Fear of Trichinosis

The thought of a parasitic worm entering your body and causing potential medical difficulties is reason to be concerned, but the good news is Trichinosis becomes a non issue when various meats (primarily pork) are fully cooked. For those that continue to struggle with a fear of this disease the anguish can be debilitating. Therapists refer to this condition as Trichinophobia.

Wikipedia describes trichinosis this way, “Trichinosis, also called trichinellosis, or trichiniasis, is a parasitic disease caused by eating raw or undercooked pork or wild game infected with the larvae of a species of roundworm Trichinella spiralis, commonly called the trichina worm.” The worm itself was discovered in the 1800′s and it’s life cycle was documented following its discovery.

What Causes Trichinophobia?

Strangely this fear may be tied to watching movies like, “Alien”. This movie shows an individual becoming a host for a developing alien. In the end the host is consumed by the growing alien.  While we may understand intellectually that this has not happened to anyone we know we can still develop a fear that something can live inside our bodies and cause us harm. When we hear about trichinosis we can conclude that a similar fate may await anyone who consumes pork.

If you are 40 years of age or older you may have heard parents talking about trichinosis and may now refrain from eating pork as a result. What started as a note of precaution can quickly morph into a full blown phobia. Some have suggested that certain religious groups avoid pork because of the potential for trichinosis.

Symptoms of Trichinophobia

First and foremost an individual who has this fear will refuse to eat pork specifically. They may actually avoid any type of meat in an effort to assure themselves that they are free from the potential of this disease.

Other symptoms may also include

  • Air hunger
  • Nausea
  • Trembling
  • Screaming
  • Crying
  • Fainting
  • Feeling as if you are losing control
  • Feeling as if you need to escape your own body

These individuals may find themselves uncomfortable in restaurants and resist family gatherings where meat will be served.

How to Overcome Trichinophobia

If the internal temperature of cooked pork exceeds 165 degrees for 15 seconds or longer then any threat of trichinosis is eliminated. Freezing pork for 5 degrees for 20 days will also kill trichinosis worms. This information can serve to relieve some of the fears associated with eating pork. In fact  there are very few issues with this disease in the U.S.

Typically education alone will not cure an individual of their fear, but it can be a crucial element in learning to develop trust. That trust can become the basis for fear reduction.

A therapist can be an effective mediator between subduing hysterical responses while helping the individual come to terms with the fear and the fear-based response to this disease.  This is important because many who fear only see their reaction as the primary means of dealing with the fear, but the fight or flight mentality associated with phobias are never helpful in the long run and are often the result of misunderstanding.

The fear of trichinosis is also referred to as:

  • Trichinosis fear
  • Trichinophobia
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