What Is Lachanophobia?

Many of us might dislike vegetables and would rather eat something else, but for some, the mere sight, smell, or even thought of a vegetable can cause intense fear and anxiety. Although you might find this difficult to imagine, this irrational fear of vegetables - known as lachanophobia - is real and can have a debilitating effect on how many people live their lives. This article will look at this unusual phobia in more detail, what might cause it, and how it can be treated or managed to help you cope with everyday life.


Lachanophobia refers to an intense and irrational fear of vegetables. While it might seem odd at first, this phobia is a very real and very challenging experience for those who suffer from it. The prefix “lachano-” originates from the Greek word “lachanon” meaning vegetable, and “-phobia” from the Greek word “phobos” meaning fear or aversion. Many people dislike vegetables and try to avoid eating them if they can, but lachanophobia extends beyond a simple dislike, evolving into a debilitating anxiety that can significantly impact an individual’s daily life.

Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder characterised by irrational fear and anxiety about a specific situation or object - in the case of lachanophobia, this object is a vegetable. Phobias are more than just common fears, they are irrational and excessive anxieties that can lead to distress and avoidance behaviour. Individuals with lachanophobia often experience distress triggered by encounters with vegetables. Triggers can vary widely between individuals, from the texture and appearance of specific vegetables to the smell, or even the mere thought of consuming them. 

While lachanophobia might not be as common as more widely recognised phobias, such as arachnophobia (fear of spiders) or claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces), its impact on those affected can be profound. Aside from the debilitating impact on mental health, lachanophobia can cause individuals to become malnourished, impacting on a person’s physical health. This is because vegetables are an important part of maintaining a balanced diet and are the source of many essential vitamins and minerals.

What causes lachanophobia?

There is no single reason for why some people develop lachanophobia. It is thought that phobias can be caused by a combination of different environmental and genetic factors. Here are a few potential causes:

  • Traumatic past experience: Phobias can often be traced back to an early traumatic or negative childhood experience involving the specific object. For example, choking on a pea as a child or witnessing a distressing event related to vegetables can cause an intense fear of vegetables which can persist into adulthood1
  • Learned childhood behaviour: Watching a parent, caregiver, or family member show fear or even disgust towards certain vegetables can cause a child to learn to have a similar response, associating this vegetable with fear and distress2
  • Genetics: Genetic factors are thought to play a role in the predisposition to phobias. If you have a family history of specific phobias or anxiety disorders, you might have an increased likelihood of developing lachanophobia3

What are the symptoms of lachanophobia?

Here are some of the common symptoms often experienced by individuals diagnosed with lachanophobia.

Emotional response

Lachanophobia triggers a range of emotional responses, including:

  • Anxiety: People might experience anything from mild unease to intense anxiety or panic attacks when confronted with their fear
  • Fear: People might experience overwhelming dread, a sense of impending doom, or an irrational fear that goes beyond the actual threat of a vegetable

Physical reactions

There are many different physical symptoms of lachanophobia which vary largely between individuals. These might include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Nausea 
  • Lightheaded
  • Short of breath

These reactions are your body’s instinctual response to the perceived threat, heightening the overall distress experienced by people affected by this phobia.

Behavioural manifestations

In an attempt to avoid the source of their fear, people with lachanophobia may exhibit specific behavioural patterns and avoidance behaviours which can significantly impact their social and professional lives. This might include:

  • Meticulous meal planning to avoid an encounter with vegetables
  • Refusal to eat meals in certain settings or around others
  • Complete avoidance of places where vegetables are present, such as grocery stores or restaurants 

How is lachanophobia diagnosed?

Diagnosing lachanophobia involves recognising this consistent and excessive fear response towards vegetables. Mental health professionals typically use certain diagnostic criteria to aid this diagnosis, including the duration and intensity of symptoms. This is vital to differentiate between a general dislike for vegetables and a diagnosable phobia. 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) outlines several primary criteria necessary to diagnose a specific phobia, including:4

  • Marked fear or anxiety associated with a specific object or situation
  • The phobic object almost always causes immediate fear or anxiety
  • The phobic object is actively avoided or causes feelings of intense anxiety or fear when unable to be avoided
  • The fear, anxiety, or avoidance behaviours about the specific object are sustained, typically lasting over 6 months
  • The phobia causes significant distress or impairs functioning in other areas of life, such as work or school
  • The level of fear or anxiety is considered excessive when compared to the actual threat posed by the situation

Importantly, lachanophobia cannot be diagnosed if these symptoms can be better explained by another mental health disorder such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or a different anxiety disorder (e.g. social anxiety disorder). 

Many people who experience phobias such as lachanophobia are aware of their problem without a formal diagnosis and try to live their lives continually avoiding the object they are afraid of. This can make the situation worse and it is important to ask your healthcare provider for help if you believe you have a phobia. 

How can lachanophobia be treated?

