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Mageirocophobia

Fear of Cooking

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Updated January 09, 2009

Mageirocophobia, or fear of cooking, can take many forms. Some people are only afraid of cooking for large groups, while others are afraid of whipping up scrambled eggs for themselves. Mageirocophobia is extremely common, although it is only considered a phobia when it is severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Types of Mageirocophobia

Most people with a fear of cooking are actually afraid of one or more elements or possible outcomes of the cooking process. If your mageirocophobia is severe, however, you may find that most or all of these elements apply to you.

  • Fear of Causing Illness – This appears to be the most common cooking phobia of all. It is true that there are a number of possible foodborne illnesses, and media coverage has led us to believe that they are quite common. People who have this fear are generally afraid of contamination, spoilage and/or undercooking. This fear may be more common in those who do not fully understand the reasoning behind many “food rules,” as well as those who spend a lot of time reading about foodborne illnesses.

  • Fear of Serving Inedible Food – This phobia can be divided into many factors. A lot of cooks are overwhelmed by seasoning options. They do not trust their own abilities to mix flavors or determine the best choices for each dish. Many cooks fear overcooking or having their food turn out dry or soggy.

  • Presentation Concerns – Some cooks are perfectionists. They may worry over how the food looks, whether the glasses are entirely spot-free and even whether the tablecloth is perfectly centered. This phobia seems to be triggered most often when giving a dinner party or otherwise entertaining at home. However, some cooks experience this even when cooking for close family.

  • Fear of the Cooking Process – Many cooks worry about cutting themselves, burning themselves or having other difficulties with the process. Some are afraid of techniques that they do not fully understand, from blanching to poaching.

  • Fear of Recipes – Some cooks are intimidated by recipes that seem complicated or overly long. They may question their ability to perform all of the steps or worry that they will miss a step.

Complications of Mageirocophobia

Many people are able to successfully cope with mild to moderate mageirocophobia simply by avoiding the specific elements of cooking that make them nervous. However, more severe cases of the phobia can become life-limiting. Living with any phobia can eventually lead to complications ranging from depression to other anxiety disorders. In addition, the kitchen plays an important emotional role in many people’s lives, making mageirocophobia particularly devastating.

Many families and groups of friends enjoy getting together for meals, particularly during the holidays. These events are often potluck in nature, and it can feel awkward to always be the one bringing napkins or potato chips. Alternately, some groups take turns hosting elaborate dinner parties, and the inability to reciprocate can make you feel inadequate.

In addition, many people become concerned about their mageirocophobia when they have children. You might feel a responsibility to feed your kids healthy, home-cooked meals, and experience guilt or anxiety when that does not happen.

Some people with this phobia marry someone who loves to cook. At first, your partner may truly enjoy cooking for you. Over time, though, he or she might begin to resent never having a day off from this duty. You might also begin to feel guilty or even dependent, as your partner is providing your sustenance.

Treating Mageirocophobia

Depending on its severity, the fear of cooking can be treated in a variety of ways. If your phobia is severe or life-limiting, cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you learn to replace your fears with more positive self-talk. Medications can be helpful in bringing a truly stubborn phobia under control.

Once your phobia is no longer overwhelming, you might find that learning and practicing new kitchen skills is helpful. However, trying to force yourself through the phobia can actually make it worse, as cooking requires a fairly steep learning curve. It is important to be psychologically ready to handle the inevitable mistakes before proceeding, or you may actually make the phobia worse.

With proper treatment, mageirocophobia can be successfully managed. See “Finding a Therapist” for tips on choosing a reliable mental health professional.

Source:

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

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