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Obesophobia: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment

Obesophobia or obesophobia, which is also known as pocrescophobia, is the fear of gaining weight. This phobia is most common in teenage girls, although boys can get it too.

As with all phobias, obesophobia is a type of anxiety disorder. Phobias involve an intense and irrational fear of certain objects, places or situations.

In people with obesophobia, talking or thinking about gaining weight makes the person feel excessive anxiety. The sufferer may also experience extreme fear in situations related to gaining weight, such as being near a scale.

If you are afraid of gaining weight, the person with Obesophobia might try hard to avoid it. It increases the risk of developing an eating disorder, or it could be a sign someone has one.

Cause Obesophobia


Obesophobia has no clear cause. Reported by Healthline, there are several possible factors, including:

  • Weight stigma: This is the practice of judging people based on their weight. It is an important part of modern Western society that often praises a thin body. Some people may also experience weight stigma from other environmental factors, such as family expectations or peer pressure. Weight stigma generally discriminates against people who are overweight or obese. As a result, this can cause certain individuals to develop a fear of gaining weight.
  • Perfectionist: In a culture that idealizes thin bodies, gaining weight is portrayed as a disability. This can lead to obesophobia, especially in those who really need perfectionism. Perfectionism, like weight stigma, may be related to pressure from friends and family. Some individuals may also have a genetic predisposition for perfectionism.
  • Anxiety disorders: Other types of anxiety disorders can cause obesophobia. For example, obesophobia may stem from social anxiety disorder which involves a fear of social rejection. Individuals may be afraid of gaining weight because of societal attitudes towards weight gain.
  • Personal experience: Obesophobia could be due to personal experience. If you are ridiculed for your weight or appearance, you may associate the weight gain with negative judgment. This can make you afraid of gaining weight.

Symptoms Obesophobia

Reported by Verywell Health, someone with obesophobia will often avoid or be afraid to talk about weight gain or experience panic attacks if they gain weight. People with this phobia may prefer to bring their own food or avoid social situations where high-calorie foods are served.

A person with a phobia of weight gain may also:

  • Excessive exercise to compensate for food consumption.
  • Overuse of laxatives or diuretics.
  • Counting calories obsessively.
  • Frequently weighing.
  • Avoid eating.
  • Underweight or malnourished.
  • Dislike or avoid being around overweight people.
  • A person with obesophobia, like other phobias, may experience the following symptoms when

Experiencing weight gain in a related situation:

  • Hard to breathe.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • shaking.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Feeling faint, dizzy, or lightheaded.
  • Nausea or stomach pain.
  • Strong urge to escape.


There is no test to diagnose a phobia of weight gain. Quoting the Cleveland Clinic, doctors can diagnose this condition based on discussions with patients about:

  • Symptoms and how long they last.
  • How these symptoms affect life.
  • In fact, many people think about their weight and want to lose it.

However, for the diagnosis of obesophobia, the fear must reach:

  • Causes extreme anxiety.
  • Significantly triggers stress or interferes with daily life.
  • Have had it for at least 6 months.
  • Being disproportionate to any actual weight-related issues.
  • Avoiding specific situations that involve eating.
  • Presenting physical symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks.


People with obesophobia should speak with a health care provider to make sure the condition is being managed properly and to prevent other disorders. Treatments that may be received include:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is structured psychotherapy that can help a person understand and control thoughts and emotions. This talk therapy can help get rid of negative thoughts that arise when someone thinks about gaining weight. Over time, they may be able to change emotions related to food, exercise and weight.

Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy, sometimes called desensitization, helps a person gradually deal with fear. The therapist may gradually expose the patient to the idea of eating well or gaining the appropriate weight to be healthy in a controlled environment. This therapy starts with something less scary, like looking at photos of people who are not too thin. Finally, the patient may be asked to think about increasing portions or eating something high in calories. Through increased exposure, a person can learn to manage obesophobia and maintain a healthy weight.

Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy can put a person in a trance-like state but is focused. A person under hypnosis is more open to suggestions and changes. A hypnotist may be able to help the hypnotized person become less afraid of gaining healthy weight.

Medications: Various anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications can reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression if they interfere with life. However, drugs are not a cure for obesophobia.

Complications and risk factors

The main complication of obesophobia is an unhealthy obsession with weight and food. This increases the risk of developing eating disorders, which are serious conditions characterized by harmful eating behaviors.

Several types of eating disorders involve obesophobia. This includes:

  1. Anorexia nervosa

People with anorexia nervosa have a strong fear of gaining weight. They also may think they are overweight, even if they are abnormally underweight.

Along with obesophobia, common symptoms include:

  • Very thin body.
  • Distorted body image.
  • Obsession with body weight and shape.
  • Very limited food intake.
  • Excessive exercise.
  • Using laxatives or diuretics.
  • Forced vomiting.

However, anorexia nervosa involves more than problems with diet or weight. For people with this condition, extreme dieting and weight loss are ways to deal with underlying emotional issues.

Due to severe caloric deficiency, anorexia nervosa can lead to serious complications such as muscle wasting and multiorgan failure.

  1. Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa involves repeated episodes of bingeing and purging. Bingeing is eating a lot of food in a short time, often without control, whereas purging is wasting extra calories with one or more unhealthy behaviors, such as:

  • Forced vomiting.
  • Excessive exercise.
  • Using laxatives or diuretics.
  • Fast.

This behavior is related to obesophobia. Other bulimia symptoms include:

  • Extreme criticism of a person’s weight and body shape.
  • Intense mood swings.
  • Hiding food to overeat.
  • Anxiety about food.
  • Avoiding situations involving food
  • A person with bulimia may be slightly underweight, moderate weight, or overweight.

Purging disorders

Obesophobia can cause purging disorder, which involves purging without overeating. Episodes of purging, which are recurrent, may involve:

  • Forced vomiting.
  • Excessive exercise.
  • Using laxatives or diuretics.
  • Fast.
  • In many cases, this behavior is done to control body weight and shape.

Obesophobia is the fear of gaining weight. It is a specific phobia that causes an irrational and persistent fear of gaining weight.

If you suspect you have this phobia, consider seeing a doctor. Later, you may be referred to a mental health service provider or therapist who can plan specific treatment.

Treatment for obesophobia includes CBT, drugs, and exposure therapy. Many sufferers also benefit from joining a support group to improve coping skills or meditate to relieve anxiety. Treatment options are available to help reduce or completely overcome the symptoms associated with obesophobia.

It is important to remember that there is an expectation and that the right treatment can significantly reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

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