What Is the Fear of Chewing Gum?

This Phobia is Called Chiclephobia and It Can Be Treated

Teenage girl in sunglasses, blowing bubble gum
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Chiclephobia, or the fear of chewing gum, is a rare specific phobia that manifests in a variety of ways. If you're a chiclephobic, you're likely to have a fear of:

  • actually chewing gum themselves
  • coming close to a person chewing gum
  • the sight of previously chewed gum

Do I Have Chiclephobia or Just a Fear of Gum?

Chiclephobia is a diagnosable anxiety disorder. As part of her initial assessment, your therapist will compare your symptoms against the criteria for an official specific phobia diagnosis as outlined in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Symptoms of specific phobia include:

  • having a fear of a specific object or situation that is disproportionate to the actual risk
  • being aware or unaware of your unreasonable phobic reaction
  • experiencing your symptoms for at least 6 months

How Did I Get Chiclephobia?

A traumatic event during childhood is one of the reasons why you would develop chiclephobia. You could have experienced this traumatic gum incident yourself, or have seen it happen to someone else, either in person or virtually on a YouTube video or morbid cartoon show.

You may have vividly remembered accidentally sticking a hand in gum that was stuck to the underside of a desk at school or having a bubble pop all over your face. Alternatively, you may have seen your mother choke on a piece of gum. Or maybe bullies threw pieces of Bazooka Joe at you on Halloween.

Fortunately, figuring out the traumatic event that causes your phobic reaction to chewing gum is not necessary for successful therapeutic treatment.

Do I Need Treatment for Chiclephobia?

The general threshold for seeking help from a mental health professional for a specific phobia is if your phobic reaction interferes with your work, personal life, or necessary daily tasks.

During your initial visit, your therapist will ask you questions, written and/or oral, to figure out if you actually have chiclephobia or a different psychological condition, such as a fear of swallowing or choking (pseudodysphagia).

Other diagnoses like obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, and post traumatic stress disorder can also mimic the symptoms of a specific phobia—a mental health professional can help tease the diagnosis out. 

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) interventions, especially exposure therapies, are clinically proven to be effective and are a common part of a specific phobia treatment plan. Exposure therapy means that your therapist will gradually expose you to your fear in a relaxed atmosphere you control. 

It is important to understand that the ultimate goal of exposure therapy is not to eliminate all of your anxiety. Rather, the goal is to reduce your stress and avoidance behaviors by having you confront the feared object or situation in a systematic, controlled manner.

Depending on the severity of your case, it's not unusual to meet your goals within one to three sessions.

Medication is generally not used to treat a person with a specific phobia. 

Sources:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association.

Hood HK, Antony MM. (2012). Evidence-Based Assessment and Treatment of Specific Phobias in Adults. In Davis III, Thompson E., Ollendick, Thomas H., Öst, Lars-Göran (Eds.), Intensive One-Session Treatment of Specific Phobias (19-42). New York: Springer-Verlag.

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