Avoiding vegetables is difficult in a normal daily life and can be detrimental to your physical health, as well as mental health. This is because  vegetables are an important part of a balanced diet. Therefore, it is recommended that you seek professional help and advice about the different treatment options available to treat lachanophobia. There are several treatment options available:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): CBT is an effective approach for treating anxiety disorders in general, as well as for specific phobias such as lachanophobia. This form of counselling helps you to identify and challenge any negative or irrational thought processes about vegetables and gradually replace them with more rational and adaptive ones5
  • Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy is a form of CBT which involves gradually exposing you to your feared vegetable or vegetables in a safe and controlled environment with the help of a professional. You might work up from looking at a picture of a vegetable, to seeing or touching a vegetable, with the final step eventually eating a vegetable. This gradual exposure helps to desensitise an individual to their fear, reducing their anxiety towards vegetables over time6
  • Medication: While medication is not the primary treatment for phobias, anti-anxiety medications (e.g. escitalopram, sertraline) or beta blockers (e.g. propranolol) may be prescribed in cases where the symptoms are severe and significantly impacting day-to-day living. These medications can cause side effects such as nausea, headaches, and insomnia, so a risk-benefit analysis should be carried out7

It is important to speak to your healthcare provider about the different treatments and potential medication options available to you if you feel like your phobia is significantly impacting your life. 

Coping strategies for individuals with lachanophobia

Self-help and coping strategies can complement formal treatment approaches to help manage the fear and anxiety caused by lachanophobia. Techniques might include: 

It is important to make practical lifestyle adjustments, such as adopting a balanced and varied diet accommodating individual preferences, to reduce some of the challenges associated with living with lachanophobia. Working with a nutritionist or dietician can be useful to provide guidance in developing a healthy and manageable eating plan. 


How common is lachanophobia?

Phobias in general are common, with around 13% of people in the United Kingdom reported to suffer from some kind of phobia. However, the prevalence of specific phobias, such as lachanophobia, are not generally reported. Lachanophobia is a much less common phobia compared to other phobias, such as arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and acrophobia (fear of heights). 

How can I prevent lachanophobia? 

Early intervention is key to preventing the development or escalation of lachanophobia. Educating parents, caregivers, and educators (e.g. schools) about the importance of exposing children to a variety of foods in a positive and non-coercive manner can contribute to a healthy relationship with vegetables and reduce the risk of phobic responses. 

What is the difference between lachanophobia and cibophobia?

Cibophobia is the fear of food and can include the fear of many different foods or it can be the fear of specific foods. In contrast, lachanophobia is the specific fear of vegetables. 


Lachanophobia is a type of specific phobia, characterised by an intense and irrational fear of vegetables. This is a real and debilitating condition that can have a significant mental,  emotional, and physical impact on those affected. 

Symptoms of lachanophobia can include emotional distress, physical manifestations of panic attacks, and avoidance behaviours. However, by recognising the signs and symptoms of this condition, seeking professional help, and exploring the different treatment and coping strategies available, those struggling with lachanophobia can work to overcome this fear and improve their quality of life.


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  2. Zinbarg RE, Williams AL, Mineka S. A current learning theory approach to the etiology and course of anxiety and related disorders. Annu Rev Clin Psychol [Internet]. 2022 May 9 [cited 2023 Nov 28];18(1):233–58. Available from: https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-072220-021010
  3. Kendler KS, Neale MC, Kessler RC, Heath AC, Eaves LJ. The genetic epidemiology of phobias in women: the interrelationship of agoraphobia, social phobia, situational phobia, and simple phobia. Archives of General Psychiatry [Internet]. 1992 Apr 1 [cited 2023 Nov 28];49(4):273–81. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.1992.01820040025003
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. National Library of Medicine. 2016 [cited 2023 Nov 28]. Impact of the DSM-IV to DSM-5 Changes on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519704/table/ch3.t11/
  5. Paquette V, Lévesque J, Mensour B, Leroux JM, Beaudoin G, Bourgouin P, et al. “Change the mind and you change the brain”: effects of cognitive-behavioral therapy on the neural correlates of spider phobia. NeuroImage [Internet]. 2003 Feb 1 [cited 2023 Nov 28];18(2):401–9. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811902000307
  6. Odgers K, Kershaw KA, Li SH, Graham BM. The relative efficacy and efficiency of single- and multi-session exposure therapies for specific phobia: A meta-analysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy [Internet]. 2022 Dec 1 [cited 2023 Nov 28];159:104203. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005796722001747
  7. Garakani A, Murrough JW, Freire RC, Thom RP, Larkin K, Buono FD, et al. Pharmacotherapy of anxiety disorders: current and emerging treatment options. Frontiers in Psychiatry [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2023 Nov 28];11. Available from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.595584
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Charlotte Sutherland

Master of Science – MSc Translational Neuroscience, Imperial College London

Charlotte is a recent MSc Translational Neuroscience graduate from Imperial College London where she undertook research investigating antidepressants and Alzheimer’s disease. She has a strong interest in translational research and is aiming to pursue a PhD in the field of neurodegenerative diseases.

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