Is Oenophobia (The Fear of Wine) Real or a Myth?

Every self-respecting wine lover loves to drink and discuss wine. However, the most enthusiastic among these wine lovers may well be at risk of suffering from oenophobia (fear of wines). This article explores this condition and whether it is mythical or real.

Most fears are linked to the unknown (illusory correlation), while others are because of the negative experiences. Some people lack confidence in their knowledge or have not had positive experiences with wine. All these diverse categories of fear of wine fall under the term oenophobia.

Those who suffer from Oenophobia genuinely feel anxious or stressed when faced with a glass of wine. For them, the thought of drinking alcohol—even in small amounts—is enough to trigger a panic attack. Experts believe that this phobia is likely caused by a previous negative experience with alcohol, such as getting drunk and acting out of character or waking up with a hangover.

Oenophobia Terminology

Primarily, oenophobia is the fear of wines. It is a specific phobia discussed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10).

This fear can be traced back to the Middle Ages when people used to consume wine during celebrations, parties, and other social occasions. People with this phobia may also experience physical symptoms like nausea, dizziness, and headaches after consuming alcohol.

The term oenophobia originated from the Greek words: “Oinos” (wine) and “Phobos” (fear). Someone can be diagnosed with Oenophobia only if they have an intense or unreasonable fear of wine. The patient must also have this fear for at least six months for proper diagnosis. Some symptoms of this phobia are excessive anxiety around wine, wine bottles, bars, restaurants, etc. [1]

Did you know? Oenophobia is an exceptional type of phobia, as it is not widely recognized and is considered similar to cenosillicaphobia, the fear of empty bottles.

Those suffering from oenophobia dislike drinking wine or being around people who are drinking wine. The term oenophobia has been used for both children and adults. However, most psychiatrists agree we should only use the term for those over 18 years old because children might have a fear of different objects compared to adults.

The word is also used in a more general sense to refer to any type of aversion to all alcoholic beverages. This can include beer and liquor, as well as wine. 

Oenophobia

Reasons people may fear wine

Furthermore, people with oenophobia may try to avoid going out with friends because they do not want to drink alcohol, while others may not go out at all because they are afraid they will be compelled to drink under social pressure. Patients with oenophobia may avoid drinking alcohol, even when it comes in non-alcoholic forms, such as beer or liqueurs because they believe they might get intoxicated by these drinks too.

Wine, a beverage that countless people have savored for centuries, can be an acquired taste. Some people have an aversion to wine because they dislike the taste or they are afraid of getting drunk.

However, if you want to enjoy this delicious drink but cannot do so because of aversion, you can ease into it in many alternate ways. First off, let us discuss why people might have a wine phobia.

For one thing, it is not exceptional for someone who drinks too much alcohol, in general, to be afraid of drinking more, even if it is just wine. Moreover, some people may have had an awful experience while under the influence and now are afraid that something like that might happen again if they drink again (this condition is called an association).

“I don’t drink these days. I am allergic to alcohol and narcotics. I break out in handcuffs.” – Robert Downey Jr.

Another reason could also be because of cultural issues; some cultures do not consume alcohol at all, so when these individuals try wines from other countries where alcohol consumption is more common than in their own home country/culture, then it causes them anxiety or fear (this condition would also fall under associative anxiety).[2]

Wine glasses and the opposite of oenophobia

What are the Causes of Oenophobia

As is the case with many other types of phobia, oenophobia can stem from a traumatic event. For example, a child may have witnessed an adult getting drunk from wine and behaving in an embarrassing (or dangerous) manner.

Alternatively, it could be inherited from family members; if your parents are xenophobic, they may have instilled this fear into you at an early age. Genetics also plays a role—research reveals that people can inherit phobias like hair color and skin tone.

Finally, the development of any phobia may arise from ignorance or lack of knowledge about the subject (in this case, wines). If you have a predetermined concept that wine might render you drunk or addictive, your body will automatically react adversely. You will experience anxiety and panic just from witnessing bottles of wine.

