A MOTHER-of-two has been struggling with a phobia of food since she was just six-months-old. Now 26, she is fighting for answers after doctors, therapists and even hypnotists have been unable to help her.
Jade Burnside, of Halliwell, has been in and out of hospital for years. At 5ft 1ns, hovering around six stone since 2017, she gets cramps, loses her hair and faints on a daily basis because of a lack of nutrition.
Ms Burnside suffers from cibophobia — an extreme fear of food — and panics when she eats anything other than plain food with no texture.
Despite being desperate to gain weight, she is limited to a diet of bread, crackers and plain pasta.
After years of trying every treatment, from play therapy as a child to counselling as an adult, nothing has worked, says Ms Burnside. Now, she says doctors have told her they do not know what to do to next to improve her condition beyond yet more counselling.
Ms Burnside said: “All the doctors, all the workers I have had have said they have never met anyone like me — who wants to eat, but can’t. I can smell, touch, look at food, I can cut it up for my boys.
“But when I have tried food with my dietician or therapist, I end up panicking and I get very sweaty. Then I’ll either pass out or throw up. I don’t understand why I can’t get over this, what’s wrong with me?”
According to website Healthline, Cibophobia is the most common type of food phobia: “Cibophobia is defined as the fear of food. People with cibophobia often avoid food and drinks because they are afraid of the food itself. The fear may be specific to one type of food, such as perishable foods, or it may include many foods.”
Left untreated, Healthline says the phobia can contribute to malnutrition and other health problems.
Ms Burnside said that her phobia includes that of foods with different textures: “I don’t like two textures together. I’ll have a bowl of cereal and a glass of milk, I won’t have them together. I’ll have Muller Corner yoghurts but won’t have the topping in the yoghurt. I just think, that’s not right.”
“I’ve had so much support but I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall. Is there nothing out there for people who want to eat but can’t?
“I won’t let my boyfriend kiss me, I’ve never taken my children swimming which hurts me because I know they love it, I’ll wear baggy clothes everywhere. I feel like a woman in a boy’s body. It’s disgusting.”
Ms Burnside suffered two “scary” pregnancies with Ruben, six, and Junior, two, because of her inability to eat: “I’ve never been more than six-and-a-half or seven stone and that was full-term pregnancy. The doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to carry my baby because I don’t have enough to keep myself going. It made me think that this was the one thing that was going to make me eat, otherwise my baby was going to die. I went through tears every day and I tried the first few months to eat extra bread and fruit, but I couldn’t do it. I could have killed Ruben, something bad could have happened.”
She is worried the her phobia will start affecting her children as they grow up and see her not eating. Unable to be referred to an eating unit because her condition does not fall into a typical eating disorder pattern, she has reached breaking point and is hoping to find someone who is suffering in the same way.
Ms Burnside said: “I don’t know what has triggered this, I don’t know why I’m like this. All I know is that it’s going to make me go crazy. I feel like I have let people down and I have had enough. I just want someone out there to say to me ‘I have been through exactly what you have and this is what helped me,’ then I can try it. I can’t be the only person who is like this. This is my last option.”