Fear of Poisons
Fear of Poisons

Fear of Poison or Toxicophobia may be defined as an overwhelming and debilitating fear (phobia) of being poisoned by contact or ingestion of ‘imaginary’ poisons or toxic products, in food for example (Garnier-Del. 1972). [1]The genetic basis of panic and phobic anxiety disorders.Smoller JW1, Gardner-Schuster E, Covino J. Am J Med Genet C Semin Med Genet. 2008 May ...continue


The origin of this specific phobia is not known, but like other types of phobia, a combination of environmental factors (trauma related to the object of the phobia) and hereditary factors should explain the occurrence of the phenomenon. Genetic epidemiologic studies have documented that these disorders are familial and moderately heritable[2]. Many specific phobias are primarily initiated by a stressful triggering event, such as a traumatic event in childhood, or the association of a personal tragedy with the object of the phobia.

fear of poison

Symptoms of Toxicophobia

The symptoms of toxicophobia are similar to the symptoms generally present for any phobia:

  • Anxiety, even anguish at the sight of the phobic object
  • Tachycardia caused by panic and fear
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trembling
  • A strong desire to get away [2]https://www.mentalhealth.gov/what-to-look-for/anxiety-disorders/phobias

The specificity of this disorder is that it often concerns food, which is a daily need. Some foods or types of food are avoided (hence the possibility of some deficiencies, to be monitored), excessive cleanliness of the environment is often necessary for the patient (but not systematic), resulting in movements strongly influenced by phobia.

Toxophobia is similar to other phobias related to dirt, dust, diseases… except that the majority of cases the fear is about a deliberate poisoning. Patients following drug treatments, interacting with medical staff, objects such as syringes, etc., which can make it difficult to manage any associated depression and the main disorder with drug treatment.


The treatment of poison phobias is increasingly being addressed by cognitive-behavioral therapies. The efficacy of exposure therapy, in combination with other Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) components, in the treatment of specific phobia gave good results [3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2685257/, other therapeutic trends based on a similar model (neuro-linguistic programming, virtual exposure) have also shown significant improvement.

Références   [ + ]

1. The genetic basis of panic and phobic anxiety disorders.Smoller JW1, Gardner-Schuster E, Covino J. Am J Med Genet C Semin Med Genet. 2008 May 15;148C(2):118-26. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.c.30174.
2. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/what-to-look-for/anxiety-disorders/phobias
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2685257/