What Is Mageirocophobia?

  • Nikitha VadiMaster of Science - MS, Cardiovascular Science, University of Glasgow

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Mageriocophobia is the fear of cooking or the perception of wanting to cook. It originates from an individual pursuing perfection in his/her tasks and not being receptive to mistakes. When someone experiences mageriocophobia, they experience anxiety or avoid cooking altogether.1

Mageriocophobia is a specific phobia that stems from a fear of cooking or fear of a particular situation. Phobias are generally circumstances that could bring apprehension and unwanted stress. In severe cases, individuals may freeze or suffer panic attacks upon facing their phobia. Studies have shown that this specific phobia is reflected in other mental health disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and perfectionism. Individuals aspire to be perfect and are afraid of making mistakes in the kitchen that could lead to fires, food poisoning, unappetizing food, injuries, and stress. Consequently, people find it difficult to perform daily tasks due to this unprecedented phobia.1

Overview 

Cooking has been a foremost hobby for many people. It cultivates new techniques and brings content during stressful circumstances. In this day and age, cooking is also a necessary skill to acquire in order to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. However, some experience severe apprehension and unwanted stress when indulging in this habit due to their persistent fear of stepping into the kitchen. This is known as mageirocophobia which presents with extreme fear and anxiety when the individual is involved in a cooking situation.1 The perception of cooking may bring about trepidation and affect quality of life. It may also result in challenges faced on a daily basis, as people resort to eating out or ordering in. In general, the phobia comprises doubtfulness about cooking for themselves, a specific dish or in front of an audience. It is often regarded as a learned behaviour where the individual was affected by trauma-inducing experience with cooking or factors such as genetic or environment.2

Causes of mageirocophobia

The risk factors of mageirocophobia have not been extensively studied. Having said that, most phobias originate from conditioned environmental situations. Other factors such as genetic and hereditary do play a role in influencing an individual’s phobia. Some of the possible causes of mageirocophobia are personality traits, anxiety-related disorders, pressure from family members, challenges when preparing a meal and failures from experimenting in the kitchen.3

Environmental factors in mageirocophobia are predominantly based on kitchen experiences. When individuals face failures from previous experimentation in the kitchen, they become overwhelmed and exhibit low self-esteem. Some face difficulty in following a recipe due to its length, level of complication, ingredients required, preparation time as well as the effort required for the recipe. Therefore, when the outcome does not meet their expectations or presents a varying resemblance to the outcome presented in the recipe, the fear is intensified. Since cooking often requires stepwise directions that involve multiple cooking equipment, people are wary of injuring themselves, or burning themselves and worrying about the usage of instruments that they are not familiar with. Similarly, the end product of cooking might not reach their expectations in regard to taste and texture. The recurring thoughts of food being bland or overcooked/undercooked cause them to distance themselves further from cooking. They overtime become insecure and unsure of their decisions to make regarding spices, proportions and products.3  

The fear of contamination is also a part of mageirocophobia, as people are scared of getting ill from the food that they have prepared. This might be due to being acutely aware of the contamination incidents in news or books which instil mageirocophobia. People who suffer from eating disorders view consumption of food as a negative practice and gradually become averse to cooking.2

A Hereditary history of mood disorders is a predetermining factor in mageirocophobia. If the individual has a family history of anxiety disorders, it is a strong risk factor for phobias being passed down. At times, an individual who exhibits narcissism worries about creating a perfect dish. If failed, they create an anxiety-provoking scenario for themselves which slowly develops into a fear for cooking. As aforementioned, anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, general anxiety disorder, social phobia and panic disorder often present as leeway to mageirocophobia.2

Signs and symptoms of mageirocophobia 

The symptoms of mageirocophobia vary in intensity and range. It serves as a guideline for a definitive diagnosis of the phobia. The common psychological symptoms include anxiety when thinking of cooking or seeing someone cook, avoidant behaviour when having to cook or seeing someone cook, irrational level of anxiety, panic attacks and occupying oneself with work. Other physical symptoms range from increased heart palpitations, rapid breathing, muscle tension, sweating, hypertension, dry mouth, nausea, diarrhoea, and stress.2 These symptoms affect the quality of life as it becomes challenging to function in their day-to-day life. 

