What is Alliumphobia? (A Summary)

This blog will summarize the causes, symptoms and treatments of Alliumphobia.

Alliumphobia is an irrational fear of Garlic. The person suffering from Alliumphobia will fear even the image or the thought of garlic itself.

There are many folklore tales associated with garlic and its use.

Garlic , a plant that has many remedies embedded in it. It is used for treating colds and congestions.

In occults it has been used since centuries to ward off the evil, witches, spells and vampires.

In Mexico a big garlic is given as an amulet to ward off the evil eye. It will work only if it is given as a gift.

In the past garlic was also used to prove guilt, if a garlic popped upon throwing in the fire, means the person who threw it was guilty.

It is also used as a savoury in dishes and baked famously in breads.

Worldwide, garlic is a famous ingredient to be added to food for its wonderful smell and fantastically unique aromatic flavor.

Alliumphobia is an intense fear of garlic where the person suffering faces a full-blown panic attack when he thinks of garlic and avoids its use. 

Symptoms of Alliumphobia

Different people display the symptoms of the same phobia differently; with varying degrees of severity.

There are two types of symptoms; Physical symptoms and Psychological symptoms.

The Physical Symptoms include those that involve changes in the bodily sensations and are physically felt by the sufferer.

Examples are:-

  • rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • headaches
  • hot flashes or chills
  • ringing in ears
  • Sweating and trembling
  • dry mouth
  • raised blood pressure
  • nausea
  • Dizziness
  • feeling faint

 The Psychological Symptoms include those that impinge on the mind and are visible through a person’s behavior.

Examples are:-

  • feelings of dread
  • fear of dying when at a high open place
  • fear of losing control
  • fear of harm
  • fear of illness
  • feeling of helplessness
  • confusion
  • anger
  • irritability
  • mood swings
  • Feelings of shame
  • Lack of concentration
  • Feeling a disconnect

Causes of Alliumphobia

Alliumphobia may be caused due to the following factors:-

  1. Genetic Predisposition

Every person has a genetic tendency to contract a disease or go through a mental illness.

This predisposition is embedded in our DNA and is handed down to us over the generations.

If the person’s ancestors suffered from anxiety disorders, phobias, mental illness or even Alliumphobia, then chances are higher for him/her to suffer from the same or from either of these.

Phobias are familial and most often than not run in families.

Their intensity may vary from person to person, from one relative to the other.

  1. Biological Cause

Hormones play an important role in causing anxiety disorders, specifically phobias as well.

Thyroid Stimulating Hormones (TSH) is directly related to the etiology of anxiety related problems that occur.

Symptoms that indicate a Thyroid malfunctioning are:

  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Nervous demeanor
  • Irritability
  • Losing or gaining weight 

Low levels of Testosterone (male hormone) can also lead to anxiety.

Serotonin, is also called a happy chemical and depletion of this hormone can also cause anxieties of varying levels. 

Dopamine, the ‘feel good’ chemical or neurotransmitter is involved in happiness and a state of elatedness.

When the levels of Dopamine drop anxiety and a feeling of dread become a common forte. 

Adrenaline rush is another biological factor that emanates the ‘flight or the fight’ response. This response is triggered when the brain suffers from a threat.

This threat may be caused by a stimulus that causes anxiety. This stimulus is the very stimulus that initiates a phobia fear.

In the case of Alliumphobia, this stimulus will be the garlic.

  1. Behavioral Cause

Children learn behaviors and attitudes from people around them.

These people may be their parents, siblings, extended family members like uncles or aunts, grandparents or any significant others they are attached to. 

In Alliumphobia it is often found that if a member of the family or peer group detest odors of vegetables or plants or other etables.

There is a distaste in some households for garlic due to its steep taste and pungent odor, therefore, children raised in such households develop an aversion to garlic as well.

  1. Media, Literature & Facts

There is a common belief that garlics shun away the evil eye and are popularly used in households as garlic garlands hung in doorways and around the house.

Witches and vampires tend to stay away from garlic.

This fear of mythical and supernatural creatures or beings can also be a causal element in developing Alliumphobia. 

As with most phobias and anxieties, there is no clear consensus about what causes  Alliumphobia.

The most common explanation is a childhood traumatic episode where a child may have experienced an accident that might have involved some mythological characters and their warding off with garlic.

People may also be afraid of losing control because this is something that is not in their hands and not controlled by them, no matter how powerful a person is.

Thus, at the time he is suffering from the symptoms of Alliumphobia, he/she feels totally helpless, aggravating their already hiked anxiety.

There are plenty of people with  Alliumphobia who cannot even recall the traumatic incident that would have developed this fear.

Scientists believe that a combination of genetic tendencies, brain chemistry, and other biological and environmental factors could cause such fears to develop. 

Treatments of Alliumphobia

Alliumphobia can be treated through different treatments.

These include Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Exposure Therapy, Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR) and forms of meditation.

  1. Systematic Desensitization

This is one of the most common therapies used in treating phobias and an effective way to desensitize the person suffering from phobia.

