The word Cacomorphobia – the fear of fat or obese people is derived from Greek caco meaning ugly, morpho meaning shape and phobos meaning fear or aversion. Thus, Cacomorphobia stands for the irrational fear of fat people.
To an extent, the fear of fat people could be related to body image issues which are usually media or culture induced. No one wants or likes a fat body; fat people are rarely shown in movies or on TV unless it is to make a joke about their weight. Cacomorphobes are terrified of fat or obese people; they simply cannot control the terror they experience around such individuals. They often realize that they are being judgmental (often downright mean), and yet they are unable to control the panic attacks they experience at the mere thought or sight of fat people. The phobic might also realize that weight has got nothing to do with a person’s nature. Still, s/he is unable to control the negative thoughts or feeling of dread, revulsion or anxiety around one. Cacomorphobia is a relatievly rare phobia, the intensity of which varies from individual to individual.
Causes of Cacomorphobia
Like in case of other specific phobias, Cacomorphobia also stems from negative or traumatic episodes related to fat/obese people in one’s early age. Most fat people are unable to walk fast or do activities quickly. An obese person might have intimidated a child unknowingly. Many fat people generally tend to suffer from body image issues due to which they overeat or binge. Most are lonely and have depressed mindsets that cause them to be rude to others. A phobic, as a child, might have experienced violence or rudeness from a fat person and this instills a lifelong fear of fat people. A fat or obese kid in school might have bullied the Cacomorphobic which might have induced the phobia.
Sizeism or size discrimination is often confused with the fear of fat people phobia. Size discrimination, however, only leads one to discriminate against a fat person. Many doctors, for example, are known to be ‘disgusted’ by fat people and often refuse to accept them as patients. Cacomorphobia, on the other hand, is the extreme and constant fear of overweight or very large people, and is normally seen in anxious high strung individuals. Their anxious minds make them believe that all fat people are “evil” and out to attack or cause harm.
As stated before, the media also plays a very important role in how people should look ideally. Models, celebrities, and athletes are often showed to have “perfect bodies” and this might lead to a ‘disgust’ response at the sight of fat person. Many phobics, for example, reveal feeling nauseated upon seeing fat people eating or bingeing on high calorie foods at restaurants.
Symptoms of fear of fat people phobia
Cacomorphobia tends to cause various physical and emotional symptoms in the sufferer. These include:
- Accelerated heartbeat, rapid and deep breathing
- Experiencing chills, shivering/trembling
- Experiencing a full blown panic attack-wanting to flee or hide
- Avoidance behavior-going to great lengths to avoid fat people.
- Irritability, depression and agoraphobia are also seen in these phobics.
Mental symptoms include having obsessive thoughts, having difficulty in thinking of anything else other than one’s fear, having mental images about death, dying or being attacked- in general having an exaggerated response but being powerless to control it.
Emotional symptoms of extreme fear of fat people phobia include anticipation anxiety where the person might worry obsessively about encountering fat people. As a result, s/he tries to avoid malls, public places, and restaurants etc where there is greater possibility of seeing them.
Medical/drug intervention is often the only way to overcome this phobia, especially when the fear is interfering with one’s day-to-day life. Sedatives, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medicines often help overcome the symptoms of fear of fat people phobia. However, most psychiatrists avoid prescribing these, owing to their negative side effects like extreme drowsiness etc. Besides, the drugs do not get to the bottom of the Cacomorphobia; rather they provide only symptomatic relief.
Hypnoanalysis or hypnotherapy is a proven therapy known to help the mind attach to different feelings and responses that the phobic has towards fat people.
Behavior and desensitization therapies are two other effective techniques that can help one overcome Cacomorphobia. They include changing one’s response to fat people through gradual exposure in the form of situations, images, pictures and so on.
I was molested multiple times by my cousin, who was overweight when we were kids. Only recently have I made the connection between being repulsed by “fat fingers” with my childhood experience. I should probably talk to a therapist about this, but this article was validating. I don’t want to be repulsed by people who have nothing to do with what happened and apart face a lot of judgment.
My repulsion is actually gluttony. To become or stay fat, one must consume lots and lots of calories. These people are eating, not to live, but just because they like to ingest lots of high-calorie foods and drinks. You cannot get or stay fat unless you’re eating more calories than you need.
That is not true. I ate 1200 calories for a diet and gained weight. The value of the food is what actually counts. Do your research before commenting.
