Deipnophobia (Fear of Dining or Dinner Conversations)
Deipnophobia is the irrational fear of dining or engaging in dinner conversations. People suffering from this condition will find that merely going out to a restaurant and conversing with someone to be extremely anxiety provoking. In some extreme cases, they may even experience anxiety that is so intrusive and extreme that they may have full blown panic attacks.
Interestingly enough, someone suffering from deipnophobia will experience the aforementioned symptoms when dining only. This means that this disorder is innately different from sitophobia, which is the fear of food or of eating. There is something about the act of dining out or of merely having dinner conversations that give them immense amounts of anxiety.
It is also important to note that someone who merely has an aversion to having dinner conversations is not intimation of them then having full blown deipnophobia as this is a mental illness that is characterized by intense amounts of anxiety that hinders their day to day life.
Though people who suffer from deipnophobia will likely try to avoid dinner conversations or going out to dinner with other people, when in such a situation they may appear to be very standoffish and disinterested. If this were to occur, it would likely be due to them trying to preserve as much equanimity as they can throughout the dinner. However, they would likely avoid such a situation from ever happening.
Symptoms of Deipnophobia
As is the case with virtually any given phobia, anxiety will be the main symptom experienced with someone suffering from full blown deipnophobia. Their anxiety may cause them to immediately enter into a fight or flight state of mind, which has the potential for them experience a panic attack. In such a situation, they can expect to have an increased heart rate, increased rate of breathing, muscle tension, and shakiness, among other symptoms.
Avoidance will likely be a very common behavior in someone experiencing deipnophobia. In fact, avoidance can oftentimes be seen in people suffering from most anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among others. So, someone with deipnophobia may find themselves actively avoiding dining out at restaurants or perhaps simply abstaining from speaking when dining out. Regardless of which type of avoidance method they choose to execute, the long-term results will likely be the same.
Though they will likely experience short term relief from their anxiety when they avoid going to dinner with other people, they may likely be worsening their deipnophobia in the long term due to them reassuring to themselves that avoiding restaurants or not speaking when dining is justified and worthy of being feared and avoided. However, such logic will likely be very counter-intuitive for someone experiencing abysmal anxiety.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of deipnophobia:
Intense anxiety when dining out
Intense anxiety when speaking while dining out
Unable to cope with their anxiety
Muscle tension, shakiness, and sweating
May experience panic attacks
Causes of Deipnophobia
There is no known cause of deipnophobia. However, genetics and one’s environment may play very significant roles. For instance, someone who has a family history of mental illness, especially of phobias may have a higher risk of developing deipnophobia. This may be due to them also having a higher chance of being genetically predisposed to developing mental illness in general.
Besides the genetic side of things, environmental factors may also play a very pertinent role in someone developing an irrational fear of dining out or of talking while dining out. So, someone may develop this condition due to them experiencing some sort of traumatic event while dinning out. For example, they may have been painstakingly embarrassed during a dinner conversation once before, thus causing them to become petrified with fear and to eventually develop deipnophobia.
Though we do not definitively know what causes deipnophobia to develop, the consensus among most mental health professionals is that both genetics and environmental factors play significant roles. So, taking a closer look at these two different parameters may shed some light as to whether or not you may be at risk for developing deipnophobia.
Deipnophobia Treatments (abridged)
Exposure therapy is typically to be one of the best forms of treatment for someone suffering from phobias, especially deipnophobia. This phobia, unlike several others can be effectively treated by means of exposure therapy by having the patient become gradually exposed to their fear over time.
For example, the therapist may expose the patient to their fear of dinner conversations by having a small meal together during their session and to briefly speak throughout it. Though this may not seem like much exposure, for someone suffering from full blown deipnophobia it may be very intimidating. Though difficult, it should also help the patient to gradually become desensitized to their fear over time.
Besides exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may also be beneficial for someone suffering from deipnophobia. CBT may be able to help with their ability to cope with their anxiety, among other things. Such a skill can prove to be extremely advantageous, especially during a panic attack. Besides learning new and effective coping skills, CBT can also be useful for allowing the patient to change the way they think about their fear, thus improving their deipnophobia.
Anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants may also help to reduce the intensity of the symptoms associated with deipnophobia as well. However, merely taking medication alone without the use of any form of therapy may not be very effective for long term treatment as the patient would not have learned how to change the way they think and behave during a dinner conversation. Nevertheless, this is something that should first be discussed by you and your doctor.
If you think you may have deipnophobia or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms described in this article, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated. Upon seeing your doctor, you may be referred to see a specialist such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist for further treatment.
Exercise for Deipnophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including deipnophobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.
According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of deipnophobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.
There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of deipnophobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with deipnophobia over time.
Practicing Yoga for Deipnophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from deipnophobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with deipnophobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.
There are many different types of yoga that someone with deipnophobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with deipnophobia.
If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of deipnophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Reducing Caffeine for Deipnophobia
It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with deipnophobia to experience panic attacks.
So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.
Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with deipnophobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Deipnophobia
DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like deipnophobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.
One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with deipnophobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.
Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with deipnophobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.
Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with deipnophobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your deipnophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Psychiatric Medications for Deipnophobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe deipnophobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.
These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their deipnophobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.
These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as deipnophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of deipnophobia.
These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of deipnophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Deipnophobia
CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with deipnophobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.
CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with deipnophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with deipnophobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.
Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with deipnophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Deipnophobia
MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from deipnophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with deipnophobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.
Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of deipnophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Practicing Meditation for Deipnophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from deipnophobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimeous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.
Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from deipnophobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.
For someone with deipnophobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.
To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of deipnophobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.
Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with deipnophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Exposure Therapy for Deipnophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as deipnophobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with deipnophobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.
The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with deipnophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their deipnophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with deipnophobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.