More About Cacomorphobia

The topic is still the condition described here by Jacob Olese:

Cacomorphobes are terrified of fat or obese people; they simply cannot control the terror they experience around such individuals. They often realize that they are being judgmental (often downright mean), and yet they are unable to control the panic attacks they experience…

Many phobics, for example, reveal feeling nauseated upon seeing fat people eating or bingeing on high calorie foods at restaurants.

The writer of this page knew a woman who, when out with friends in public, would invariably point out a morbidly obese person. It became a private joke. Others in her group would give each other knowing looks that meant, “How long until Phobie mentions that lady in the green dress?” It never failed. But at least she never moved on to the next possible step mentioned by Olese, that of avoiding malls, restaurants and other public venues altogether.

Cacomorphobia is relatively rare. In everyday life, anyone emotionally disturbed by fat people has a pretty wide latitude in which to navigate and avoid them. But medical professionals, unless they take measures ahead of time to prevent encountering overweight patients, are vulnerable to having a morbidly obese person appear before them at any moment. Olese writes,

Size discrimination […] only leads one to discriminate against a fat person. Many doctors, for example, are known to be “disgusted” by fat people and often refuse to accept them as patients. Cacomorphobia, on the other hand, is the extreme and constant fear of overweight or very large people, and is normally seen in anxious high strung individuals.

That author seems uncomfortable with diagnosing doctors as suffering from a full-blown phobia, and seems to suggest that, at most, they feel aversion based on cultural indoctrination. But whether a care professional has a diagnosable condition or just doesn’t like obese people, the result is the same. Patients may be turned away, or given less-than-adequate treatment.

What makes this happen?

The origin story behind these feelings might be that the person was, in childhood, inadvertently intimidated by an obese person, or even intentionally bullied. Or the general depressed mindset experienced by some obese people might cause anybody to be turned off by their personalities. The “culturally induced” explanation seems almost too easy, although it is true that in public discourse, overweight people are often referenced with either disgust or “humorous” derision.

One fertile source is, “You spot it, you got it.” People who react in a phobic way might have previously been fat themselves, or else they constantly fear that outcome. Somehow, their inner logic dictates that the way to avoid obesity is by, metaphorically, throwing obese people under the bus. This pro-active stance is somehow felt to construct a barrier.

The discomfort can bring upside issues and complications and reactions, like a need to overcompensate. As one anonymous comment put it, “I seem to have the need to create a long string of compliments and excessive flattery to large/obese women. I think it’s because I either feel vulnerable and scared.” Another online commenter says, “I cringe if someone touches me by accident who is obese. I feel like a monster. I wish I could just get over this.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Fear of Fat People Phobia — Cacomorphobia,”, 08/13/14
Image by Mike Kline/CC by 2.0

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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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