Obesophobia, also called pocrescophobia, is the fear of gaining weight. It’s most prevalent in adolescent women, but men can have it too.

Like all phobias, obesophobia is a type of anxiety disorder. Phobias involve an intense and irrational fear of a specific object, place, or situation.

If you have obesophobia, talking or thinking about weight gain makes you feel an exaggerated sense of anxiety. You may also experience overwhelming dread around situations associated with weight gain, like being near a scale.

If you’re afraid of gaining weight, you might go to extreme lengths to avoid it. This increases the risk of developing an eating disorder, or it could be a sign that you have one.

Read on to learn about the symptoms and causes of this phobia, as well as treatment options.

Obesophobia doesn’t have a clear cause. It’s likely due to several factors, including:

Weight stigma

Weight stigma is the practice of judging people based on their weight. It’s a significant part of modern Western society, which often praises thinness.

Some people might also experience weight stigma from other environmental factors, like familial expectations or peer pressure.

Weight stigma generally discriminates against people with overweight or obesity. As a result, it can cause certain individuals to develop a fear of gaining weight.


In a culture that idealizes thinness, weight gain is portrayed as a flaw. This can cause obesophobia, especially in those with a strong need for perfectionism.

Perfectionism, like weight sigma, may be related to pressure from friends and family. Some individuals might also have a genetic tendency for perfectionism.

Anxiety disorders

Other types of anxiety disorders may contribute to obesophobia.

For example, obesophobia might stem from social anxiety disorder, which involves a fear of social rejection. You may be scared of gaining weight because of society’s attitude on weight gain.

Personal experiences

Obesophobia could be due to your personal experiences. If you’ve been teased for your weight or appearance, you may associate weight gain with negative judgment. This can make you afraid of gaining weight.

The symptoms of obesophobia involve negative emotions when thinking or talking about weight gain. They can include:

You might also have these feelings when you experience weight gain or are in situations that you associate with weight gain, like social events with food.

Obesophobia could also make you do certain things to avoid gaining weight, such as:

The main complication of obesophobia is an unhealthy obsession with body weight and food. This increases the risk of developing an eating disorder, which is a serious condition characterized by dangerous eating behaviors.

Some types of eating disorders involve obesophobia. These include:

Anorexia nervosa

People with anorexia nervosa have an intense fear of weight gain. They also may think they’re overweight, even if they’re abnormally underweight.

Along with obesophobia, common symptoms include:

  • extreme thinness
  • distorted body image
  • obsession with body weight and shape
  • extremely restricted food intake
  • excessive exercising
  • using laxative or diuretics
  • forced vomiting

But anorexia nervosa doesn’t simply involve a problem with food or weight. For people with this condition, extreme dieting and losing weight are ways to deal with underlying emotional issues.

Due to the severe lack of calories, anorexia nervosa can lead to serious complications like muscle wasting and multi-organ failure.

Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa involves recurring episodes of bingeing and purging. Bingeing is eating a lot of food within a short period, often without any control. Purging is getting rid of the extra calories with one or more unhealthy behaviors, such as:

These behaviors are related to obesophobia. Other bulimia symptoms include:

  • extreme criticism about one’s body weight and shape
  • intense mood changes
  • hiding food for bingeing
  • anxiety about food
  • avoiding situations that involve food

A person with bulimia might be slightly underweight, moderate weight, or overweight.

Purging disorder

Obesophobia may lead to purging disorder, which involves purging without bingeing. The purging episodes, which are recurrent, might involve:

In many cases, these behaviors are done to control body weight and shape.

If obesophobia is affecting your daily life, you should talk to a medical professional. See a doctor if you have the following symptoms:

  • intense anxiety when thinking about weight gain
  • obsession with weight loss
  • frequent dieting
  • avoiding social activities with food
  • negative body image

You should also seek medical help if you’re:

  • restricting food intake
  • obsessively counting calories
  • exercising too much
  • vomiting on purpose

These symptoms could indicate that obesophobia has led to an eating disorder.

There isn’t a formal test that diagnoses fear of weight gain. However, as a type of anxiety disorder, obesophobia may be identified by a general practitioner or mental health provider.

To determine if you have obesophobia, a provider will do a psychological evaluation. They might also:

  • ask questions about your symptoms
  • evaluate your eating behaviors
  • analyze your medical, psychiatric, and social history

If they think you have an eating disorder or believe you’re at risk, they’ll likely recommend treatment.

Obesophobia is mainly treated by a mental health provider. The goal is to manage your fear of weight gain and reduce your risk of developing an eating disorder.

If your obesophobia is part of a diagnosed eating disorder, treatment may involve a similar approach.


In psychotherapy, you talk to a mental health professional over multiple sessions. They can help decrease your anxiety about weight gain and improve your body image.

The most common method is cognitive behavioral therapy. This may involve:

  • recognizing distorted thinking patterns
  • changing unhealthy beliefs
  • learning positive habits


Normally, phobias aren’t treated with medication. But if your doctor thinks your obesophobia is related to an anxiety disorder, they might prescribe anti-anxiety drugs.

This might include:

  • antidepressants
  • antipsychotics
  • mood stabilizers

Since anxiety and eating disorders often co-occur, you may also receive medication if you’re diagnosed with an eating disorder.

If you think you have an eating disorder, there are resources that can provide support and help:

If you have obesophobia, you might try to avoid weight gain through unhealthy behaviors. This may include exercising excessively, restricting food intake, or frequently dieting.

Since obesophobia is closely associated with eating disorders, it’s important to get medical help if you think you have this phobia.