In this therapy the client with phobia is exposed to the stimulus gradually with varying degrees of severity, varying durations of time.

The degree of severity is hierarchical, ranging from low to high. Every time the ‘exposure’ of the feared stimulus is increased.

In Alliumphobia the client is exposed to images of garlic first. For the fear to be invoked during therapy, the patient must be exposed to an intense stimulus (one that is feared).

The aim of Systematic Desensitization is to remove the ‘feared stimulus’ and substitute it with a ‘relaxation response.’

Initially a relaxation technique that involves deep breathing is taught to the client.

Then the client is asked to present a list that has a hierarchical presentation of his fears, starting from the least fear evoking situation to the most. 

The therapist takes the client through these situations via two methods:

a)     In vitro – where the feared stimulus is made to imagine

b)    In vivo – where the client visits the the feared place in reality

The exposure to the phobic stimulus is of varying durations, where the client exercises relaxation techniques and can revert to a previous non-threatening situation any time.

  1. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

When phobias start to prevent the daily activities of the person, therapy becomes inevitable.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy is one such approach that shows the relation between thoughts, beliefs, feelings and behaviors.

It alters the way of identifying and substituting destructive thoughts and emotions that have a negative impact on behavior.

In CBT the therapist helps the client to amend his thoughts so that a desirable behavior can be achieved.

This therapy is effective, because if the thoughts or cognitions alter then there will be a lasting impact on behavior. It helps the person change the way he thinks. 

The therapist helps the client to discover the reason for this thought and behavior that follows. This therapy is goal oriented and short termed. Therefore, the results are seen soon.

It changes the way a person thinks and feels. CBT does not focus on probing the past to resolve current problems, rather it concentrates on the present situation. 

Our thoughts determine how we act or react to certain stimuli and situations.

Therefore, negative thoughts bring about a negative behavior response or an undesirable behavior. Whereas, positive thoughts propagate desirable and healthy attitude and response.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a form of CBT and designed by Albert Ellis.

According to Ellis, “people are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things.” This is what subjective perspective is. 

c) Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

MBSR involves being aware of one’s own thoughts, feelings and reducing the interference from around the environment.

We do not pay attention to how we process the various stimuli that affect us. 

We do not process the way our bodies feel and respond, there is no focus on our thoughts and how these thoughts are influencing our emotions. 

In MBSR, the client is ‘woken up’ to actually experience the various senses. ‘Focus’ is the keyword!

d) Meditation

For meditation to be effective during treatment, the mind is cleared off all the clutter of random thoughts.

The mind and body are made to be ‘in sync’ with each other, so that the feared stimulus does not invoke a negative thought.

The client will meditate during the thoughts of death and concentrate on his breathing patterns in the presence of the feared stimulus. 

e) Self-Help Groups

Self Help groups are an effective type of therapy, in which the client does not find himself as a lone sufferer.

These groups are individuals who are afflicted with the same types of phobias. 

They come together to share their thoughts, experiences and their coping strategies. This also helps in developing a ‘sense of I am not the only one’ suffering.

f) Changing Lifestyle

Breaking down the dullness of the daily, helps break down anxiety as well. 

• Take up jogging or go for daily walks:

Developing a walk routine can damper the way our negative thoughts control our behavior.

• Indulging in an exercise regime:

Vigorous exercise like aerobics has proved to reduce or alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Exercise helps the mind to cope with stress and stressful situations better. This is what the American Psychological Association has to say about inducting exercise to eliminate stress or phobias.

• Altering eating and drinking habits:

Cutting down on fatty foods and caffeine can improve self-image, that in turn leads to a raised self-esteem.

This finally diminishes the symptoms of stress to a bare minimum. With high intake of caffeine, the body resembles a ‘fight or flight’ response, thus giving way to anxiety.

• Improving the sleep cycle:

When we get proper rest, our concentration improves. 

g) Psychiatric Medication 

There are a number of medicines that the Psychiatrist can prescribe if the symptoms of  Alliumphobia are severe.

  1. Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)

These should only be taken after the consultation with the doctor and shouldn’t be initiated or discontinued as per personal discretion.

  1. Antidepressants 

These medicines are not only used to treat depression, but also to alleviate the symptoms of  Alliumphobia as well as other phobias.

Medicines alone might not be as effective, but if used in conjunction with therapies then the results will be better. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the remedies of garlic?

Garlic is used to treat colds and coughs.

It boosts the immune system and helps ease asthma symptoms.

It also helps to treat heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, toothache, constipation, and infections.

Does garlic help sexually?

Garlic has an ingredient called allicin, this stimulates circulation and blood flow to the sexual organs in both men and women. 

Is it safe to eat raw garlic daily?

Yes, but in moderation.

Raw garlic is high in Allicin that also helps to regulate cholesterol levels. 

Which therapy transforms our thoughts?

Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a therapy that transforms the irrational thoughts to rational thoughts.

Which medicines can be given in phobias?

Medicines like anti anxiety drugs or anti depressants can be given for treating phobias, if the need arises.


  • www.psychtimes.com
  • www.amazon.com
  • www.psychologytoday.com

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