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Mageirocophobia. To the unafflicted, it might sound like the title of a new young adult fantasy novel. For those who suffer from this phobia — specifically, the fear of cooking — the ailment is no joke.

It’s also far more common than one might expect, though not as crippling as some other and better-advertised phobias, such as acrophobia (fear of heights) or arachnophobia (fear of spiders). In general, sufferers have social anxiety when it comes to food preparation, often stemming from a prior bad experience. If you or someone close to you is afflicted with mageirocophobia, read on for tips on how to combat this nervous disorder.


Keep a clean kitchen

Sometimes, a brush with food poisoning is all it takes to keep a person from getting back on the cooking horse. Wash all vegetables, cook meats and eggs thoroughly, and disinfect all surfaces. Make sure the sink is properly treated with disinfectant, too — it won’t do any good to wash the vegetables if the sink itself is filthy.


Start simple

If you’re a perfectionist who shies from the kitchen for fear that your efforts won’t turn out just right, begin from the bottom and work your way up. Choose recipes that require few ingredients and minimal prep work — for example, a casserole or another one-pan dish.


Keep a good perspective

Remind yourself that if this meal doesn’t turn out perfectly, it’s not the end of the world — there will be others! To maintain a sense of humor about the whole thing, make a point of keeping a pizza delivery service all cued up on your phone in case of “emergency.”


Work around the fear

Another faction of sufferers are intimidated by the cooking process itself, fearing that they might cut or burn themselves during preparation. While there’s no absolute guarantee against this, if it’s a serious concern, there are ways around it. The trendy raw food diet, for example, prohibits consumption of food cooked to more than 118 degrees, which would cut down on the risk of burns. Buying pre-cut vegetables and having the butcher trim your steaks as well will minimize the possibility of cuts.


Consider counseling

If all else fails, a psychiatrist might be able to help with the aid of cognitive-behavioral therapy. In severe cases, medication might be recommended.