Bristol

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Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth when either consumed or the mere thought of it. The term was first used by Charles Schulz in 1982 in his Peanuts comic strip. 

Read on to learn about the main causes of arachibutyrophobia, which sex and age group it is more likely to affect, how it is currently diagnosed and treated, and more!

Introduction

Arachibutyrophobia is a specific phobia of getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of one’s mouth. Interestingly, the term arachibutyrophobia was first used by Charles Schulz in 1982 in his Peanuts comic strip,1 and Peter O’Donnell in his 1985 Dead Man’s Handle, Modesty Blaire adventure novel. 

A phobia2 is an intense, unrealistic, excessive, persistent, and unreasonable fear that is experienced after encountering a certain object, place, activity, or situation. It is a type of anxiety disorder3 that negatively disrupts many aspects of the affected person’s life including relationships, work, mood, and social life. The fear experienced is often out of proportion with the actual threat and its trigger or source is either avoided or endured with great distress by a person with the phobia. 

Specific phobias are quite common,4 affecting approximately between 2-6% of people worldwide. The majority of these people affected include children under the age of 10, women, and people assigned female at birth (AFAB).  However, compared to other specific phobias, arachibutyrophobia is not as common and is considered to be rare

Signs and symptoms 

The main signs and symptoms2 of arachibutyrophobia include: 

  • Immense fear and/or anxiety of getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of one’s mouth (unrealistic and unreasonable)
  • Fear of choking on peanut butter and possibly dying despite not having a peanut allergy (irrational, out of proportion, and excessive)
  • Complete avoidance of peanut butter and any situation, place, or activity that may involve peanut butter due to fear of it triggering the phobia 
  • Experiencing anxiety-related symptoms including sweating, shortness of breath, palpitations, dizziness, and nausea (amongst others) when: 
    • Encountering peanut butter or being anywhere near it 
    • Seeing peanut butter or even simply thinking about it 
  • The fear and/or anxiety of peanut butter interferes with many aspects of the affected person’s life including social, professional, mental, sexual, psychological and emotional 

Causes 

There are many causes of arachibutyrophobia including:

  • Traumatic experience with peanut butter: a person may develop arachibutyrophobia from trauma4 occurring after: 
    • Choking on peanut butter5
    • Experiencing an allergic reaction after consuming peanut butter
    • Experiencing someone choking on peanut butter
    • Experiencing someone having an allergic attack after consuming peanut butter
    • Experiencing someone dying after consuming peanut butter due to an allergic attack 

Interestingly, peanut butter, especially when combined with jam (jelly) in sandwiches, has been reported by the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities6 to be the main food source involved in choking incidents in people with developmental disabilities. 

  • Peanut allergies: a person with arachibutyrophobia may have a peanut allergy and be more prone to develop anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction that may result in death, if not treated promptly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regards peanuts as one of the most common food allergies7 that lead to the most severe allergic reactions
  • Genetic factors: arachibutyrophobia is more likely to develop in people who have a family history of specific phobias and/or anxiety disorders 

Diagnosis 

There is no specific diagnostic test to diagnose4 specific phobias including arachibutyrophobia. Usually, a person suspected to have arachibutyrophobia will be referred by their general practitioner (GP) to a mental health provider such as a psychologist or psychiatrist who will look at the patient’s symptoms and compare them to those provided in the diagnostic criteria for specific phobias. 

To be diagnosed with arachibutyrophobia, a suspected patient’s symptoms must meet those provided in the diagnostic criteria for specific phobias, which are as follows: 

  • The specific object or situation (peanut butter, in this instance) triggers anxiety or causes immediate and intense fear 
  • Active and complete avoidance of the phobia trigger and/or experiencing great anxiety and immense fear in situations where the phobia trigger cannot be avoided
  • The fear experienced from the phobia trigger is irrational, excessive, and out of proportion with the actual threat (e.g. the fear of choking, getting an allergic attack, or even dying after having peanut butter stuck to the roof of one’s mouth)
  • The fear experienced by the phobia trigger persists for a minimum of six months
  • The fear experienced by the phobia trigger disrupts many aspects of life including work, relationships, social life, mood etc. 
  • The symptoms experienced are not caused by other conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or panic disorder 

Treatment options

The treatment4 provided for arachibutyrophobia depends on several factors including how severe the symptoms are, and the patient’s preferred treatment options. 

Usually, arachibutyrophobia is treated with different types of mental health therapies, medication or both. 

