Food is one of the few basic necessities we need in order to survive. While we all have foods that don’t agree with our particular taste buds, we are usually left with plenty of other options. Options that allow us to maintain a reasonably balanced and healthy diet.
However, believe it or not, some people are so fearful of certain foods that they can even trigger nausea and, in some cases, panic attacks. Thirty-six-year-old Jill Hayman from Montrose, Scotland, is one such sufferer of food-related panic attacks. Hayman has an intense phobia of the majority of foods – in fact, there are only 17 foods which she can bring herself to eat without going into a total panic mode. She has little choice but to limit herself to a diet consisting mainly of soda, candy, chocolate, and bread. And that’s because these foods happen to be on her ‘safe list’, meaning that they do not induce any panic attacks or nausea when she consumes them. While people may scoff at Hayman’s odd diet, it’s actually a lot more serious than it sounds. In fact, it stems from a rare yet serious psychological condition by the name of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder which makes the sufferer fear certain foods to an exceptional degree. Even experts are not aware of how many adults suffer from the disorder, as it’s most common in toddlers who grow out of it when they are older. “My throat will close and then I have panic attacks,” Hayman explains. “I can’t control it. I’ve been physically sick just speaking about food.” Despite being well into her 30s, Hayman has confessed to never having used cutlery before. With her unconventional predominantly bread-based diet, she simply has no need for it. “I’ve never been able to sit and have a hot meal or use a knife and fork,” she explains. “To me, toast is dinner.” While it is not uncommon for infant children to have a complicated relationship with food, it is very rare for a grown woman to be so dead set against the foods that form the staple diet of most adults. “I’m not a vegetarian because I don’t eat vegetables,” the 36-year-old admitted. “I don’t eat meat either.” Aside from bread, Hayman tends not to include many carbohydrate-based foods into her diet. In fact, the mere sight of pasta is enough to make her feel sick which is why she avoids these sorts of foods at all costs. “I think bread is safe because there’s no flavor, and there’s not much that can change,” Hayman continued. Incredibly, Hayman will generally eat about seven loaves of bread in a single week and has even been dubbed a “breadatarian” by those close to her. As for snacks, she limits herself to grapes and unripe bananas, and when she’s not drinking soda, she will turn to peach schnapps or Estrella lager. “My family would sit and eat a cooked dinner, but I would just be sat there with bread and butter or a sandwich,” Hayman explains. While it is unsurprising that, like many psychological disorders, Hayman’s condition started very early on in her life, you probably weren’t expecting to hear that this intense phobia began when she was just a baby. Of course, Hayman has absolutely no recollection of being a baby, but psychological experts believe that the trauma was triggered by her choking on something before she was even able to walk or talk. To learn more about how Hayman deals with the disorder on a daily basis, check out this video below: Hayman is currently being treated by a hypnotherapist, Felix Economakis, and he believes “it’s likely that something at the time scared Jill and her brain made a note that this wasn’t as expected and panicked.” “A shock like that can activate a fight or flight response and create an aversion to food.” Needless to say, Hayman has been missing out on vital vitamins, and she has been prescribed with vitamin B12 injections. These days, Hayman’s unhealthy diet is taking its toll on her overall health. She currently weighs a tiny 90 lbs, has to contend with severe fatigue and regular stomach pain, and her teeth have suffered terribly due to her high sugar intake. While your initial reaction to the idea of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder may have been one of disbelief, it is a very real condition with very real and devastating consequences for sufferers. Hopefully, experts will find a more effective treatment for this physically and psychologically damaging disorder.