What Is Turophobia

  • Jason Ha 2nd Year Medical Student, University of Bristol


Although not common in adulthood, the irrational fear of cheese exists and even has a name - turophobia.1 It is classed as a specific phobia; an intense and disproportionate irrational fear of a specific object, animal, place, or situation. In the case of turophobia, phobics are often unable to eat or touch cheese and find discomfort being around cheese. In extreme cases, a person with turophobia may also find themselves uncomfortable around other white “cheese-like” objects, words, or phrases.1 The word “turophobia” originates from the Greek words for cheese (tyros) and fear (phobos). Turophobia is often linked to cibophobia (the fear of food) and phagophobia (the fear of swallowing).

Symptoms of Turophobia

Those who suffer from turophobia will often go out of their way to avoid the trigger of their panic, in this case, cheese. It may be the texture, the taste, or the smell, and if cheese cannot be avoided, sufferers of turophobia may experience the following physical and/or psychological symptoms:

Physical symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Trembling
  • Hot flushes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • Feeling faint
  • Disorientation

Psychological symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Avoidance behaviours and withdrawal
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Confusion
  • Sadness
  • Sense of dread

Causes of Turophobia

As with most phobias, the exact causes of turophobia are not known. It is thought that turophobia often develops after traumatic experiences with cheese, usually occurring in childhood. A person with turophobia may have had past negative experiences with the taste, smell, or texture of cheese. Cheese may have been the stimulus for a choking incident or foodborne illness. The traumatic event may not have occurred to the phobic themselves, perhaps they witnessed a negative occurrence involving cheese. Lactose intolerance and other food allergies may also play roles in the development of turophobia. 

Phobias can also develop as a “learnt behaviour”. An individual may become turophobic by seeing others experience symptoms of panic and fear in response to cheese. This learnt behaviour may also arise in response to cultural or religious beliefs. In some cultures, the consumption of cheese is taboo, a perspective adding to the negative connotations of cheese.

Additionally, there is a genetic basis to phobias, with children of parents with mental disorders more likely to develop their own mental disorders, including anxiety caused by specific phobias.2

Diagnosis of Turophobia

Turophobia can be diagnosed by a medical professional, according to the DMS-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) criterion. Experience of the relevant symptoms for longer than six months, causing severe distress and a significant negative impact on day-to-day life will result in a diagnosis of turophobia.

Following a diagnosis, a treatment plan can be created to reduce the fear and anxiety regarding cheese.

Treatment options


Talking therapies are very useful options for treating phobias. This often includes a type of therapy called cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), known to be extremely beneficial in the treatment of food phobias in children.3 This type of therapy helps to identify the thoughts leading to panic and enables the patient to understand these feelings and develop strategies to challenge and overcome these fears. As part of CBT, exposure therapy may also be utilised. The gradual exposure of a phobic individual to the source of their anxiety can help to relieve the panic via desensitisation and develop a neutral response to the stimulus, in the case of turophobia, cheese. 


Medication (specifically anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [SSRIs]) can also be used to manage the anxiety symptoms associated with phobias, although they cannot help combat and overcome the phobia itself. A health professional should always be consulted before taking medications.

Support groups

Self-help groups can be a great support network for connecting with those experiencing the same phobia. These don’t have to be in person and virtual support groups are available. Additionally, having open communication with friends, family, or colleagues can help to relieve stress and reduce the anxiety surrounding the fear, in this case, cheese. Sharing fears can remove the intensity of the panic and allow for methods to cope with the anxious feelings.

Coping strategies

Managing stress levels is a great way to control anxiety and learn to cope with the panic often felt with turophobia. 

  • Relaxation techniques: Attempting deep breathing exercises may help to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as relieve tension. The practice of progressive muscle relaxation and yoga have the same effect
  • Mindfulness and meditation: Meditation is another activity which with practice can aid in stress relief and better coping methods. Mindfulness may also help to redirect the thoughts of panic away from cheese, and the symptoms of anxiety may become reduced
  • Mindful eating practices: Mindful eating is a specific subsection of mindfulness, focusing on the deliberate and thoughtful choice of foods.4 It encourages a person to become more aware of what they eat and promotes eating food that provides nourishment, without judgement. This can ease anxieties surrounding food, and culture a healthier relationship with eating

Impact on daily life

Fear is common and normal, yet when it develops into a phobia, it can have a huge impact on daily life. Experiencing panic in response to a situation likely lacking danger, especially one that involves food, can have massive implications on a person’s social life and diet.

Turophobia may lead to the avoidance of situations whereby the phobic individual may encounter cheese. For example, social gatherings where food will be present may be avoided, or the individual will not attend gatherings at restaurants. If the phobic individual does attend, they may be uncomfortable and not able to enjoy themselves. Not only does this affect the turophobic individual’s enjoyment, but this may induce a negative strain on their relationships and result in social isolation.