Mental health therapies 

The two main mental health therapies used to diagnose arachibutyrophobia include: 

  1. Psychotherapy: a form of talking therapy that involves identifying and transforming unhealthy thoughts, emotions, and behaviours into healthier ones. At present, the most common type of psychotherapy includes:
    • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): focuses on adopting healthier thoughts (‘cognitive’) and behaviours (‘behavioural’) 
  2. Exposure therapy:  this involves exposing (‘exposure’) the patient to the phobia triggers (i.e. peanut butter). There are two main ways in which this can be achieved:
    • Systematic desensitisation (graded exposure): involves slow and gradual exposure to parts of the phobia trigger  
    • Flooding (complete exposure): involves complete exposure to the phobia trigger at a fast pace (hence ‘flooding’) 

Medications 

Because arachibutyrophobia causes intense anxiety, which in turn can lower mood and result in depression, the following medications4 may be used: 

  • Antidepressants: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)8 are currently the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. SSRIs increase serotonin (the ‘’happy hormone’’) levels in the brain by ‘selectively’ ‘inhibiting’ its reabsorption or ‘reuptake’ by nerve cells 
  • Anti-anxiety medications e.g. benzodiazepines.9 Antidepressants are also often used to treat anxiety-related symptoms triggered by arachibutyrophobia

Summary

Arachibutyrophobia is a specific phobia and anxiety disorder that is characterised by feelings of intense fear, anxiety, and/or great distress at the mere thought of peanut butter getting stuck to the roof of one’s mouth. The term was first used by Charles Schulz in 1982 in his Peanuts comic strip. 

Arachibutyrophobia is not as common as other specific phobias and is more likely to affect children under the age of 10, women, and people assigned female at birth (AFAB). 

In most cases, arachibutyrophobia is caused by fear of choking either due to the person experiencing a traumatic choking incident after consuming peanut butter or witnessing it happening to someone else. However, having a family history of specific phobias or peanut allergies can also predispose a person to arachibutyrophobia. Peanut allergies can result in anaphylaxis and eventually, death, if not treated promptly so arachibutyrophobia in this instance is logical, realistic, and reasonable. 

For a patient to be diagnosed with arachibutyrophobia, the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth must: 

  • Persist for a minimum of six months
  • Cause anxiety-related symptoms e.g sweating, dizziness, heart palpitations etc. when peanut butter is encountered or at the mere sight or thought of it sticking to the roof of one’s mouth
  • Cause the patient to actively avoid any situation that involves peanut butter and experience great fear, anxiety, and distress when these situations are avoided 
  • Have an unrealistic and unreasonable cause e.g. choking on peanut butter and possibly dying despite not having a peanut allergy
  • Negatively interfere with patient’s life and mental health 
  • Not be explained by other mental conditions e.g. PTSD or panic disorder 

At present, the main treatment options for arachibutyrophobia involve any, or a combination, of the following:

  • Psychotherapy: e.g. CBT 
  • Exposure therapy: involves exposing the patient to peanut butter either slowly (systematic desensitisation) or rapidly (flooding)
  • Medications: e.g. antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medications 

References 

  1. GoComics. Peanuts by Charles Schulz for May 19, 1982 [Internet]. [cited 2024 January 08]. Available from: http://www.gocomics.com/peanuts/1982/05/19.
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. Phobia [Internet]. [cited 2024 January 08]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/phobia-a-to-z
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Anxiety Disorders [Internet]. [cited 2024 January 08]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9536-anxiety-disorders
  4. Cleveland Clinic. Phobias [Internet]. [cited 2024 January 09]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/24757-phobias
  5. Sahoo S, Hazari N, Padhy SK. Choking Phobia : An Uncommon Phobic Disorder, Treated with Behavior Therapy : A Case Report and Review of the Literature. Shanghai Arch Psychiatry. 2016 Dec 25;28(6):349-352. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5434294/pdf/sap-28-349.pdf
  6. New Jersey Department of Health and Human Services. Health and safety alert choking [Internet]. [cited 2024 January 09]. Available from: https://www.nj.gov/humanservices/ddd/documents/Documents%20for%20Web/Health_SafetyAlert_choking_063010.pdf
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Food Allergies [Internet]. [cited 2024 January 09]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/foodallergies/index.htm
  8. Cleveland Clinic. SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) [Internet]. [cited 2024 January 10]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/24795-ssri
  9. Cleveland Clinic. Benzodiazepines (Benzos) [Internet]. [cited 2024 January 10]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/24570-benzodiazepines-benzos

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Haajar Dafiri

Bachelor of Science with Honours – BSc (Hons), Biochemistry, University of
Wolverhampton, UK


Haajar Dafiri is a recent First Class BSc (Hons) Biochemistry graduate from the University of Wolverhampton with over 4 years of academic writing experience.
She has professional experience working in both labs and hospitals such as LabMedExpert and the NHS, respectively. Due to her ‘’outstanding undergraduate’’ academic achievements, she was awarded both the Biosciences Project Prize and the Biochemical Society Undergraduate Recognition Award.

From a young age, whenever words and science were involved, Haajar eagerly followed. Haajar particularly enjoys diving deep into intricate research articles and interpreting, analysing and communicating the scientificfindings to the general public in an easy, fun and organised manner – hence, why she joined Klarity. She hopes her unique, creative and quirky writing style will ignite the love of science in many whilst putting a smile on their faces.

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Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
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