Explaining Enophobia (and Why it May Form)

You’re with your friends during a dinner party and you’re really enjoying yourself. The conversation is flowing and everybody seems to having an amazing time. Finally, the food comes out and it looks delicious. You can’t wait to tuck in to the feast that sits in front of you.

But then it happens.

The host of the dinner party says that they’re going to get a couple of bottles of Italian wine.

You knew this was coming.

You know that all of your friends will enjoy the wine that’s served.

Unfortunately, it’s a different situation for you. The very mention of wine sends a shive down your spine. Your mouth gets dry and your hands start to feel clammy as the party host draws closer to you. Finally, they reach you and ask if you’d like a glass of red or white.

Panic consumes your brain.

You’re just about able to mumble something about not wanting to drink tonight and that you’re going to stick with water. The host urges you to try the amazing wine they have but you manage to resist.

Finally, the host moves on and you breath a sigh of relief. You’ve managed to avoid drinking wine today.

For the vast majority of people, this sounds like a crazy situation. Why would somebody get so worked up about the prospect of potentially drinking Italian wine? How could a simple liquid strike such fear into the heart of somebody who is otherwise normal.

As strange as it may sound, this situation is a reality for a tiny group of people.


Because they have Enophobia.

What is Enophobia?

To put it simply, enophobia is a fear of wine. It’s not to be confused with the feeling of not wanting to have a drink. We all have that sometimes. It’s also not the same as choosing to be tee-total. Those who choose not to drink likely don’t do so because they actively fear alcohol. Instead, they may simpler prefer not to drink because they don’t like the taste or they don’t like the effects that alcohol has on them.

Enophobia runs much deeper, creating a psychological terror that erupts whenever the sufferer is in the presence of wine.

For some, enophobia is so powerful that it causes them to run for the hills at the mere prospect of being faced with wine. Others are able to keep a lid on it, politely refusing to drink while they’re panicking on the inside.

But how could somebody be scared of wine?

The Clue is in the Word “Phobia”

It’s natural to fear things.

And typically, our fear stems from rationality. For example, somebody who has never bungee jumped before may fear the jump. This makes sense, as bungee jumping involves diving from an extreme height with little more than a stretchy cord attached to you. Your brain naturally fears this because it knows that jumping from such a height will usually result in your death. Even when you know the cord is there and you’re doing the jump safely, this perfectly rational fear can still arise and prevent you from doing the jump.

The point is that these types of fears make logical sense. They’re your brain’s way of protecting you from situations that could lead to physical harm.

A phobia is very different to a regular fear.

Phobias are completely irrational. There is little to no logic behind them, yet they can strike such intense terror into somebody’s heart that their bodies enter the “fight or flight” response whenever they’re in the presence of the subject of their phobia.

With enophobia, the subject is wine.

However, there are many such phobias in the world. Some people have phobias or pennies, feet, or even water. The latter is especially dangerous, given that water is essential to our survival.

How Do Phobias Form?

This is a difficult question to answer.

For some, there is no root cause of the development of a phobia. For whatever reason, their brain chemistry works in such a way that it produces a fear response related to a very specific object or situation. Nothing causes the phobia and the afflicted has no control over it.

Others may find that their phobias develop because of an intensely negative experience with the subject of the phobia. For enophobia, this may be something like drinking wine to excess, resulting in a severe negative reaction leading in sickness and other negative consequences. This traumatic event imprints itself into the person’s mind, making them terrified or repeating the experience.

Can People Overcome Enophobia?

People can overcome, or at least learn to live with, enophobia, just as they can with any other phobia. However, it’s not an easy thing to do, as it involves confronting something that you’re irrationally afraid of.

Overcoming phobias often requires therapy that enables the person to develop coping mechanism when confronted with the thing they fear. For example, somebody who has a phobia related to flying may use breathing techniques and positive visualisation strategies to help them get through a flight.

With enophobia, such techniques may also help a person to deal with the presence of wine on the table. Breathing deeply and constantly reminding yourself that the wine isn’t a threat to you may help you to deal it. Visualising happy experiences with wine may even enable you to drink some, though getting to this stage would likely require a lot of professional help.

Perhaps the biggest barrier to overcoming something like enophobia lies in trying to explain it to other people. How do you tell somebody that you’re scared of wine without getting embarrassed by what you’re saying? Communication with supportive people may help you to overcome this barrier, though it is one that again requires work.

The Fear of Wine

Thankfully, very few of us will ever know what enophobia feels like.

As an irrational phobia, it’s something that clouds the afflicted person’s mind, making them believe that something as good as Italian wine is somehow out to harm them.

We hope that you never have to struggle with this condition. And if you do, try to remind yourself that this is a useless fear. Wine has no control over you. In fact, you are always in control of how much wine you consume.



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