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.