Management and treatment for mageirocophobia 

The treatment of mageirocophobia depends on its severity. If it is severe or life-threatening, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy are applied which helps to replace the fear with positive reassurance.4 The former is a psychological treatment that improves functionality and quality of life through efforts to change thinking patterns. It involves approaches to face one’s fears instead of avoiding them, using role-playing to prepare for potentially problematic interactions with others and acquiring a calm and relaxed mind. It mainly emphasizes the current situation in the person’s life and the coping mechanisms that could be applied to improve the stressful circumstances.5 Once the phobia becomes less overwhelming, they may utilise these strategies in the kitchen. Exposure therapy is also another common form of treatment for phobias. It is a form of behavioural therapy to break the cycle of fear and avoidance by exposing the individual to face the source of fear in a controlled environment. It aims to overcome the phobia so that when a situation arises in reality, the person can curb the anxiety. The therapist might begin by showing photos of someone cooking and eventually exposing them to cooking food for themselves. With repeated exposure, this therapy aims to desensitise them to their fear. Furthermore, exposure therapy is known to target obsessive-compulsive disorder which is also a correlating risk factor of mageirocophobia.6

Medications are not the first-line treatment for mageirocophobia, as therapies are normally more effective and do not possess any side effects. Having said that, medications are given to treat the effects of phobias such as anxiety. The three common types of medication are antidepressants, tranquilisers and beta-blockers. There are other self-help approaches that one could take to control the anxiety. These range from breathing exercises, meditation, mindfulness, yoga and consuming less caffeine.4 Lifestyle changes such as cessation of smoking and alcohol help to manage symptoms related to mageirocophobia. 

Diagnosis 

The diagnosis of mageirocophobia is challenging as there is no definitive guideline for it. Studies have shown that people with this phobia are often aware of it and those who live with mageirocophobia without a formal diagnosis take great care to avoid it. The diagnosis of mageirocophobia is based solely on symptom clusters, and it could be misdiagnosed for other conditions such as generalised anxiety disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

Having said that, an appointment with a general practitioner and a specialist with expertise in behavioural therapy such as a psychologist would help in the diagnosis of mageirocophobia. During the clinical procedure, the symptoms to diagnose a specific anxiety disorder are based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.4 In certain clinics, brain SPECT imaging is part of a comprehensive evaluation to accurately diagnose mageirocophobia in order to get a personalised treatment plan. 

FAQs

How can I prevent mageirocophobia?

There are no definitive ways to prevent mageirocophobia as it is sometimes an ingrained condition due to other comorbid disorders or hereditary factors. Having said that, the first step in overcoming the phobia is to understand and be aware of it. It is advisable to get a formal diagnosis through a general practitioner or a specialist and get supportive treatment through cognitive behavioural therapy and exposure therapy. 

How common is mageirocophobia?

Mageirocophobia is not a common phobia, compared to arachnophobia or ophidiophobia which are the fear of spiders and snakes, respectively. Although uncommon, it is important to raise awareness of the phobia and destigmatise mageirocophobia. 

Who is at risk of mageirocophobia?

Anyone can be at risk of mageirocophobia, but certain risk factors, such as hereditary and environmental factors do play a significant role in mageirocophobia. For instance, if there is a family history of mageirocophobia, the person is more inclined to attain it compared to someone who does not have a family history of mageirocophobia. 

What can I expect if I have mageirocophobia?

The symptoms are often anxiety-inducing such as heart palpitations, panic disorders, sweating, nausea and vomiting, and rapid breathing. 

When should I see a doctor?

It is advisable to see a doctor when you realise you have certain signs and symptoms that signify a phobia in a stressful situation. This would help in understanding the issue and seeking the necessary supportive treatment for mageirocophobia. 

Summary

In conclusion, phobias are a genuine distress for an individual. However, they are treatable in most cases and often the source of fear is avoidable, given an accurate diagnosis is confirmed by the physician. In certain cases, the phobia is not avoidable due to correlated mental disorders and it is important to create a supportive environment for the person so that they overcome the phobia. We shall be hopeful that such phobias have more awareness in this community and bring a positive step forward to overcome them. 

References

  1. Cleveland Clinic [Internet]. [cited 2024 Jan 11]. Mageirocophobia (Fear of cooking): symptoms & treatment. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22370-mageirocophobia
  2. Meshram R. Understanding mageirocophobia aka the fear of cooking [Internet]. ThePleasantMind.com. 2023 [cited 2024 Jan 12]. Available from: https://thepleasantmind.com/mageirocophobia/
  3. Mageirocophobia: 11 signs, causes and ways to overcome [Internet]. [cited 2024 Jan 12]. Available from: https://mind.help/topic/mageirocophobia/
  4. Johnson E. What is Mageirocophobia? [Internet]. CPD Online College. 2022 [cited 2024 Jan 12]. Available from: https://cpdonline.co.uk/knowledge-base/mental-health/what-is-mageirocophobia/
  5. https://www.apa.org [Internet]. [cited 2024 Jan 12]. What is cognitive behavioral therapy? Available from: https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral
  6. Verywell Mind [Internet]. [cited 2024 Jan 12]. What is exposure therapy? Available from: https://www.verywellmind.com/exposure-therapy-definition-techniques-and-efficacy-5190514

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Nikitha Vadi

Master of Science - MS, Cardiovascular Science, University of Glasgow

Nikitha is a dedicated postgraduate student specializing in cardiovascular sciences. Her academic journey reflects a deep-seated interest in research, particularly within the realm of evidence-based medicine. Her expertise lies in navigating the intricacies of vascular and cellular biology, and she actively contributes to the intersection of practical healthcare solutions.

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