Avoidance of cheese may also play a role in disordered eating. The phobia of cheese may lead to unusual eating habits and compulsive behaviour. Cheese is a major ingredient in many dishes worldwide, and those with turophobia may significantly limit their food intake to avoid eating cheese. Additionally, key essential nutrients may be lost from the diet by the exclusion of certain foods, including calcium, folate, niacin, vitamin B12, conjugated linoleic acids, phospholipids, saturated fats, and beneficial probiotic bacteria.5,6,7

Case studies

Although not a commonly studied phobia, there are case studies surrounding the use of therapy and medication to overcome turophobia. For example, one study by Sönmez focused on a 20-year-old patient from Turkey.1 Since childhood, this individual could not eat, touch, smell, or look at cheese without experiencing nausea, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and dizziness. If accidentally eating cheese, this individual had to go to the toilet, vomit, drink water, and wash their teeth. She could not eat food that had been contained in the same refrigerator as cheese and could not walk past aisles containing cheese in the supermarket. The mother of the turophobic worked with animals and made cheese. Her mother’s occupation led the turophobic to constantly urge her mother to wash her hands and wipe light switches with a cloth, otherwise, she would not be able to use them. To overcome turophobia, this patient attended a psychiatric clinic, where she was diagnosed with “Specific Phobia”, “Major Depressive Disorder” and “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder”, and prescribed anti-anxiety and antidepressant medication. She also received CBT and was found to be able to look at and touch cheese after just 20 days of treatment. Previous behaviours revolving around the avoidance of cheese (e.g. having breakfast alone and not with the family) were also decreased. 

The use of medication and therapy can be successful in reducing anxiety related to the extreme fear of cheese.


What is the cause of turophobia?

Like most phobias, the cause of the phobia is unknown, however, specific phobias are likely triggered by traumatic past experiences, often in childhood.1 Phobias are also known to have a genetic basis, so it is likely one or both of your parents are also diagnosed with a specific phobia.2

Is turophobia a real phobia?

Yes, turophobia is a real phobia. It is characterised as the irrational and disproportionate fear of cheese.

How do I get over my fear of cheese?

There are many ways to combat turophobia. Therapy, including cognitive-behavioural therapy and exposure therapy, can help you understand your fear and challenge the thoughts and feelings that lead to panic. Medications used to treat anxiety and depression may also help to manage the symptoms of anxiety associated with turophobia.


Turophobia is a real phobia, characterised by the irrational and disproportionate fear of cheese. There is no specific known cause for turophobia, but like many other phobias, it may develop in response to traumatic experiences, especially in childhood. Turophobia does not have to be completely debilitating, and there are many methods to manage turophobia, including therapy, medication, and the practice of stress-relieving activities. 


  • Sönmez D, Avcı İK, Hocaoglu C. A rare known specific phobia ‘turophobia’: a case report. Eastern J Med [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Nov 10];27(4):668–71. Available from: https://jag.journalagent.com/z4/download_fulltext.asp?pdir=ejm&plng=eng&un=EJM-89577
  • Rapee RM, Creswell C, Kendall PC, Pine DS, Waters AM. Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents: A summary and overview of the literature. Behaviour Research and Therapy [Internet]. 2023 Sep 1 [cited 2023 Nov 10];168:104376. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005796723001249
  • Nelson JB. Mindful eating: the art of presence while you eat. Diabetes Spectrum [Internet]. 2017 Aug 1 [cited 2023 Nov 10];30(3):171–4. Available from: https://diabetesjournals.org/spectrum/article/30/3/171/32398/Mindful-Eating-The-Art-of-Presence-While-You-Eat
  • Singer LT, Ambuel B, Wade S, Jaffe AC. Cognitive-behavioral treatment of health-impairing food phobias in children. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry [Internet]. 1992 Sep [cited 2023 Nov 10];31(5):847–52. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10249066/
  • Nájera AI, Nieto S, Barron LJR, Albisu M. A review of the preservation of hard and semi-hard cheeses: quality and safety. Int J Environ Res Public Health [Internet]. 2021 Sep 17 [cited 2023 Nov 10];18(18):9789. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8469587/
  • Gomes da Cruz A, Alonso Buriti FC, Batista de Souza CH, Fonseca Faria JA, Isay Saad SM. Probiotic cheese: Health benefits, technological and stability aspects. Trends in Food Science & Technology [Internet]. 2009 Aug 1 [cited 2023 Nov 10];20(8):344–54. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924224409001770
  • Torres-Gonzalez M, Rice Bradley BH. Whole-milk dairy foods: biological mechanisms underlying beneficial effects on risk markers for cardiometabolic health. Adv Nutr. 2023 Sep 7;S2161-8313(23)01364-9. 
    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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    Holly Stowell-Connolly

    PhD – Translational Health Sciences, University of Bristol, UK

    Holly is a post-doctoral researcher, currently working to develop treatments to halt the damage caused to the kidney in diabetes. She is passionate about understanding how the kidney becomes damaged in diseases such as diabetes and has spent her academic career performing this research into kidney disease at the University of Bristol, where she performed her PhD, and the University of Exeter, where she gained her Bachelors.

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