See I don’t “fear” obese people, but I experience a revulsion to seeing obese people. Particularly morbidly obese people. Which is why I was trying to find an answer for that. And I feel absolutely dreadful for this and typically I keep it a dark secret because I honestly don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings what so ever. But I have such a physical response of disgust towards morbidly obese people that I can’t ignore it and I wish I didn’t have this thing. I cringe if someone touches me by accident who is obese. I feel like a monster. I wish I could just get over this.
I feel the same way. Although I don’t cringe away from people, I’ve had to disguise my emotions for so long that I can hold myself in place.
I was looking for a reason why i seem to have the need to create a long string of compliments and excessive flattery to large/obese women. I think it’s because I either feel vulnerable and scared next to the person because of their sheer size coupled with a more authoritative or dominant personality or because i know it isn’t socially acceptable to shame them.
As long as I can remember. Total panic.
Dee D. says
I have this phobia and I feel bad I do relate in the sense that I know I shouldn’t feel this way towards people, but just something is making it really hard to stop this feeling.
I think I have it too, but I’m not so much afraid of overweight people, it’s more like I just get extremely uncomfortable and anxious around them. It probably stems from the fact that I was once obese, but now that I am not anymore, I get very nervous and upset when I am around someone who is very overweight. It makes me even more sad that I feel this way because it is irrational, and it makes me feel like I’m a bad person, because I can personally relate to how bad it feels for someone to get uncomfortable around you because of your weight, but I can’t control it. Which puts me in a vicious cycle of anxiety and depression.
That’s Fatphobia not cacomorphobia. You’re uncomfortable not phobic there’s a difference. Some of us have an incredible fear that impacts our life in a big way. Not judging you at all a lot of people who were overweight struggle with Fatphobia just like gay people can struggle with internalized homophobia.
You are all being insensitive. Fat people do live happy lives too, I know many who do and a fear of them is irrational. We should all learn to accept one another.
It’s called a specific phobia and it’s a mental illness. Don’t shame people. It’s not about not wanting to accept people.
This is a medical condition. It’s unintentional.
Hey May, heh, I like your name. I do agree that we should all accept each other. But despite what you might think, most of us aren’t trying to be hateful. Personally, I am afraid of morbidly obese people for two reasons. 1, my morbidly obese grandmother died when I was young due to diabetes and other health conditions related to obesity. Number 2, my morbidly obese mother was and is very abusive. I guess it’s just my brain making random connections to cope with the stress.
I have nothing against them, many of them probably are wonderful people, and I feel awful that I experience so much anxiety and feeling of disgust whenever I see one. I just wish it could go away. I do my best to cover up my feelings each time I have to interact with someone like this. I absolutely do not want to hurt them in any way. I just want them to be happy, of course. But I almost get panic attacks whenever I see one.
May, I wish it were as simple as being insensitive. I literally have panic attacks around obese people. I tremble, my heart pounds, and I feel as if I cannot breathe. I am well aware of the source, but I do not want to share something so violent and disturbing. I just saw a picture of a family group of horribly obese people with whom I should attend a function. I began violently shaking. It is debilitating. I have been this way my entire life. Please have some compassion for people like me. Can you imagine living in a world that is getting fatter and fatter by the hour?
I have been doing research on “Fear of Fat (Lipohobia)”.
And I end up here and came to know about “Cacomorphobia”. It increased my knowledge.
Thanks for the info.
The Funk says
Surely it should be cacomorphophobia? It doesn’t make sense otherwise lexically.
How sad it is to read this well written very informed article . Sad because in my experience people with phobias tend to think they are fine and the rest of the world is wrong. They all generally refuse to accept that they have a problem and totally refuse treatment or dont stick with it. Everyone suffers because of it.
Oh no, Mary. Those of us that have panic attacks in the presence of obesity do not feel we are fine. I am broken by this phobia. However, no one can argue that being obese is a healthy, attractive choice. I have a problem. I am more than aware.
You guys are crazy you think you are better but you are worse.
OMG I have this phobia! Fat people make me sick.
I definitely do not like the disposition of the average overweight individual. You have heard a semi can’t stop on a dime. Once overweight people start in motion it’s like it’s out of control, like they are operating the Death Star for the first time.
Oh my god. I have been wondering for years why I am scared of fat people, and why I have had nightmares about them since I was like 8. Now I know why! Thanks heaps for this!
Fat people are scary..