What are the Symptoms of Oenophobia?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) [4], some symptoms apply specifically to phobias. These symptoms include intense anxiety when confronted with or anticipating exposure to a feared object or situation. For example, if you suffer from an intense fear of wine, you might experience these feelings in a grocery store aisle full of wine bottles.

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Prevalence of Oenophobia

Oenophobia is a rare phobia, though there are several reasons why someone might fear wines. Some patients may be afraid of drinking or consuming wine, while others may fear smell, taste, or appearance. It is possible someone may develop an aversion to wine after having a terrible experience with it.

It could be because of the effects of drinking excessively in one session, vomiting after excessive alcohol consumption (a reaction to overconsumption), or having an allergic reaction to ingredients used in the wine production process.

Oenophobics often reported experiencing more severe symptoms than agoraphobics (people who fear crowds) do when faced with their greatest fears. They cannot merely avoid entering large spaces like supermarkets. In fact, living in any room where wines are present can be challenging for a oenophobe.[6]

Treatment of Oenophobia

It is possible to overcome the fear of wine. It may seem like a bitter pill to swallow, but you can overcome this fear with time and willingness. If you have any phobia, medical or psychological help is essential in order for you to recover. A doctor (or psychologist) will prescribe a treatment that works best for you. Treatments can include group therapies and medicines. 

There are several ways one may cope with the symptoms that oenophobia brings. One example would be hypnosis. Where you reprogram your subconscious mind. You will feel relaxed throughout the entire process. Once everything has occurred, your brain will no longer release an adrenaline rush whenever someone offers you a glass of wine (or even just talks about wine).

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ON THIS DAY

414 BC: Oenophobia is the fear of wines. It is not a very common phobia, but it does exist. The term oenophobia was invented by Greek playwright Aristophanes in his famous play The Birds (414 BC), but the word itself was not coined until 1873.

23 February 1883 – 26 February 1969: Karl Jaspers, a German psychiatrist and philosopher, introduced the concept of phobia in his 1913-book, General Psychopathology. He defined it as a persistent fear that resulted in avoidance behavior. He also postulated that there were two types of phobias: situational phobia and object-related phobia.

Situational phobias are fears that are triggered by specific places or situations like heights or enclosed spaces. On the other hand, object-related phobias are fears associated with particular objects, such as insects or dogs.

2 March 2015: A research study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine and Scripps Institution of OceaOenophobia, Is Oenophobia (The Fear of Wine) Real or a Myth?Oenophobia, Is Oenophobia (The Fear of Wine) Real or a Myth?nography provided an in-depth exploration of how the brain creates the taste of wine. It also studied that our perceptions are affected by both expectations and the environment.[7]

Want to read more? Try these books!

Oenophobia, Is Oenophobia (The Fear of Wine) Real or a Myth?Oenophobia, Is Oenophobia (The Fear of Wine) Real or a Myth?

 References:

[1] 2019, Preparing et al. “What Is An Oenophobia? | The Incredible Fear Of Wine – Letitwine”. Letitwine, 2022, https://archivio.letitwine.com/en/what-is-an-oenophobia/.

[2] “Oenophobia (Fear Of Wines) – Psych Times.” Psych Times, 2022, https://psychtimes.com/oenophobia-fear-of-wines/.

[3] “Oenophobia – Columbia Wine Co.”. Columbiawineco.Com, 2022, https://www.columbiawineco.com/oenophobia/#:~:text=The%20origin%20of%20the%20word,like%20heredity%20or%20the%20genes

[4] “Specific Phobia”. National Institute Of Mental Health (NIMH), 2022, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/specific-phobia.

[5] Optimistminds.Com, 2022, https://optimistminds.com/oenophobia/.

[6] “Oenophobia – What’s That?”. Thebacklabel, 2022, https://www.thebacklabel.com/oenophobia/.

[7] Shepherd, G.M. Neuroenology: how the brain creates the taste of wine. Flavour 4, 19 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13411-014-0030-9

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